To S or not to S…

To S or Not To S…


This is an important question in my writer’s life right now.  You see, I have two characters with names that end in S in my current work.  And there’s a lot of controversy about how to handle the possessive for each of them.

And before you ask why I just don’t change their names, they’ve been around for the first four books in the series – too late!

The heroine is named Tess.  Possessive is easy – spelled Tess’s and read aloud the same way.

Her hero is Powers, and here’s where the fun starts.  Powers’s???  Powers’???  The possessive is read with only one S sound on the end no matter what.  But when written, there are differences of opinion.  So I consulted the experts.

Since The Chicago Manual of Style is the bible we’re supposed to use in our fiction world, that’s where I began.  The 16th edition is very clear – despite the fact that we read the possessive Powers with only one S sound on the end, we write it with too.

Then I talked to some editors, and everyone had at least one opinion, and sometimes two.  And no consensus.  If the S sound is preceded by a vowel sound, use apostrophe S; otherwise, no additional S is needed, only the apostrophe.

Or, in all cases, use the apostrophe S, even if it sounds funny when read.  Readers won’t notice.  (Wanna bet on that?)

OR – ALWAYS follow the style guide, even when it leads to stilted and uncomfortable word flow.  (WHAT???)

For now, I’m still undecided, and I have until Monday to make up my mind.  To S or not to S.  Anyone want to weigh in on this?  Help me, readers!




  • Dee Brice

    April 19, 2013

    My e-pubs both prefer Tess’ and Powers’. Apparently England is having a brouhaha about apostrophes en toto. Anyway, I prefer s’ without an additional s.
    Dee Brice

    • admin

      April 20, 2013

      Thanks Dee! I prefer that too. Of course, I used this convention in Book 1 (where both of these characters had major roles) and I heard from both editors and readers. Brouhaha indeed!

  • Phyllis

    April 19, 2013

    I was about to say that Dee and I were just discussing this today 😉 I always say just apostrophe because to me that’s normal.

    We’ll call it Phyllis’ Rule, OK? 😉

    • admin

      April 20, 2013

      Thanks Phyllis! Which style guide do you use on a regular basis? I think I own every single one at this point, since the journals where my professional nonfiction writing was placed differed. Can’t we all just get along?!? 🙂 Phyllis’ Rule rules!

  • Suz deMello

    April 20, 2013

    One publisher I worked for had the rule that if the “s” at the end had a “z” sound, then you used an apostrophe and the additional “s’ Otherwise, just the apostrophe.

    Or was it the other way around?

    Frankly, not sure, but I wouldn’t worry about it. Each publisher will have its own style manual, and they may differ. Your copy editor will catch it for you. If you are indie publishing, do it whatever way you prefer, but follow one style manual or another, and be consistent!

    Good luck!

    • admin

      April 20, 2013

      Thanks Suz! I’m going to be VERY careful about selecting names that end with S in the future, you can be sure! This new book is coming out as an indie – long story short, I’m now a publishing company on top of everything else! Decisions, decisions!