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Farmers Market Syndrome

Everything You Need to Know about Writing in the Possessive

It’s Saturday. Mid-morning. The market bursts with chicory and kohlrabi and chevre from only ten miles away. Signs sprout like the produce: leek’s, beet’s, brussel sprout’s. And it’s okay if a farmer mistakenly sticks an apostrophe into a word meant to be a simple plural: a sign for turnip’s will not prevent us from buying good ones.


For a lawyer, it’s not okay, because clients pay us to represent them to intelligent readers who know the difference. Forming possessives correctly sends the message to those readers that we know and we care; therefore, they should.


Possessives, with apostrophes, come in four categories:


1. singular words not ending in s – tree
2. singular words ending in s – Jones
3. plural words not ending in s – children
4. plural words ending in s – boats

The simple rule: To form the possessive, add ‘s to words in every one of the first three categories:


1. tree’s
2. Jones’s (except for Jesus, Moses, and other names from ancient history – nobody knows why; it just is)
3. children’s


Use only the  for words in category #4: boats’. The only exception is its which is already possessive; it’s is reserved for the contraction “it is.”


If you’re wondering: Farmers in the heading has no apostrophe because it isn’t possessive; it’s plural; like the turnips.

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About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder

WordRake founder Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for AMLAW 100 firms, Fortune 500 companies, and government agencies. He’s also a New York Times bestselling author. As a writing expert and coach, Gary was inspired to create WordRake when he noticed a pattern in writing errors that he thought he could address with technology.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to help writers produce clear, concise, and effective prose. It saves time and gives confidence. Writing and editing has never been easier.

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