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Thread: Possessive form of boss?

  1. #1
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    Possessive form of boss?

    boss' or boss's.

    (As in the guy you work for, not a last name like Hugo Boss.)

    I found both on Google. Boss's is more common - and used by Wikipedia if that means anything - but looks strange to me.

  2. #2
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    boss's is correct.

    Excerpt from Elements of Style:
    Form the possessive singular of nouns with 's.

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  3. #3
    Writing Anarchist DeleyanLee's Avatar
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    My grammar book (The Careful Writer) says that it depends on what the next word is whether it's a ' or a 's.

    My boss's phone -- correct because it doesn't have 3 s sounds in a row (ss counts as a single sound)

    My boss' secretary -- correct.

    My boss's secretary -- incorrect.

    That make sense?
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
    boss's is correct.

    Excerpt from Elements of Style:
    Form the possessive singular of nouns with 's.

    -Derek
    So, l if I got this right.

    boss's

    bosses'

    Makes sense. Thanks.

  5. #5
    SupahStah! jennifer75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Johnson View Post
    So, l if I got this right.

    boss's

    bosses'

    Makes sense. Thanks.
    don't forget the 3S rule.
    jennifer

  6. #6
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    3S rule?

    My boss' secretary -- correct.

    My boss's secretary -- incorrect.

    That make sense?
    Heck no! My boss's secretary is correct.

    -Derek
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  7. #7
    Writing Anarchist DeleyanLee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
    3S rule?


    Heck no! My boss's secretary is correct.

    -Derek
    No, it's not because it breaks the 3S rule--having 3 S sounds all together.
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  8. #8
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeleyanLee View Post
    No, it's not because it breaks the 3S rule--having 3 S sounds all together.
    That book is wrong. There's no such rule that relates to orthography in any of the main style books--Chicago Manual of Style, AP Stylesheet, MLA, etc.

    In any case, the possessive "s" is pronounced with a "z" sound there, so there aren't three s sounds in a row.

    On edit: I Googled a bit, and found all kinds of rules about this, including one site (Dictionary.com) that had an incredibly elaborate set of rules that included "If there is already a sibilant in the word, don't add another s: Kansas', not Kansas's."

    I guess this is a less settled issue than I had thought--you can find many authorities that say the possessive of "boss" should be "boss's", and many authorities that say the possessive of "boss" should be "boss'".

    So, Doug, whichever you do, some people will think it's right and other people will think it's wrong.
    Last edited by IceCreamEmpress; 07-24-2008 at 10:35 PM.

  9. #9
    Writing Anarchist DeleyanLee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IceCreamEmpress View Post
    In any case, the possessive "s" is pronounced with a "z" sound there, so there aren't three s sounds in a row.
    Maybe where you come from it has a "z" sound, but it's an "s" here.
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  10. #10
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeleyanLee View Post
    Maybe where you come from it has a "z" sound, but it's an "s" here.
    Yes, but Mr. Bernstein (author of "The Careful Writer") and I come from the same place, more or less.

    You have opened my eyes to a phenomenon that I never knew existed, and I've been doing editing and copyediting for 20 years. I even ghostwrote sections of two grammar textbooks, back when dinosaurs walked the Earth. And yet, I had never encountered the "3 S Rule" until today.

    This is good. Learning is good. I still think it should be "My boss's secretary," but I understand that that is my own dogma talking. Woof!

    And I am fascinated by the idea that there is no way to do this without somebody thinking you're wrong.

    Doug, perhaps you should just rewrite the sentence as "My boss's administrative assistant"?

  11. #11
    Writing Anarchist DeleyanLee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IceCreamEmpress View Post
    And I am fascinated by the idea that there is no way to do this without somebody thinking you're wrong.
    Until my work comes under the jurisdiction of a publishing house's house rules (which trumps), all I can do is pick a source of information and be consistent since even the accepted standards of style conflict on some points.

    As long as the sentence is understandable, that's all that really matters to me in the end.
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  12. #12
    The moving hand, having writ... AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    Deleyan, that's exactly what I do. I pick a style for this and other touchy punctuation and spelling matters and stick to it consistently. If some publisher buys it, once I regain consciousness, I'll be glad to make it conform to its house style, even if I disagree with it.

