Please add the correct punctuation mark (apostrophe) to the following question:  "Is that James' or the Joneses rake? "I think it may be James's and Joneses's 

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Punctuation may be debated, especially because of cultural differences in usage. Apostrophes are difficult to use with difficult to understand fundamentals.

The rules of apostrophe are clear when it comes to possession of singular nouns (girl's dress), standard plural nouns (girls' dresses) and standard irregular nouns (man's boots --> men's boots, etc).

The answer has more than one option when it comes to words ending in "s." Generally, the rule is that the apostrophe goes at the end of the word but BEFORE the possession is indicated; which is why irregular words such as men's have the apostrophe before the "s." Children's would be another example.

"James" is a singular name. "The Joneses" is a plural family name. There is a difference between American and British English possessive rules. In British English the correct application of possessive is:

"Is that James' or the Joneses' rake?"

In American English, the correct application of possessive is:

"Is that James's or the Joneses' rake?"

An example to compare to is "My boss's car....and the bosses' cars." The American English plural name possessive rule varies from the singular name possessive rule and, in this case, matches the British English rule.

George Orwell said:

"Language does not reflect culture; language is culture."

Therefore, for possessive singlular names and for possessive plural names and possessive plural family names:

"Is that James's or the Joneses' rake?"


"Is that James' or the Joneses' rake?"