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I'm an English teacher in Scotland, and have been trying to pin down a definitive answer to the use of apostrophes for words ending with S.

So far as I can tell, this seems to be a matter of "house style" with "St. James's Park" and "St. James' Park" both acceptable according to the conventions of different publishers, institutions and so on.

Is this correct? What would the OED's approach be?


  • joughtredjoughtred admin
    edited August 2018

    Hello @gconnor860

    This is a tricky one. New Hart’s Rules states that:

    It is impossible to predict with certainty whether a place name ending in s requires an apostrophe. For example:

    Land’s End
    Lord’s Cricket Ground
    Offa’s Dyke
    St James’s Palace


    All Souls College
    Earls Court
    Johns Hopkins University
    St Andrews

    Check doubtful instance in the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors or in gazetteer or encyclopedic dictionary.

    I appreciate that not all of this relates to place names ending in 's'! I think what is being said here is that there isn’t a strict rule for apostrophes in place names, and that the correct form is that used by an official source related to the place itself.

    We have checked the NODWE, and although it doesn’t have St James’s Park, it does have St James’s Palace. The most official looking source we could find is the Royal Parks website, where it is given as St James’s Park.

    There's a further guide to apostrophe use available here, if it is useful to you at all:

  • I don't understand, @joughtred
    How should I do if the name is not a park?

  • Hi @Hector_Hernandez. If you are trying to work out whether you should put an apostrophe+s where the name ends in s and it's an organization, the safest thing is to check the organization's website, as there is no set rule here.

    If not an organization, the Oxford Dictionaries website gives the following advice:

    With personal names that end in -s: add an apostrophe plus s when you would naturally pronounce an extra s if you said the word out loud:

    He joined Charles’s army in 1642.

    Dickens's novels provide a wonderful insight into Victorian England.


    With personal names that end in -s but are not spoken with an extra s: just add an apostrophe after the -s:

    The court dismissed Bridges' appeal.

    Connors' finest performance was in 1991.

    And the convention for plurals is:

    Plural nouns that end in –s
    With a plural noun that already ends in -s: add an apostrophe after the s:

    The mansion was converted into a girls’ school.

    The work is due to start in two weeks’ time.

    My duties included cleaning out the horses’ stables.

    Plural nouns that do not end in -s
    With a plural noun that doesn’t end in –s: add an apostrophe plus s:

    The children’s father came round to see me.

    He employs 14 people at his men’s clothing store.

    I hope that helps!

  • I get guidance from English publications, not American ones (after all, it's the Queen's English). So for me it's "Bridget Jones's diary", "Charles's Law", and so on. The American way is to just add the apostrophe. 
  • The apostrophe + s looks very awkward, so as an American writer and editor I always use the "naked" apostrophe after a word ending in "s." Now here's a beef with you Brits: You have DROPPED the apostrophe entirely in too many situations, often the names of stores. Say the owner of a shop is Mr. Johnson, so his shop becomes "Johnsons Stationery." Ugly! Confusing! (Sorry for my Trump-like use of single words at the end of a comment.)

  • Mr Johnson has every right to spell his business as he pleases. Similarly, the experts in communication through signage, letter headings, logos etc are graphic designers.

    As for us Brits dropping apostrophes, it's my understanding that there a US Federal law proscribing apostrophes from place names — at least for some official purposes.

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