Confession: until today, I did not realize there was a divide. When making the possessive of a singular noun ending in s, I always added the extra s after the apostrophe. My last name ends in s, so I ought to know, right?
According to legal writing guru Bryan Garner, most prefer s’s (e.g., Jones’s confession), but using the apostrophe alone, without the extra s (e.g., Jones’ confession), is not necessarily improper. For journalists and others who follow AP style, the latter is the rule.
Interested in testing out your own punctuation skills? Try editing the sample passages that appear in Bryan Garner’s recent article in the December 2014 issue of the ABA Journal. I did this morning and quickly learned I have room for improvement.
Clarity in legal writing is a goal for us all, but last week’s post on the disjuntive-conjuctive split on the meaning of the word “or” was a good reminder of the potential legal significance attached to our grammar and punctuation choices.
–Corinne Berry Jones