Charles’s or Charles’? Which is the Correct Plural Possessive?

Charles is a popular name, and since it ends with an S, it follows plural possessives along with other plural nouns. This means that it should be Charles’, right? You would think so, but it still depends on another factor.

This factor is almost as complicated as properly saying something belongs to this. There are several different style guides for writing the English language. When you follow the rules of The Associated Press Stylebook, Charles’ is proper. With all other style guides, Charles’s is correct.

Charles’

The Associated Press Stylebook has rules that state any plural noun, including names that end with an S, only get an apostrophe to symbolize possession. If you are required to follow AP style in your writing, this is the correct way.

In school, we are taught that Charles’ is the proper way to write about something that belongs to Charles. However, language is always developing and making changes, which is why this form isn’t used as often as it used to be.

Examples

I think those are Charles’ shoes.

The last time I checked, that was Charles’ favorite movie.

We took Charles’ car to dinner.

Have you seen Charles’ friend? 

Charles’s

Other style guides, such as The Microsoft Manual of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style, recommend that singular nouns, like a name, shows possession by adding an apostrophe and an S, even if the name or noun ends with S.

Charles’s will also be more common in British English than Charles’. This is due to their style guides being slightly different than those in the United States. Even in America, Charles’s is becoming more popular than Charles’.

Examples

Does anyone know if this is Charles’s wallet?

I just need to grab Charles’s car keys so we can leave.

She’s on her way to Charles’s house for the surprise party.

Remind me to get Charles’s email for the mailing list before we leave.

Which is Correct?

The confusion of these two words comes from what we were taught to write versus how we say things. In school, it is common to be taught to write Charles’ when talking about something that belongs to Charles. When we are talking, we say Charles’s when referring to something that belongs to Charles. While both are technically correct, the main difference is in the required style guide.

It will always depend on the required style guide you need to follow, but the most important thing is that you stay consistent with it. If you use brother’s in one sentence, use Charles’s in the next. If you use brothers instead, you will use Charles’.

It is also important that you don’t make any exceptions during your writing process. Consistency will make a huge difference. You will also need to make sure that the program you are writing on doesn’t automatically correct it to the opposite.

Most people will just follow what their friends and family use. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page, but it might not always be best in a professional situation. Always make sure to follow the style guide that is used by the company or person you are writing for.

If you really aren’t sure which to use and you don’t want to make a mistake, you can keep things simple. Instead of saying Charles’ or Charles’s, you can just say that it belongs to Charles.