Apostrophe Catastrophe!
February 23, 2005 9:09 AM   Subscribe

If you were creating text for an invitation, and the reception following the event was at a specific family’s house, but you wanted to omit the actual noun “house”, what would be the proper (or more common) way to implement the apostrophe?

Here is the example:

Reception to follow servies at:

The Johnsons’
[or]
The Johnsons

I’ve googled phrases such as 'apostrophe rules' and 'grammar guide', but can’t find any specific examples that apply directly to my dilemma. Which way is right?
posted by naxosaxur to Writing & Language (21 answers total)
 
"SERVICES". oops!
posted by naxosaxur at 9:11 AM on February 23, 2005


The Johnsons' is correct.
posted by scratch at 9:18 AM on February 23, 2005


It's plural possessive. "See you at the Johnsons'.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:18 AM on February 23, 2005


For future reference:

"The possessive case of a plural noun ending in -s is formed by adding just an apostrophe: the doctors’ recommendations, the glasses’ rims, the flies’ buzzing noises. However, when the plural noun does not end in -s, form the possessive by adding -’s: children’s clothes."
posted by occhiblu at 9:30 AM on February 23, 2005


Thanks all. I just wasn't sure because of the deletion of the noun (house) following the family name.
posted by naxosaxur at 9:34 AM on February 23, 2005


But some style guides actually append an 's at the end of a name that ends in s. For example, my last name is Gates (no, I'm not related --quit asking).

I like the possessive to be Gates' (because it's economical --one less letter) but some would write Gates's.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 9:43 AM on February 23, 2005


Yeah, taken, Gates' is MLA and Gates's is Chicago, but in both cases the plural possessive is Gateses'.
posted by dame at 9:48 AM on February 23, 2005


Outtacontext, this may be a US vs. UK English thing. I can't remember. But there's some discussion of it in the grammar book Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
posted by jdroth at 9:52 AM on February 23, 2005


I think it should be Johnsons (no apostrophe).

What's going on here is that you've assumed that when you say "at the Johnsons(')", the implied original before ommision was "at the Johnsons' house", but it could just as easily be "at the home of the Johnsons" which requires no apostrophe.

I would leave the apostrophe off, simply for the sake of aesthetics. It looks better without.
posted by Doohickie at 10:41 AM on February 23, 2005


No, it's even a US vs. US thing as dame just said. Just be consistent.
posted by grouse at 10:42 AM on February 23, 2005


Chez Johnson has that certain je ne sais quois...
posted by xo at 10:45 AM on February 23, 2005


I'd go with

Reception to follow services
at the home of
Joan and Bob Johnson
123 Elm Lane
etc.
posted by SashaPT at 10:47 AM on February 23, 2005


I think it should be Johnsons (no apostrophe).

What's going on here is that you've assumed that when you say "at the Johnsons(')", the implied original before ommision was "at the Johnsons' house", but it could just as easily be "at the home of the Johnsons" which requires no apostrophe.

I would leave the apostrophe off, simply for the sake of aesthetics. It looks better without.


But it's not a matter of aesthetics. "Looks better" isn't what Naxosaur was asking about. "The Johnsons" is not a location, hence "at the Johnsons" is ungrammatical. "The Johnsons'"--meaning the Johnsons' home--IS a location, hence grammatical.
posted by scratch at 11:08 AM on February 23, 2005


Doohickie: there sort of has to be an assumption that "at the Johnsons'" means "at the Johnsons' house". When was the last time you attended a reception at someone instead of someplace?

Johnsons' all the way.
posted by ubernostrum at 11:12 AM on February 23, 2005


But how is it pronounced? Is "Johnsons'" two or three syllables?
posted by squidlarkin at 11:17 AM on February 23, 2005


Taken Outtacontext: Yes, but in this case, the proper name does not end in an s. For a proper name that ends in an s, the plural is formed by adding an apostrophe and another s; e.g. James's party. Or, if your last name is simply "Gates", then it would be Gates's party.

occhiblu is correct. Since, in this case, you are referring to the the house that is inhabited by the entire group of people (plural) who are collectively known as The Johnsons, their house is correctly referred to as The Johnsons' house, or, "meet at The Johnsons' ". Additionally, it is assumed that the reception is NOT going to be held within the confines of the physical bodies of the people who comprise the group known collectively as The Johnsons, so "The Johnsons' dwelling" is implied.

Also, while perhaps an entertaining read, don't put too much stock in Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
posted by gramschmidt at 11:18 AM on February 23, 2005


At the Johnson residence.
posted by sageleaf at 11:18 AM on February 23, 2005


Thank you all for your punctuation guidelines! The invitations need to go out tomorrow, and you've all been a great big help! I'm going to go with:

The Johnsons'...because I like ornamenting my grammar. The Johnsons just looks naked...
posted by naxosaxur at 12:50 PM on February 23, 2005


Doohickie: there sort of has to be an assumption that "at the Johnsons'" means "at the Johnsons' house". When was the last time you attended a reception at someone instead of someplace?

Johnsons' all the way.


I KNOW there has to be an assumption. My point was that there is more than one CORRECT assumption, only one which would require an apostrophe:

"at the Johnsons' [house]"

and one where an apostrophe is not appropriate:

"at [the home of] the Johnsons".

Either way, the remaining sentence structure is incomplete after the shortening of the phrase, so it cannot be said that one is more correct than the other. That being said, I think SashaPT's idea is the best.
posted by Doohickie at 2:05 PM on February 23, 2005


Nax, do try to include the address too, even if you think everyone will know where the Johnsons live.
posted by SashaPT at 2:23 PM on February 23, 2005


Thanks SashaPT. I really liked your suggestion the best actually, as it made my problem null and void, but my other team of "copy editors" wanted to go with some form of "The Johnsons"... Thanks again all for your help!
posted by naxosaxur at 2:32 PM on February 23, 2005


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