Friday, January 23, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened . . .

Josi S. Kilpack

I belong to an online writer's group with several of the editors that also write on this blog. The title of the group is writerstorymakers@... so, if I want to ask a question of the whole group, I simply send an e-mail to that e-mail address.

A couple weeks ago I had a question about possessive s. I am the resident grammar idiot around her and I've accepted that title with absolute humility. When it doubt, I ask smart people.
All I needed to know was how to do possessive on a word ending with s--Countess, to be exact.

I sent off an e-mail to my writing group and waited, and waited, and waited for an answer. Some kind of freinds-smarter-than-me they are. No one answered me, which is just bizarre. We often exchange 20 or more e-mails every day on a variety of subjects.

They had abandoned me.

After another couple hours passed, I went into my sent items when I remembered that I've had occasion of sending messages to the wrong address because I got in a hurry and I accept the first e-mail that pops into my "To" field.

Yep, I'd done it again. Instead of sending the note to writestorymakers@. . . I had sent it to Writer's Digest newsletter.

I cleared my throat and sheepishly resent the e-mail to the right address. I considered sending an apology to Writer's Digest, but surely they would roll their eyes at my e-mail and delete it, assuming I was a snot-nosed beginning writer trying to annoy them.

Yesturday, I got this response:


The Countess' bedroom

When a noun ends in an S, all you need to add is the apostrophe.


So, if you ever thing that this writing world is so big and so vast that no one notices you, think again. If you ever think that other writers don't really want to help you, think that one over too. And if you ever think that you don't need to proof-read your e-mails, think on that one really, really hard.

Have a great day!


MoJo said...

Not true.

According to Strunk & White, "Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's. Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

"Charles's friend

"Burns's poems

"the witch's malice"


"Exceptions are the possessive of ancient proper names in -es and -is, the possessive Jesus', and such forms as for conscience' sake, for righteousness' sake."

[End Strunk & White.]

I was taught (getting in the way back machine) that if there were already two sibilants in the word, to use the lone apostrophe.

In this case, according to Strunk & White, Countess' WOULD be right, but in general, no, this:

When a noun ends in an S, all you need to add is the apostrophe.


Becky said...

This made me laugh...I'm glad I'm not the only one who has problems with making sure my emails go to the right place.

Sue said...

I loved this anecdote. Thanks.

hi, it's me! melissa c said...

I have just recently read Stephen King's book "On Writing" on that very question.

He said...If it ends in an S, still add an apostrophe and another S. Yes another S, he said.

So, my question is, what is the answer. I liked Stephen King's. It takes out the guess work. If all else fails, do what the millionaire says! lol

Melanie J said...

Yeah, the grammar text I used in teaching said you still have to add the apostrophe, too. So I do. Now it drives me crazy when I see it the other way. Can't these people make up their minds?

Heather B. Moore said...

Getting a response from WD is. Just. Awesome.