Possession Is Nine Tenths of the Grammar Rule

correcting-1870721_1920 (1)When I proofread material, I notice a common problem among writers–using an apostrophe incorrectly to show possession, or not using it at all. I can figure out what’s going on in their heads by what I see on the page. “Hmm, here’s a word that ends in ‘s.’ I remember something about using an apostrophe with an ‘s,’ so I’ll put an apostrophe here.” And so another writer is satisfied with “kinda-sorta” punctuation.

But not YOU! You want to “own” your own writing, including all the little things like apostrophes. You can “possess” all the skills you need to be considered good at your craft without memorizing a slew of grammar rules to reach that goal. I have a shortcut that can help you use apostrophes correctly, and it consists of only two items.

  • Apostrophes are used with nouns to show possession, not to indicate plurals, so never use an apostrophe to indicate multiple items.
  • Possessive pronouns can only show possession, so no apostrophe is ever used with possessive pronouns.

Let me take some time to unpack each of these items.

Knowing where to place an apostrophe gives some people trouble—is it before the “s” or after the “s”? As long as you correctly spell the noun you want to make possessive, all you have to check for is whether that noun ends in “s.” If it ends in “s,” add an apostrophe at the end. If it doesn’t end in “s,” add the apostrophe and then add an “s.”

Here are some examples:

Dog becomes dog’s (the writer is talking about one dog, and the word doesn’t end in “s,” so add the apostrophe and an “s”).


Dogs becomes dogs’ (the writer is talking about more than one dog, and the word ends in “s,” so add only the apostrophe).

Children becomes children’s (the writer is talking about more than one child, and the word doesn’t end in “s,” so add the apostrophe and an “s”).

When we want to use a possessive pronoun, the only “rule” we need to know is that possessive pronouns can only indicate possession, so an apostrophe would be redundant. Of course, the writer needs to know which words are possessive pronouns. Here are the most common possessive pronouns: My, mine, your, yours, our, ours, his, hers, its, their, theirs.

Now you possess another sure-fire way to produce clean, clear writing, without peppering your material with superfluous apostrophes. I can’t guarantee that proper punctuation will eliminate all your problems, but possession is nine-tenths of the law when it comes to apostrophes.

If you’d like to discuss this topic, contact me at https://plpubandlit.com/getintouch.


Connecting the Dots

woman-1594711_1920 (2)I’ve noticed that women and men often have different ways of thinking and communicating. Sometimes my husband, who has years of practice listening to me and exploring how I think, doesn’t understand how I got from Point A to Point B in what I’m saying, whereas a female friend who has known me for only a fraction of that time sees the connections between my ideas immediately without my explaining them. By the way, my husband says he doesn’t have any problem understanding other men!

woman-1594711_1920 (4)Those shared connections between ideas may be hardwired in female and male brains or they may be learned through cultural interactions, but they definitely make communication easier.

When we write, we should assume that our readers don’t automatically understand how we think. Therefore, we must “translate” our thoughts and ideas into words they will understand, so they can conceptualize what it is we’re thinking.  We usually are clear in our own minds about how and why our ideas move from one thought to another, and that movement from point to point is logical to us, at least on a subconscious level. However, we can help our readers when we connect our ideas purposefully through transitions. These transitions often appear between paragraphs, but they can also be placed between sentences. In the previous sentence I used a simple connector by repeating a key word from the sentence before it: “these transitions.” The repeated key word keeps the readers on track and gives them a clue about the emphasis of the current sentence.

Besides repeating a key word or phrase, there are a slew of other transition options. You can choose words that communicate addition, comparison, contrast, time, purpose, place, result, summary, example, emphasis, etc. The idea behind transitions is to provide links between your ideas for the readers who can’t automatically know what you’re thinking.

Here’s a sampling of transitional words and phrases you could use to clarify the connections in your writing.

Transition Words

When I’m working with writers as their editor, I’ll often ask them, “Why does a particular idea/paragraph follow the one before it?” Once they’ve explained their thinking, I can help them find the transitional word, phrase, or sentence to make that movement from one idea to the next apparent to the reader. If an author’s reasons for ordering ideas are spelled out in the piece of writing, the reader can concentrate on the content of those ideas without having to play “translator” as well.


Truth in Advertising

The staff members at P&L Publishing & Literary Services are writers who have written books and articles with a number of traditional and independent publishers. This means we have quite a bit of personal experience. Plus we’ve seen many sides of the publishing industry.

When we got started, we took a look at the different editing and formatting services, comparing their prices and what they offered. One online formatting service seemed to come up over and over again as the lowest price available, so we had to take a hard look at our own prices, and adjust them accordingly.

man-1459246_1280However, one of our new formatters used that very service for a book he published a year or so ago, and informed us that the super-low price was just a come-on. “True, that’s the advertised price, but by the time you submit your manuscript and get started, you’re told that the rock bottom price doesn’t apply. Although you thought you could get your book formatted for about $50, the actual price is around $200 or $300. There’s a big difference between what they advertise in order to lure and hook an author, compared to what you really have to fork over.”

When P&L formats your book, you pay exactly what you see on our website . . . not a penny more. When our editor sends an invoice indicating what it’ll cost to edit your manuscript, you know right away what you have to pay, and it’s not going to change.

No come-ons. No bait and switch. Just honest truth, low costs, and a great finished product. That’s our promise to you.