Monthly Archives: June 2013

Some Confusing Possessive Apostrophes Made Easy

No one has trouble making a dog possessive:  the dog’s collar.  Even more than one dog isn’t confusing: the dogs’ collarsBut a few situations make people scratch their heads:

What if the possessive word ends in a vowel?  How do you make the name Garcia possessive?  Just add ‘s to whatever the owner word is: José Garcia’s house.

What if the owner word ends in an S, such as Garcias?  Again, whatever the owner word is, add ‘s: the Garcias’ house. However, when you add that ‘s and the new possessive word ends in two or three esses, the preference today is definitely to remove that extra S: the bus’ doors, my boss’ desk. 

What if the possessive word ends in Z? Again, add ‘s: Julia Martinez’s office.

Here is the apostrophe rule distilled for you:

No matter what the word is you want to make possessive, take that owner word and add an apostrophe and an S.  Then, if the new word now ends in two or three esses, drop the S after the apostrophe. It’s that simple.

One caveat: Don’t reach deep into your apostrophe pocket and throw one in where it isn’t needed. Ask yourself if the word is just a plural: The Garcias are moving. Eggplants are on sale. Sarah has two bosses.

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Metaphors, Good and Bad

Metaphors make an implied comparison between ideas:  “All the world’s a stage….”

When they work well, they catch your attention in an unforgettable way.  A former editor of the now defunct Saturday Review, Norman Cousins, wrote, “…the wordsmith likes the clink and purr of words against each other. He likes the crackle of ideas well expressed. He delights, as some men do in thoroughbred horses and racing hulls, in prose that runs sleek and true to its conclusion.”  Despite the archaic use of the male pronouns, Cousins’ metaphor is ear-catching and lovely and true.

Other metaphors are also memorable, but not in the way their authors intended. Joe Garagiola said, “Nolan Ryan is pitching a lot better now that he’s got his curve ball straightened out.” Richard Nixon’s brother Donald referred to Watergate as “a political football to bury my brother.”

By all means, include metaphors in your writing. Just make sure they won’t be making others laugh unless you intended that result.

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Do you catch yourself saying or writing any of the following? Be aware they are redundancies.  Cut out the deadwood.

• Future plans

• Positive benefit

• Exact same

• End result

• Added bonus

• PIN number

• Repeat again

• Very/S0/Extremely Unique

• Free gift

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Be Wise

Do you take note when you see or hear people use the suffix “—wise”?  I do.

“Taxwise, the consequences will be significant.”

“I have branched out contentwise in my latest book.”

“Weatherwise, I prefer autumn to any other season.”

Commonly accepted uses of “—wise” are “otherwise,” “clockwise” and “counterclockwise.” Otherwise (ahem), other uses, although common, are generally considered a rather awkward manner of expression. It’s easy to avoid the suffix. Just try to be specific:

Clockwise Trail Access

Clockwise Trail Access (Photo credit: MTSOfan)

“The taxes will be significant if you decide to leave all your money to your no-good nephew.”

“My latest book’s content is different from that of my previous books.”

“I prefer autumn weather to that of any other season.”


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Mistakes in Movie Titles

For years I’ve been irked by grammar and punctuation errors in movie titles. I’ve wanted to use them in a post, but I hadn’t been able to think of more than two or three at a time.  Now, for your enjoyment or annoyance, here are 10 for your consideration. Try to figure out what the problems are before you read the explanations.

Wouldn’t you think with all the bazillions of dollars spent on most films that someone would be able to proofread the titles and make them right?


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Change Nouns Into Verbs

Every time you end a word with —TION, —MENT, —ANCE, and —IZATION you have made a noun.  Nouns can make your writing static. When you change those nouns to active verbs, you immediately zip up your writing.


Before:  Janie’s intention was to surprise her boyfriend with a birthday party.  After: Janie intended to….


Before:  Igor enjoyed the contentment of a warming fire in his humble home.  After:  Igor was contented by….


Before:  Lorenzo achieved dominance at the spelling bee.  After:  Lorenzo dominated….


Before: The realization of her error caused Margo embarrassment.  After: Margo became embarrassed when she realized her error.


Utilization is a noun you can deep 6 forever.  Don’t bother changing it to utilize; that’s just as bad.  Go with use.


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