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

James 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 James’, 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, James’ is proper. With all other style guides, James’s is correct.

James’

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 James’ is the proper way to write about something that belongs to James. 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 James’ shoes.

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

We took James’ car to dinner.

Have you seen James’ phone? 

James’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.

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

Examples

Does anyone know if this is James’s wallet?

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

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

Remind me to get James’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 James’ when talking about something that belongs to James. When we are talking, we say James’s when referring to something that belongs to James. 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 James’s in the next. If you use brothers instead, you will use James’.

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 James’ or James’s, you can just say that it belongs to James.