How to make nouns possessive

A reader asked for a post about using apostrophes to make possessives. Here are the basic rules:

* Add ‘s to all singular common nouns and to plural common nouns that don’t end in s: the boy’s toys, a day’s time, the boss’s husband, the children’s clothes.

* Add (apostrophe only) to plural common nouns that end in s: the boys’ toys, the churches’ disagreement

The Associated Press Stylebook notes this exception: Add ‘s to singular nouns that end in s EXCEPT when the next word begins with s: the boss’ specialty, the witness’ story. Not all style guides agree with that.

For proper nouns, here are the basic rules:

* Add ‘s to proper nouns that don’t end in s: Pam’s blog, Mr. Smith’s class, Carolina’s team, Martinez’s car, Foxx’s campaign, the Children’s Defense Fund * Add (apostrophe only) to proper nouns that end in s: the Kennedys’ compound, the Smiths’ mailbox, Reynolds’ seats, Descartes’ theories, Chris’ Web site. * But many style guides (and standard British practice) say to add ‘s to singular proper names that end in s: Chris’s Web site, Charles’s books, Reynolds’s seats.

You can apply these rules almost every time you need to make a noun possessive.

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.