The Grammarphobia Blog

Are you possessed?

Q: I find the subject of possessives both maddening and confusing. I’ll often read things like “The New York Times’s Thomas L. Friedman,” but I’ll just as often see something like “The Daily News’ Mike Lupica.” Shouldn’t that be “News’s” because “News” is the name of the newspaper? Other examples I’ve seen: “Brian Williams’ family” and “Joan Rivers’ daughter.” Should that read “Williams’s” and “Rivers’s” because their names end in “s”?

A: Lots of people are spooked by possessives, so let’s exorcise some ghosts. Here are three simple rules for making a noun possessive:

1) If the word is singular, add an apostrophe followed by s: “I love London’s theaters and Paris’s museums.”

2) If the word is plural and doesn’t already end in s, add an apostrophe followed by s: “The children’s room was a mess.”

3) If the word is plural and ends in s, add just an apostrophe: “The victims’ car was recovered.”

So you’re right. It should be the Times’s Thomas L. Friedman, the News’s Mike Lupica, Brian Williams’s family, and Joan Rivers’s daughter.

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