Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

The possessive apostrophe. Part 2 – Charles’ crown or Charles’s crown?

with 6 comments

Charles, Prince of Wales outside the White Hou...
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If you need some basic information about the possessive apostrophe, go to: The possessive apostrophe. Part 1 – the basics.

If you’re already familiar with all that jazz, look at the following sentences:

Prince Charles’ organic garden is his pride and joy.

 Prince Charles’s organic garden is his pride and joy.

Which is correct? Well, both are — although be aware that some strict grammarians would say that the omission of the final ‘s’ as in the first example above is wrong.

Here are a few more examples, all of which are correct:

Final ‘s’ left off

 Jesus’  enemies were numerous.

 Nicholas’ friends left him behind.

Mars’ atmosphere is hostile to humans.

Final ‘s’ included

 The wineglass’s rim is chipped.

 The lioness’s paw was injured.

 Les’s wife has left him.

Remember not to swap between the two options in the same piece of writing — be consistent.

Note that where an organisation has chosen to use an apostrophe in its name in a particular way you should do the same. For example, St James’s Hospital in Leeds is always spelt with the final ‘s’ after the apostrophe in “James’s”.

The apostrophe and decades

The apostrophe and acronyms

The apostrophe and irregular plural nouns (e.g. ‘children’s toys’)

User-friendly information about punctuation

More writing guides


6 Responses

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  1. Useful as always. I love this language but have no time to devote time to it or follow the myriad sites on the net. So I follow yours regularly; it saves me time and is effortless. 🙂

    • You are very kind, Vikas – and I do appreciate your comments very much.


      16/11/2009 at 9:25 am

  2. What about my name? Vikas’s or Vikas’

    Both are correct, no?

    • Yes – either is fine!


      16/11/2009 at 9:26 am

  3. BBC Sport’s Iain Carter had a similiar scenario to the Prince Charles’s example that you’ve jotted down at the top of the post.

    “Tiger Woods’s withdrawal from the Players’ Championship through injury for the second year running is a huge blow for the former world number one.

    Last year it was a neck problem that was soon cured, but this time it is more worrying for Woods’s future. He suffered a recurrence of problems in his left knee and Achilles and clearly has no idea when and if they will be ever fully cured.”

    I personally think that Woods’ is better than Woods’s because the apostrophe after the s tends to do the job so I don’t think it’s necessary to put Woods’s. But I think writers go with the latter option as a safe bet just incase a reader gets confused by that apostrophe. Thoughts?


    13/05/2011 at 9:48 pm

    • There is ongoing disagreement about this — style books vary in their recommendations and some people get very hot under the collar defending their particular preferences (or, as they would erroneously say, defending what is grammatically correct). The Oxford Manual of Style clearly states: No single rule governs the possessive form of singular nouns that end in s.

      It really does come down to choosing a style you want to use or, where required, following any housestyle you are subject to.

      I too prefer “Woods'” as I think adding an additional “s” looks visually messy. But that’s just my opinion.


      14/05/2011 at 6:03 pm

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