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Arkansans Quibble Over the Possessive ‘S’

Rep. Steve Harrelson, a Democrat in the Arkansas legislature, yesterday introduced a resolution to declare the correct way to write the possessive form of the state’s name. That would be, he says, “Arkansas’s.”


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Anonymous says:

My husband used to work at “Arkansas’ News Leader” and it drove this old English teacher insane that they didn’t understand the application of the possessive apostrophe. I would LOVE to see folks embrace “Arkansas’s” because it is CORRECT!

Imagine you have a neighbor named Mike Williams. You might borrow Mike’s hammer. You might borrow Mike Williams’s hammer. Suppose the Williamses go out of town. You might be asked to take care of the Williamses’ dog. In all of these examples, you would have used the possessive apostrophe correctly.

I know there are style and usage guides out there that are more lenient and accepting of the “either way is okay” position on adding apostrophes to names that end in s, but I am sticking with Strunk and White.

hobgoblin says:

The MLA guides also call for ‘s after a word ending in s, unless the word traditionally has been spelled with only an apostrophe, such as Jesus’ or Socrates’. Knowing the MLA, though, I might have to agree with Maurik that only a fool would agree with this.

Anonymous says:

Gotta say, I’m with Alison on this one.

Alison says:

Not to turn this funny post unfunny and technical (because I totally get how hilarious it is that the word is ARKANSAS), but I’ve just got to exercise this English degree.

I absolutely agree with “Arkansas’s.” Like the commenter before me who included a link to the rule, I will too.

An apostrophe is only added to the end of a word if it is a PLURAL noun that ends in “s.” Now see here:

• add ‘s to the singular form of the word (even if it ends in -s):
the owner’s car
James’s hat

• add ‘s to the plural forms that do not end in -s:

the children’s game
the geese’s honking

• add ‘ to the end of plural nouns that end in -s:

houses’ roofs
three friends’ letters

miri says:

Or unless you follow Strunk and White

Maurik says:

Since when do you write s’s, never unless you’re a fool. Francis’ food lay on the table. Arkensas’ landscape is beautiful 😛

I don’t see why they have to turn to the law for this though, thats just sad.

pintadoguy says:

Agreed – there needs to be some unity between the spoken and written forms, and this is a deserving exception.

Anonymous says:

“Arkansas’s” is the preferred way (well, MY preferred way) to denote the possessive form of Arkansas. I’m dreaming of an “Apostrophe Education” billboard campaign…

nightgigjo says:


Oy. Didn’t they teach that an apostrophe comes after an s, like James’ name?

That’s what I learned, anyway. But who am I to say? I went to elementary school in Arkansas.

Anonymous says:

Hello. I have written a short play called “Apostrophe” that is actually all about apostrophes. It has been staged several times. I thought there might be a way for me to post it on your site. Is there?

Thank you.