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The Write Way

12 April 2002

The 'Postrophe in the Palace with VIDEO!


The funeral of the Queen Mum this week has raised the spectre (pardon the pun) of the Apostrophe in the Palace - is it St James's Palace or St James' Palace?

Well? Which is it?

Here are some thoughts on the use of the pesky 'postrophe:

It's relatively simple to know when to use an apostrophe with most words, the confusion and terror (?) strike when the words end in S. But, you just follow the same rules as with any other word and add apostrophe S: the bus's wheels, her boss's wife, Chris's car, Bridget Jones's Diary, St James's Palace.

Plural names also follow the same rules: Bill Thomas's car becomes the Thomases' car (add -es to names that end in S to indicate plural form).

Some words sound awkward when an apostrophe 's' is added: Jesus's disciples

The accepted form here is to just use the 's' apostrophe: Jesus' disciples. (The "rule" cited is that if names end in S that's pronounced Z, you only need to use the apostrophe.)

Others don't have the same clumsy sound: The princess's chair

I found a site which declares that: Singular words of three or more syllables use only an apostrophe to make them possessive: Martinkus' book, Pythagoras' Theory. 

(But I'm sure I remember agonising over Pythagoras' Theorem when I was at school ... If you're one of those people who lies awake at night tossing and turning and wondering if the square on the hypotenuse really does equal the sum of the squares of the other two sides, have I got a surprise for you! This site offers several different proofs of the theorem:  No, shucks, don't thank me ... just send money!)

Joint possession is shown by using the apostrophe with the final noun in the series:

Jim and Betty's mummy is bringing home a new baby, which has dashed the children's hopes since they really wanted a puppy!

Words that indicate their plural form by changing internally, add apostrophe S (like children's).

Compound words add the apostrophe S to the final word in the group to show possession, but add S to the first word to show plurality:

Many men are happy they don't have two or more mothers-in-law; a visit to their mother-in-law's home for Christmas dinner is often once a year too often. 

You don't use apostrophes with dates, so it's the 1960s that we all look back on with such fond memories; neither do you need an apostrophe when you make an acronym plural:

The CEOs of the banks met behind closed doors to practise keeping a straight face when they announced that they'd "only made $2 billion profit in the last quarter."

The bottom line is that it's a case of "horses for courses." Different institutions (I was thinking more of schools and colleges, businesses houses etc rather than the other type of institutions) have their own house rules that you'd be well advised to follow. If you're not constrained by such rules, the trick is to be consistent. If you leave St James's Palace in the morning, you'd jolly well better return to St James's Palace in the arvo and not to St James' Palace.

A good rule of thumb is to use the OF test: rearrange the sentence to see if you can substitute the word OF for the apostrophe and if you can, then whack 'er in!

Her boss's wife - the wife of her boss

Pythagoras' Theorem - the Theorem of Pythagoras

St James's Palace - the Palace of St James

Click for further discussion of the apostrophe

Does that help solve a few dilemmas? Good!


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Some Thoughts ...

A study in the Washington Post says that women have better verbal skills than men. I just want to say to the authors of that study: "Huh?"  (Conan O'Brien)

Advice for the day: If you have a lot a tension and you get a headache, do what it says on the aspirin bottle: "Take two aspirin" and "Keep away from children." (Author Unknown)

If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it. (Daily Zen)

This week's quiz:

Match the words with their synonyms below: charm, resettle, scoff, pitiful, naturalise, unsure, substitution, curse, stubborn, judge


2. ambivalent

3. bane

4. charisma

5. connoisseur

6. deride

7. dogmatic

8. emigrate

9. enfranchise


Here's an interesting usage of a familiar term: 

Apparently in some parts of the US "any more" is now being used in positive sentences such as:

"I agree, he's probably doing it on purpose. Oh well. You just kind of have to roll your eyes anymore."

It seems to be being used as a synonym for 'these days'.

Have any other US contributors come across this usage ? It sounds extremely odd to my ears.

If you've heard this commonly used in your little corner of the world, please send in some examples. (Just hit the Reply button to send a comment to me ... a nice one of course.)

