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Plurals, possessives, and apostrophes | Jane’s grammar nugget

by | Jun 25, 2008 | Grammar & Spelling

Jane StrausJane Straus, late author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, has helped thousands of readers make sense of grammar. Today, we’re sharing some of her tips for dealing with three more grammar bugs.

Jane often said that many people have been taught incorrectly, so we’re confident her timeless tips can help us unlearn bad grammar habits!

Plural or Possessive Titles?

Is it Mother’s Club? Mothers’ Club? Mothers’ Club?

In a title, you may think of the noun as a plural or as a plural possessive. So Mothers Club or Mothers’ Club would both be correct.

Apostrophes with Words Ending in S

Is it class’ opinion or class’s opinion or classes’ opinion?

If you mean one class, it should be class’s opinion. If you mean more than one class, it should be classes’ opinion(s).

Rule 2 of Apostrophes from The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation says: Place the apostrophe before the s to show singular possession.

Examples: one class’s opinion; one girl’s opinion; Ms. Jones’s opinion; Mr. Cross’s opinion.

Rule 3 says: To show plural possession, make the noun plural first. Then use the apostrophe.

Example: The classes’ opinions were predictable according to their grade levels.
Example: The girls’ opinions differed.
Example: The Joneses’ house survived the flood.
Example: The Crosses’ house survived the flood.

Related: Apostrophes and Plural Family Names

Quoting a Question within a Question

When quoting a question within a question, where does the question mark go? Is the following correct?

Didn’t she say, “How did you do that?”?

In The Blue Book of Grammar and PunctuationRule 3 of Quotation Marks says: When you have a question outside quoted material AND inside quoted material, use only one question mark and place it inside the quotation mark.

Example: Did she say, “May I go?”
Example: Didn’t she say, “How did you do that?”

Reprinted by permission of Jane Straus, late author of the bestselling The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, from her free Grammarbook.com e-newsletters and blogs.

Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, 11th editionWe love The Blue Book so much that we’ve been carrying it for years in the WriteShop store. We also include it in the WriteShop Starter Bundle. It’s a combination reference book and workbook, oh so easy to use, and handy for home or office. Jane’s examples are short, simple, and practical. We know you’ll love it too! And to read more of Jane’s Grammar Nuggets, type “Jane” in the search box.