You can always write about the Williams family or the Watkins family, but the rule in pluralizing a name ending in S is, as you would expect, to add —ES. Therefore, the first family in the previous sentence is the Williamses and the second is the Watkinses. I can hear you shouting about how weird those names look. What I find interesting is that people have no problem saying or writing “keeping up with the Joneses.” Why then is it difficult to want to keep up with the Hopkinses or the Chamberses?
That Jones family has been around so long that we are all inured to the plural. Chances are even if you write the plural correctly for other names, you will still pronounce the plural form as the singular: you’ll drop the sound of the —ES: “We’re having dinner next Saturday with the Hopkins
(ES).” But do write it correctly.
Adding an apostrophe does NOT make a plural: “Watkins’s” is the possessive form of one person named Watkins, as in “Dr. Watkins’s umbrella.” In fact, you can drop that final S after the apostrophe and you’ll still be correct. However, writing that you are “having dinner with the Watkins’s” is always going to be wrong.
Does that subject line look odd to you? If you are referring to only one standard, then “criterion” (singular) is correct:
“My criterion for listening to modern classical music is that it must have a melody I can remember.”
“Criteria,” the plural, is used for more than one standard:
” I have several criteria when looking for a new car: it has to be affordable, comfortable, miserly on fuel, and better looking than the Aztec.” *
* Apologies to Walter White
Leaving a theater Saturday night, I saw this sign on a nearby pub. I’m sure more than a few people wondered why I was taking a photo of the sign, but you know why, right?
Many, many times (most times), a word ending in S is just a plural. No apostrophe needed! The sign was made according to the all-too-common “rule” that must state, “If a word ends in an S, throw in an apostrophe before that S.”
I guess this bar belongs to just one guy, a sport. As an unreconstructed English major, I could think only of The Great Gatsby, in which Gatsby repeatedly calls the narrator, Nick, “old sport.” Maybe Nick came West and opened this pub.
I’ll calm down now.
I took this shot through the car window, hence the odd angle. The sign doesn’t mean the Dodger Dogs that belong to Monday cost a dollar, in which case the apostrophe would be correct. It means that on Mondays (plural) Dodger Dogs cost a buck.
Some people have an uncontrollable urge to add an apostrophe to words ending in S, when most of those words are going to be simple plurals, not possessives. I’m just thankful “Dogs” didn’t get an apostrophe as well.
People who know how to make nouns plural in general often make up their own crazy set of rules when dealing with names:
I know two people who are Gonzalez’s, three Garies, two Barry’s and five Maxs.
Those should be Gonzalezes, Garys, Barrys and Maxes. Of course, you can just write that you have many friends named Gonzalez, Gary, Barry and Max. I can hear you breathing more easily.
People whose last name ends in a vowel are no different than your consonant-ending friends:
Castroes and Castro’s aren’t plurals for Castro. All you need is Castros.
If you want to send a card that says SEASON’S GREETINGS, check the card to make certain that apostrophe is in place. The greetings belong to the season—one season. I have seen cards printed with no apostrophe and others printed with an apostrophe after the final S in SEASONS. You are not sending greetings for multiple seasons.
People go crazy with apostrophes. When they see a final S, they reach into their bulging apostrophe pocket and hurl one at the word. That’s why you will see signs in grocery stores telling you to buy APPLE’S, RADISHES’ AND PASTA’S. None of those words is possessive; they are merely plurals. I saw a sign painted on the side of a truck that bragged the company had ‘The Best Plumber’s in Town.”
If I could get $5 for every missing or misplaced apostrophe, I would be a rich woman in two weeks.