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  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW veronie's Avatar
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    Actually, the "three-s" rule is found in the AP Stylebook, in the back of the book in the grammar section. It is also mentioned in several other grammar books I have read.

    Edit: I never heard of it called the "three-s" rule before today, but it seems like a fine name (except usually it causes four s's). I know you can find it in the AP Stylebook in the back punctuation section under "apostrophe-singular common nouns ending in s."

    "Add 's unless the next word begins with s: the hostess's invitation, the hostess' seat; the witness's answer, the witness' story."
    Last edited by veronie; 07-25-2008 at 12:31 AM.

  14. #14
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by veronie View Post
    Actually, the "three-s" rule is found in the AP Stylebook, in the back of the book in the grammar section.
    Thanks, Veronie! I sit corrected. I have misplaced my AP Stylebook somewhere, so I spoke without checking. My error.

    Quote Originally Posted by DeleyanLee
    Until my work comes under the jurisdiction of a publishing house's house rules (which trumps), all I can do is pick a source of information and be consistent since even the accepted standards of style conflict on some points.
    Well put. This is a really dramatic case, though, pitting Chicago against AP, Strunk and White against Bernstein...it's rare that it's this clear-cut.

  15. #15
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    Actually, the next word is "list," so I can forget the three s rule if I want to.

    It's dialog, so I can't really rework the sentence. (Characters say what they say. They don't care whether or not I know how to write it down.)

    Thanks for the help.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
    3S rule?


    Heck no! My boss's secretary is correct.

    -Derek

    You confused the heck out of me, until I realized that you changed my quote.

    My boss's admin assistant

    Plural the ' goes after the s. the pack of dogs' favorite hydrant.

    ergo: both bosses'

  17. #17
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Johnson View Post
    You confused the heck out of me, until I realized that you changed my quote.

    My boss's admin assistant
    His secretary and his admin assistant are both underpaid and underappreciated!

    Plural the ' goes after the s. the pack of dogs' favorite hydrant.

    ergo: both bosses'
    Indeed, or your boss's bosses' secretaries.

    From what's been said, I guess the boss's vs. boss' decision depends on what you're writing, fiction or an AP style news article.

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  18. #18
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    Beast's.

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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeleyanLee View Post
    No, it's not because it breaks the 3S rule--having 3 S sounds all together.
    There's no such rule--say it out loud: if you were talking about your boss's secretary, regardless of how you spell it, you would say three s sounds in a row: s z s (phonetically it's "boss'z secretary"). You wouldn't say "my boss secretary."

    And you spell it like you say it--hence, my boss's secretary.

  20. #20
    Moderation in All Things AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    My boss's secretary is ALWAYS correct -- just ask her.
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  21. #21
    Company Man MattW's Avatar
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    My boss's mistress.
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  22. #22
    practical experience, FTW veronie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ideagirl View Post
    And you spell it like you say it--hence, my boss's secretary.
    Since when is this true in English?

    Edit: The point some of us are making is that this is a style difference; some style books call for dropping the "s," some do not. If you are not following any set style and you want to keep it, fine. But at the same time, it is perfectly fine for you to drop it. Newspaper style generally calls for "my boss' secretary."
    Last edited by veronie; 07-26-2008 at 01:16 AM.

  23. #23
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    Office floor

    I also have a question:

    Is "office floor" possessive or not? The floor of the office that is.

    "... papers scattered on the office floor".

    If it is, do I need apostrophe + s ?

    Or is it an adjective?

  24. #24
    It's green they say FennelGiraffe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phaedo View Post
    I also have a question:

    Is "office floor" possessive or not? The floor of the office that is.

    "... papers scattered on the office floor".

    If it is, do I need apostrophe + s ?

    Or is it an adjective?
    Adjective.
    In a science fiction novel, if I describe what's on a desk, the reader will use this to figure out the level of technology in the society.

    In a mystery novel, if I describe what's on a desk, the reader will understand that one of those objects is a clue.

    In a literary novel, if I describe what's on a desk, the reader will understand it to be a metaphor for the protagonist's mental state.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattW View Post
    My boss's mistress.
    omg
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