Using apostrophes for names ending in s

We’ve already talked about apostrophes, and how to use a possessive apostrophe, but what about where someone’s first name ends in an s – like Jules, Thomas, Chris, Ross, Iris, James, Frances, or Charles; or their last name does – like Williams, Isaacs, Roberts, Phillips, and so on.

Jules, Jules’, or Jules’s?

Where should the apostrophe go after a name ending in an s? Do we say Jules car, Jules’ car, Jule’s car, or Jules’s car? What is the definitive answer?

It depends

Not helpful, right? However, it really does depend on what your organisation’s house style is, or which you’ve decided you prefer.

There are two options above that are definitely incorrect – Jules car, and Jule’s car. The first calls a type of car a Jules, and the second… well, Jules has an s on the end of her name, and there should never be an apostrophe before it.

Correct options

This leaves us with Jules’ car, and Jules’s car.

The Chicago Manual of Style and APA Style both state that you should always add an ’s to a name in the possessive, even if that name ends in an s. So if you’re following these style guidelines, you’d write Jules’s car.

The AP Stylebook however says to just add an apostrophe, and no further s. So if you were following the AP Stylebook style, you’d write Jules’ car.

Either of these options are correct. The things to consider when deciding which to use are:

  • if you/your organisation follows a style guide, and if so, what your style guide says to use
  • being consistent.

If you don’t have a style guide already, you can decide the option (style) you’re going to use for this – but the number one rule is that having decided, you must be consistent. If you decide to go with Jules’s car, make sure you continue to use this format for the whole document. (This doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind later – just that if you do, you need to go back and update all instances of Jules’s car.)

What would I do?

Personally, if I get to choose (ie, if there’s not already a style guide outlining the preferred option for the document I’m working on), I tend to just add the final apostrophe, and no s – that is, the Jules’ car option. To my eye (and ear) it feels cleaner.

This depends to some degree though on how the specific examples sound to the ear. For example, if we’re talking about Jules, apostrophe only works fine – but if we happen to be talking about Chris in this particular document, then Chris’s car sounds more sensible than Chris’ car; so I’d go with adding the final s as my style for all instances in this document (even if we’re talking about both Chris’s car and Jules’s car).

In summary

You could use either:

  • Jules’s car, or
  • Jules’ car.

But whichever option you choose, use it consistently.

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