Quotation Marks and Apostrophe S

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Aika asks:

how do I properly sequence “‘s and punctuation marks?

As I can’t think of any example of beginning a quotation with a disembodied ‘s, I’ll offer this guideline from the Chicago Manual of Style:

. . . A term enclosed in quotation marks . . . should never be made into a possessive. 7.30

For example, you can write the Atlantic Monthly’s editor or Gone With the Wind’s admirers because the titles taking the possessive are italicized. You may not, however, do the same thing with the title of a short work such as “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”

Titles of short works are enclosed in quotation marks. You would have to rearrange your phrasing so as not to have: “Ode on a Grecian Urn”’s admirers. You’d rephrase it as admirers of “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”

Here is a related entrance on Chicago:

Q. When indicating possession of a word that ends in s, is it correct to repeat the s after using an apostrophe? For example, which is correct: “Dickens’ novel” or “Dickens’s novel”?

A. Either is correct, though we prefer the latter. Please consult 7.15–18 for a full discussion of the rules for forming the possessive of proper nouns. For a discussion of the alternative practice of simply adding an apostrophe to form the possessive of proper nouns ending in s, see paragraph 7.21.

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10 thoughts on “Quotation Marks and Apostrophe S”

  1. Just to hear another voice — or better, group of voices — on this subject, here’s what the American Heritage folks have to say about epicenter:

    Usage Note: Epicenter is properly a geological term identifying the point of the earth’s surface directly above the focus of an earthquake. No doubt this is why the Usage Panel approves of figurative extensions of its use in dangerous, destructive, or negative contexts. Eighty-two percent of the Panel accepts the sentence If Rushdie were not at the terrifying epicenter of this furor, it is the sort of event he might write about. The Panel is less fond but still accepting of epicenter when it is used to refer to the focal point of neutral or positive events. Sixty-two percent approve of the sentence The indisputable epicenter of Cortina’s social life is the Hotel de la Poste, located squarely in the village center.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

  2. On the subject of Apostrophe S, a little playful problem occurred to me.

    I see your point about about not allowing a short title to take the possessive, at least in written form. The double quote surrounding the title and the apostrophe following it run together, forming in effect three single quotes, an ungainly affair:

    …”Ode on a Grecian Urn”‘s admirers…

    This injunction doesn’t hold while speaking, of course, when the length of a title and how it would be typeset doesn’t come into play at all. The speaker may use the above phrase with abandon and none can find fault.

    So the problem arises for the reporter, who is QUOTING the speaker. The speaker was correct in his usage, but if the reporter is writing verbatim, then he is breaking today’s rule! Who can untangle me this riddle?

    I always enjoy the articles here.
    -Amazing Blair

  3. Re: starting with an apostrophe
    “What do you think of my car?” asked Bob.
    Tom looked at the car a moment, then shrugged and said, ” ‘s ok, I guess.”

    That work?

  4. Hello,

    I am writing a novel and am trying to find out if I should use quotation marks when a character has a thought, as opposed to speaking out loud?

    Please inform me on the proper usage.

    Thank you for your help.


  5. I’m doing a graphic organizer about differences in Day Care Homes and Day Care Centers, when describing would I use s’ on the the end of Homes or Centers?

  6. I have a question. When you put quotes around a word to imply it’s opposite, what is that technique called?

    Example: Dr. Jones is the “expert” on therapy.

  7. I just happened to read these comments.

    @Precise Edit
    It wouldn’t work for me.

    Everyone seems to have a different view as to how to convey a character’s thoughts in fiction. Here’s a post I wrote on this very topic:

    As both Day Care Homes and Day Care Centers are rather lengthy phrases, I would avoid any construction that might require an apostrophe s. For example, instead of writing “Included in all Day Care Homes’ policies must be a section on safety,” I’d write “A section on safety must be included in the policies of all Day Care Homes.”

    @Cheri Beeler
    I don’t know if there is a special term. I’d call it “quotation marks used to express irony.”

  8. You you should edit the webpage subject Quotation Marks and Apostrophe S to something more catching for your webpage you make. I loved the blog post nevertheless.

  9. Now what about if I were to say: “I hate people who don’t know their “There”, “Their”, and “They’re”‘s.”, or would it be: “I hate people who don’t know their ‘There’, ‘Their’, and ‘They’re”s”, That is a tricky sentence to put into text. I could ignore all of this and simply put ‘Their’ (or “Their”) at the end.. But, what if I had to!? What if there was a gun to my head, and those were the lines I had to say or else I’m killed..!? I would love a reply! ;’ )

  10. @Cheri Beeler, a decade later, but mostly for posterity and anyone else who stumbles across this and it’s curious: the term for that usage is “scare quotes”.

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