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Our Apostrophe Crisis: Is it Davis’ or Davis’s? (POLL)

Some of the most respected publications in the world approach this apostrophe rule differently. Comment below and let us know your take.

I think about it almost every single day: How do I properly tack an apostrophe onto the possessive form of the word Davis? To better understand the issue, consider these two potential headlines. Which one is correct?

  • Davis's Grammar Skills are Improving
  • Davis' Grammar Skills are Improving

Do you think you have the answer? The examples below from respected publications may leave you second-guessing. Each of the sentences focuses on NON-PLURAL words that end in "S": Davis, Steve Jobs, and Tiger Woods. 

Note: Davis Patch uses “Davis’s,” mostly because a co-worker recommended it and because that's how the New York Times does it. But, as a former colleague once asked me: “If the New York Times jumped off a bridge…”

The Associated Press goes the other way, suggesting things like "Jesus' life" or "Kansas' schools" as the proper approach. 

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Publications that Use Davis's

  • Davis’s score is eight points higher than that of Vacaville, but two points fewer than in Dixon. 
  • New York Times: Mr. Jobs’s first job was at Atari, and it involved the game Pong. 
  • The Atlantic: ...[it] isn't something that's necessarily endorsed by Jobs's biographer.
  • Sports Illustrated: ...Phil Mickelson's fast start, Tiger Woods's putting and Rory McIlroy's run. 

Publications that Use Davis’

  • Davis Enterprise: “... under Davis’ proposed minor alcohol preclusion ordinance, however, officers can cite...”
  • Davis Vanguard: Politicos Share Their Views of the Candidate Field and Davis' Future
  • CNN: He got a call from one of Jobs' associates who asked him several questions.
  • ESPNWoods' remarks came before PGA Tour rookie...

As you can see, we are a nation divided on this front.

According to Grammarbook.com, the nerds of the world will argue heatedly on the subject for eternity, but the most roundly accepted rule is to include the apostrophe, along with an extra “S.” (Davis's rather than Davis'). 

Reading stuff like that helps me sleep at night, but then I wake up the next day and see it done differently on CNN and all over the place, and I can't help but think twice. Share your opinion in the comments section below. 

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Dave F March 03, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Another option is to type the noun first, then "of Davis." E.g., "Students of Davis" instead of "Davis's students" Davis is a single noun, not plural. Davis's It doesn't matter what letter precedes the apostrophe. It may look wrong to have "s" repeated before and after. Single word = 's Plural word = ' (only) *I am not a Manual of Style expert. Opinions are my own.
Carlos Villatoro March 03, 2012 at 07:06 AM
I would go with Davis'
Lynn Blumenstein March 04, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Both are correct. The magazine I write for has a style that dictates I use Davis's.
Justin Cox (Editor) March 04, 2012 at 04:38 AM
I can't decide if I like the fact that both are acceptable, or if it drives me a little bit crazy.
Justin Cox (Editor) March 04, 2012 at 04:40 AM
I've used the noun-first workaround a few times, just to smoothen a sentence out and avoid the apostrophe all together. It's a tactic best avoided, though. Thanks for the breakdown!
ash May 10, 2012 at 01:10 AM
I was always taught Davis's is for one Davis, and Davis' is for a family of them, but that Davis's is the plural of Davis when not possessive. The town of Davis is singular and as a single town the possessive would be Davis's, e.g. Davis's mayor. Of course, I found this thread because what I was taught didn't look quite right and I wanted to check. Unlike Justin, I take comfort in the fact that neither is really wrong so I don't have to agonize over which I'll use again.
Marcy Davis October 14, 2013 at 02:29 AM
That's why we don't talk about it in our family. Everyone does it different and will fight to be right.

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