The Write Stuff
January 2014 Volume 10 Issue 1
All About “S”
“S” is just 1/26th of the alphabet, but it seems to be the letter that’s most troublesome for writers. It’s really not that difficult; “s” can be used at the end of words to make them plural or denote possession.
All that’s often necessary to change words from singular to plural is adding an “s,” as in cards, friends and hockey pucks. Sometimes an “es” is warranted (usually when words end in “s,” “ss,” “ch,” “sh,” “x,” or “o”), as in boxes, witches and businesses.
Adding a possessive element to singular words is also fairly straightforward (adding “s” preceded by an apostrophe), as in my sister’s dog, my nephew’s basketball and my niece’s gorgeous smile. When words are plural or they end with an “s,” that’s when things can get complicated.
Many writers believe “s” preceded with an apostrophe is still appropriate, and that’s recommended by William Strunk’s Elements of Style. Others choose to eliminate the final “s” and merely use an apostrophe to denote possession, something that’s green-lighted by the New York Public Library’s Guide to Style and Usage. That means it’s up to you to choose your preferred style–and be consistent.
I’m an apostrophe-only gal. That means I’d write the Sharks’ chances for the Stanley Cup, your business’ 2014 forecast and Charles’ sporty red car. You might prefer to add an “s” after each apostrophe, and you wouldn’t be wrong. You may also choose to do a rewrite to eliminate the need for a possessive plural, as in the Sharks have a
chance to win the Stanley Cup, the 2014 forecast for your business, and the sporty red car Charles drives.
Many writers get confused when trying to determine whether to capitalize north, south, east, west and the words with those directions as roots. Here’s a tip: capitalize when they designate a specific region or are part of a proper noun, but lowercase when they just indicate direction or a more general location. For instance, all of the following are correct: in the North, the West Coast, the south of France, go north on the 163 and then east on the 52.
Have you been enticed by a subject line to open an e-mail that turned out to be spam? I bring this up not because I think you’re trying to trick people into opening your e-mails, but to note that you may inadvertently be making a communications faux pas by not changing e-mail subject lines when topics have shifted. Let’s say you’ve been discussing a project under the subject line “Website content update”; when it’s time to invoice, if you want that message to appear in the same e-mail thread, add “Invoice attached” to ensure your payment request isn’t overlooked.
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