Confused about plural possessives?

Do you ever get confused about forming the possessive of a plural noun? Where does that apostrophe go? Before or after the S? If you find yourself in a quandary over possessives, just do what the writer for Yahoo! Celebrity did: Put in an extra S so that you can place that apostrophe before and after an S:

sisterss apos cel

Writers’ mistakes like this happen all the time on Yahoo!.

How many peoples were there?

There were some peoples at New York Fashion Week, according to Yahoo! Style:

peoples heads apos sty

That got me wondering: What peoples were they? The peoples of the United States? The peoples of Southeast Asia? Or some other group of human beings sharing a common culture or language?

Hmmm. Could it be that the writer misplaced that apostrophe? People is already a plural noun; its possessive is people’s.

A couple is singular

A couple may consist of two people, but as a noun, it’s singular. Forget you saw this misplaced apostrophe on, which implies that there was more than one couple but only two people:

fp couples apos

Meryl’s Streep

Whatever Meryl’s Streep is, I want some of it. Whatever they’re smokin’ over at the Yahoo! front page, I want none of it:

fp meryls

Reverse that!

The writer for Yahoo! Style should consider reversing her knowledge of apostrophes: Wherever she thinks she needs one, she should omit it. And wherever she omitted an apostrophe, she should add one:

stores no apos sty

A word that’s not right

English is funny. And challenging. It provides lots of words for lots of circumstances. But it’s also missing a few words that would be of benefit to writers and readers. One of those missing words is a possessive form of the word that. (Make that two missing words; which doesn’t have a possessive form either.) But that didn’t stop the writer for Yahoo! Autos from trying to come up with one — and failing:

car thats auto

The writer might have used whose: a car whose value is beginning to soar. But that might have set off alarm bells among grammarians who feel who and whose cannot be applied to non-humans. What’s a writer to do? Recast the sentence. One of these might have worked:

  • a car with a value that’s beginning to soar
  • when the car’s value is beginning to soar
  • a car the value of which is beginning to soar

Each of those options is slightly longer, slightly different in meaning, or slightly awkward. But none of those would have appeared in Terribly Write.

Headline’s apostrophe goes missing

This headline’s apostrophe goes missing on Yahoo! Travel:

brides trav hp

Creative possessive

Based on based on this excerpt from Yahoo! Style, I’d said that this writer is uber imaginative in her creation of a possessive from nothing more than a parenthetical phrase, an apostrophe, and an S:

instagrams paren sty

It’s a real first! I’m pretty sure no one in the English-speaking world has ever tried to put an entire parenthetical between ‘S and the noun it applies to. It’s brilliant! Imagine how dull this would be if she used the traditional “by utilizing the ad-buying interfaces of Facebook (which owns Instagram).” Booo-ring.

Here’s one person’s reaction

Yuk! That’s my reaction to the misplaced apostrophe on Yahoo! Style:

peoples sty

The word people is already plural; its possessive form is people’s (just like the possessive forms women’s, men’s, and children’s).

There’s one exception: If you mean peoples (a group of individuals sharing a common culture, religion, or language) like the peoples of North Africa, then the possessive is peoples’.

For lack of an apostrophe

Lots of actors have played a role as challenging as Hamlet or Macbeth. But no one has played a role as challenging as Joan Smalls. Frankly, I never even knew there was a character named Joan Smalls. The only Joan Smalls I’ve ever heard of is a model. But who am I to question the genius writers at Yahoo! Style?

smalls sty

Of course, if the writer meant that Joan Smalls faced a challenging role, then that would require an apostrophe: a role as challenging as Joan Smalls.


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