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Why Achilles' heel but Dickens's novels? Why s' and s's for names ending in s?

Question #61965. Asked by loominitsa.
Last updated Sep 29 2016.

Answer has 1 vote
18 year member
4406 replies avatar

Answer has 1 vote.
Well, according to my Modern Language Association Handbook, only one-syllable proper names ending in "s" should have an apostrophe and another "s" added -- "Keats's poems." Polysyllabic names ending in "s" should take only an apostrophe for the possessive: "Cervantes' books, Hopkins' poems." The MLA would thus prefer "Dickens' books."

However, the Chicago Manual of Style states that while both "Dickens'" and "Dickens's" are correct, the CMS prefers the latter.

So take your pick.

Jan 24 2006, 4:51 PM
Answer has 2 votes
19 year member
1292 replies avatar

Answer has 2 votes.
I've also seen official literature with Ellises and the like, and tend to see all three versions used almost at will.

Apostrophes appear to be part of a developing rather than a fixed grammar!


Jan 24 2006, 7:51 PM
Answer has 4 votes
Currently Best Answer
23 year member
3694 replies avatar

Answer has 4 votes.

Currently voted the best answer.
Purdue's OWL (Online Writing Lab) has a handout about apostrophes.

When forming possessives of nouns, they say this:
add •'s• to the singular form of the word (even if it ends in •-s•)
add •'s• to the plural forms that do not end in •-s•
add •'• to the end of plural nouns that end in •-s•
add •'s• to the end of compound words
add •'s• to the last noun to show joint possession of an object

They also say you don't use apostrophes for possessive pronouns (his, her, its, etc) or noun plurals.

Link: link

Response last updated by MrNobody97 on Sep 29 2016.
Jan 24 2006, 11:46 PM
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