RE: Grammar question?

Subject: RE: Grammar question?
From: David Hailey <david -dot- hailey -at- usu -dot- edu>
To: "Downing, David" <david -dot- downing -at- Fiserv -dot- com>, TECHWR-L Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 20 Mar 2009 09:27:16 -0600

Sarah and David, I think you are both right.

Actually, none of this is in stone, so you may choose your favorite style guide. Different style guides differ in their opinion. Even different versions of the MLA differ -- one says proper names ending in "s" never have an additional 's; the other disagrees. APA is mum on the subject as far as I can tell. Chicago is the one that says it is a matter of how it sounds in common usage. I agree with Chicago, so if one of you is comfortable with 's and the other is not, neither of you is necessarily wrong. I would say "Jesus's bathroom slippers" "Bob Jones's house," "Augustus's rule," but "Wales' constitution and "sperm whales' blubber," (because I find "Wales's" and "whales's" really awkward)." BTW, my spell checker doesn't like "whales's" but doesn't mind "Wales's," so the spell checker might not be a good style guide.

The MLA handbook for writers would say "Jesus' bathroom slippers," "Bob Jones' house," But the principal MLA Style Guide specifically says, "Dickens's popularity." I suggest this is one of those fuzzy areas where an absolute grammatical truth is not to be found.

This brings up an issue about grammar. Grammar properly applied is not a set of rules but a set of descriptions of how we use rules that exist naturally in our languages. This may be one of those places that demonstrate that phenomenon.

Hoping this helps someone. . .


David E. Hailey, Jr., Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Professional and Technical Communication
Utah State University

david -dot- hailey -at- usu -dot- edu
1 435 797 2741

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+david -dot- hailey=usu -dot- edu -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+david -dot- hailey=usu -dot- edu -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of Downing, David
Sent: Friday, March 20, 2009 8:57 AM
To: TECHWR-L Writing
Subject: RE: Grammar question?

From: "Sarah Blake" <Sarah -dot- Blake -at- microfocus -dot- com>
Subject: RE: Grammar question?

So you might write about "Jesus' sandals" or "Bess' coat"; but I bet you
that if you were saying it out loud it would be "Jesus's sandals" and
"Bess's coat". And when I'm reading, that missing "s" really makes me
stumble.

Sarah

--------------------------

Actually, I feel just the opposite. I want to see that "'s" in writing for clarify, but I find that extra "sizz" syllable awkward in spoken English. In fact, I suspect that a lot of people feel that way, which may have led to leaving it off in spoken English, which may have in turn led to leaving it off in writing.

And here's another tidbit of information for you. When I went to spell-check this email, Outlook's spell checker corrected "Jesus's" to "Jesus'."

David Downing
Senior Technical Writer
Credit Union Solutions
Fiserv
 
 

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RE: Grammar question?: From: Downing, David

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