SPECIAL EDITION UWF WRITING LAB
 

THE APOSTROPHE: POSSESSED AND DISPOSSESSED

By Mamie Webb Hixon

UWF Writing Lab Director

THE FORMERLY POSSESSED
The apostrophe disappeared.

Veterans Day Achilles heel

THE "UNPOSSESSED"
The apostrophe or the apostrophe and -s is unnecessary.

narcotics agent Admissions Office
honors classes sports page
document shredding Arts Council
expert witness testimony Pikes Peak
household goods the Webb sisters
records clerk auto insurance

THE DISPOSSESSED
Both the apostrophe and the -s have been eliminated, thus giving emphasis to both nouns.

staff guidelines university personnel
the Roy Jones fight attorney fees
employee benefits company policy
student rights and responsibilities Pensacola tourists
driver license (also driver's license) committee report

THE TERMINALLY POSSESSED
Some expressions are always possessive: the apostrophe is fixed regardless of whether the noun following the word is singular or plural.

Mother's Day bachelor's degree(s)
a man's world master's degree(s)
rabbit's foot beginner's luck
collector's item(s) traveler's check(s)

JOINT POSSESSION 
The apostrophe is required on the second noun only.

Children and Women's Hospital Ted and Jane's wedding
Boys and Girls' Club of Escambia County Men and Women's Day

THE PLURAL POSSESSED 
The apostrophe is added after the plural -s.

Annual Blue Angels' Homecoming Air Show Greyhound Bus Lines' passengers
the Joneses' lawsuit Secretaries' Week
two weeks' pay Presidents' Day
six years' experience both parents' consent
workers' compensation Bosses' Day
veterans' benefits

When the plural noun does not end in -s, add both an apostrophe and an -s.

Children's Telephone Number (Pay attention, BellSouth)
women's rights
men's department
the people's choice

THE SINGULAR POSSESSED
An apostrophe and -s are added unless this addition distorts the pronunciation of the word.

the waitress's tip Robert's Rules of Order
the boss's desk Dr. Seuss's stories
the witness's testimony Bill Gates's millions
Clifford Odets' play the judge's decision
Wesley Snipes' hometown company's policy
Bruce Willis's stunts my husband's diabetes
Sophocles' plays Jesus' teachings

 

 

 

ON-THE-JOB GRAMMAR TIP

Hopefully is an adverb meaning "in a hopeful manner." According to the American Heritage Dictionary,, Fourth Edition, the use of hopefully as a sentence adverb in the sentences below is unacceptable to many critics and careful writers:

Hopefully, the company's profits will increase this fiscal year.
Hopefully, the temperature will be warmer tomorrow.

Careful writers and speakers prefer using hopefully in these instances:

Couples usually go into marriages hopefully.
The hurricane victims waited hopefully for the arrival of clothing and food.


 


Verbing Nouns

Did you power off the computer?
I will calendar the date.
After twenty-five years on my job, I was surplused.

 


 

A Message from the Editor

NEW WORDS

powernap living will outsource downsize dehire

The fact that the Oxford Dictionary of New Words contains over 50,000 entries is an indication that new words enter our language every day. According to Karen Wright in her essay "Keepers of Words" in the March 2000 Discover magazine, "breadth of use and `staying power' are the two principal criteria Merriam-Webster editors use to nominate new words."

Email is just one example of a word that entered the English language because of computer technology. Now there's Webcasting (which my computer is highlighting even as I type), Internet, word processor, spam, and computer mouse.

Then there's credentialize. And don't forget Enronize, annualize, athleticism, home schooling; the list of neologisms goes on. What's amazing about the English language is its creative capacity: once a new noun enters the language because of medicine, technology, education, or politics, it is verbed and turned into an adjective as well. So, if you are read your Miranda rights, you have been Mirandized. Right? When in doubt, use a current, unabridged dictionary - or call the Grammar Hotline at (850) 474-2129. We'll be glad to look up your new word for you.

 


 

You can e-mail questions about grammar and usage to the Grammar Hotline at writelab@uwf.edu.

 

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