Del found this nifty little translator for those Personal Ads that proliferate in our media and thought we'd enjoy it:

 Average looking.............Has a face like a basset hound
 Beautiful...................Pathological liar
 Contagious Smile...........Does a lot of Ecstasy
 Educated....................Banged her Political Science professor
 Emotionally Secure......On medication
 Gentle...................... Comatose
 Good Listener......... Borderline Autistic
 New-Age...................All body hair, all the time
 Outgoing....................Loud and Embarrassing
 Passionate................Sloppy drunk
 Romantic....................Looks better by candle light
 Voluptuous................Very fat
 Wants Soul mate........Stalker-widow - drove first husband to suicide
 Young at heart..........Old bat

 40-ish................52 and looking for 25-yr-old
 Athletic..............Watches a lot of sports on TV
 Average looking.......Unusual hair growth on ears, nose, and back
 Friendship first......... As long as friendship involves nookie
 Fun.....................Good with a remote and a six pack
 Good looking..........Arrogant
 Very good looking........Thick as two short planks
 Honest...................Pathological Liar
 Huggable.............. Overweight, more body hair than a bear
 Likes to cuddle....... Insecure mamma's boy
 Mature................ Older than your father
 Sensitive...............Cries at chick flicks
 Spiritual................Got laid in a cemetery once
 Stable...................Arrested for stalking, but not convicted
 Thoughtful.............Says "Excuse me" when he belches

Hmmm - so now you know!

Last week's quiz:

Match 'em up: prerogative, postulate, reciprocal, relegate, requisite, scrupulous, solicitous, temerity, verbose, vociferous

1. shouting noisily - VOCIFEROUS

2. precise and careful - SCRUPULOUS

3. audacity - TEMERITY

4. move to a lesser position - RELEGATE

5. to take as self evident - POSTULATE

6. using more words than are necessary - VERBOSE

7. given in return - RECIPROCAL

8. required by the nature of things - REQUISITE

9. showing concern - SOLICITOUS

10.right or privilege - PREROGATIVE

Here's a terrific site that Ray Smith sent me for those who have a few spare minutes - it's the Bad Analogies page. 

If you know someone who'd like to start the weekend with a bit of a chuckle (and some writing tips of course)  - just send them this link:  

Queen Video!

While we're in a right royal frame of mind, spare a moment to watch this video of Queen (OK ... it's not the real queen, but the musical variety ... much more entertaining!)


A Little Something Extra

Finishing your manuscript is just the start - read what has to come next if you're serious about having your work published: 

Guest contributor: David Joseph, author of Rupert.

When I had finished the first draft of my novel, Rupert, I was highly exhilarated. I had actually completed something that I had commenced some two years previously. Little did I realise how much work still had to be done. When I tell you that the final draft which went to the publisher was the twelfth, donít be discouraged.

I canít stress too strongly the advisability of finding a good editor. The hardest thing one has to do after completing a manuscript, is to be prepared to delete chunks of those carefully written words. After all, itís your hard work and those words are precious to you. Nevertheless, a good editor will guide and assist you to produce a polished piece of work. Rewriting and reworking of ideas can make your writing come alive.

To me, the most important part of a novel, are the first three chapters. one has to grab the readerís attention from the beginning. I rewrote those three chapters five times before both my editor and I were satisfied.

When all had been completed, I contacted several literary agents who were prepared to consider my work. Eventually I heard from them, but the basic comment was that I wasnít a Tim Winton, Peter Carey or Thomas Kenneally (top Australian authors) and it was suggested that I self publish. I investigated a number of publishers and finally selected one whose samples of work were impressive, and were most helpful to me.

The work didnít stop there, the manuscript had to be professionally proof read. Itís no use doing the proof reading yourself because you would be surprised at the number of typos, spacing mistakes, and other errors which you can miss, even if youíve been over it twenty times.

When the proof reader returns your work, you then have to correct the mistakes and make sure that everything is perfect. The work next goes to the publisher for typesetting. When the typeset copy arrives this also has to be checked for mistakesÖand believe me, there are still some there ! Next step is when the printerís proof arrives and you have to make sure that the pages are all in order and nothing has been omitted. It seems like forever, but eventually there comes the time when you have your very own published book in your hand.

In my case, it has taken three and a half years from writing the first word to receiving a published copy. The next step is selling your book, but Iíll leave that for another time. (David Joseph)

Palindrome:   Yawn a more Roman way.

Word of the week: Spectrophobia (n)  Fear of spectres or ghosts.

Bene est rex esse! (It's good to be king!)





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