Possessive of a title in quotes? Just don’t

English has a lot of conventions—best not to call them rules—that sometimes fall apart when we try to apply them in all possible situations. Sometimes, it’s best to just not go there.

If we want to make a noun possessive, we typically add an apostrophe and an s. Mark’s wise words, for example.

It was pointed out to me by a fellow copy editor that Amy Einsohn, in The Copyeditor’s Handbook, recommends making a phrase or title in quotation marks possessive in the same way. The result is not pretty. Einsohn gives the example:

“Lord Randal”’s rhymes and rhythms. (“Lord Randal” is the title of an old ballad.)

Words Into Type also gives this construction “when a possessive must be formed for a quoted word or phrase,” but it advises rewording. I’ve been hard-pressed to find other guides that recommend treating possessives of titles this way—just a couple of university style guides. Most guides simply ignore the issue.

The Chicago Manual of Style says “Chicago discourages, however, attempting to form the possessive of a term enclosed in quotation marks (a practice that is seen in some periodical publications where most titles are quoted rather than italicized).”

Chicago recommends using italicized titles, as I have done in this column. If italics are used in this way, Chicago recommends leaving the apostrophe-s in roman type, resulting in much squinting among copy editors trying to make things perfect:

Lord Randal’s rhymes and rhythms.

English is only logical to a point. Past that point, we need to give up and write around. The apostrophe-s convention is useful shorthand to show ownership or other relationships, but it’s a simplification. There are other ways to show a relationship:

The rhymes and rhythms of “Lord Randal.”

The AP Stylebook doesn’t address the issue of a possessive title in quotation marks, but the AP’s Ask the Editor column sees repeated questions asking how it should be done. AP’s David Minthorn recommends avoiding the construction, as in this exchange from 2013:

Q. Re: Your answer about the possessive of titles in quote marks. I respect your advice regarding a recast, but there has to be a definitive answer. Is it: “Ode on a Grecian Urn”’s admirers or “Ode on a Grecian Urn’s” admirers. I know that a rephrase to admirers of “Ode on a Grecian Urn” would be preferred, but I’m seeking a definitive answer to this one. I do not want to write: “Ode on a Grecian Urn” admirers because I want to show possession involving the title. So is it, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”’s admirers or “Ode on a Grecian Urn’s” admirers? Please pick one, and I’ll go with that. I thank you very, very much.

A. “Ode on a Grecian Urn” admirers. Now let’s move on.

In standard usage, ‘daylight saving time’ wins out

The end of daylight saving time offers an opportunity for people prone to correcting to remind us the middle word is singular—”daylight saving time”—although in casual use, it’s just as often rendered plural.

The form “daylight savings time,” exists for no particular reason except for our predilection to pluralize “saving.” There is little harm in the variant form, and most good dictionaries record “savings” as an alternative.

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Bard Day celebration offers much to read about

It’s Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, more or less, and all of Twitter is a stage for stories about the immortal one.

There is no time for me to read of Shakespeare morning until night, so I created a list of links pulled from Twitter today for your leisurely reading enjoyment, The first one is my own, so I may be a poor jurist. But all the others I have read or intend to read.

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ACES 2014 National Grammar Day Tweeted Haiku Contest entries

A little bit of what I’ve learned on Twitter

The following column originally appeared on Copyediting.com in two parts. As I have no space limitations, here it is in its entirety for your convenience.

The first part is here: http://www.copyediting.com/dont-be-intimidated-twitters-learning-curve#sthash.3kcwQN11.dpuf

And here is the second part: http://www.copyediting.com/twitters-place-engage-wordies#sthash.IXRo0pir.dpuf

Twitter is technically simple, but conceptually difficult. When I started, I tweeted useful tips and followed people who I thought might be interested. Eventually, I started following people I thought were interesting. It took me a long time to understand that people talking to me weren’t necessarily talking to everybody and that when I said something, people weren’t necessarily listening. I think I’ve experienced all the Twitter epiphanies, but it took me a long time.

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Habitat for Humanity house is a fitting tribute to a nice guy

My plan was to drive back to Grand Rapids, Mich., today and spend Saturday pounding nails and raising walls on a Habitat for Humanity home. But I’m not over a stomach bug that has been bothering me for a week now. I can’t risk making someone else sick, so I’ve sent my regrets, bitterly disappointed that I won’t be able to pay such a fitting tribute to my old boss and friend, Andy Angelo.

Andy died last summer, much earlier than he should have, because of asthma. He was metro editor at the Grand Rapids Press when I started, and he became my supervisor as news editor. He brought out the best in those who worked under him by working harder than any of us and caring deeply about the news that was delivered to people’s homes every day. He was a journalist who could remind us what journalism is all about. He also was a friend, caring about our comfort and happiness at work and at home, always willing to lend a hand professionally or personally.

The House that Andy Built is a testament to Andy’s willingness to help out wherever he could. Dozens of former colleagues, friends and family members are building a Habitat house on Grandville Avenue SW, near the community arts center. Andy helped his wife, Mary, create that neighborhood center, and he served on the board.

In 2010, Andy’s assistant news editor and I nominated Andy for the Robinson Prize, an honor the American Copy Editors Society gives to an outstanding copy editor each year. His selection gave me a chance to spend some time with him and Mary again at the annual conference in Phoenix in March, 2011. His acceptance speech was spontaneous and touching, and, for Andy, predictable. He spoke of the young people he sat with at the banquet and how they gave him confidence in the future of the craft.

At the hotel lobby bar afterward, Andy bought drinks and, unusual for Andy, reveled in a bit of recognition. He was happy, and if you’ll forgive my lack of humility, I felt wonderful knowing I played a part in connecting such a worthy person with the recognition he deserved.

Those working hard at 661 Grandville Avenue SW will have that same feeling. Andy touched many, many people, and only the most jaded among us could fail to be moved by the opportunity to give something back and to contribute to the ideals he exemplified.

I write this partly as a way to vent my frustration, partly as a way to honor Andy, since I’m unable to do so with sinew and sweat. If you are moved to contribute in a small way, the House that Andy Built is accepting donations. If you believe in the power of a nice guy to make a difference in the world, this is an appropriate way to reinforce that belief for others. The world could use a few more Andy Angelos.

The donation page for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County is here: http://www.habitatkent.org/Donate/DonateOnline.aspx. Under the drop down menu, select “Andy’s House.”

The youth news bureau at Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities renamed itself the Andy Angelo Press Club. In March, some of its young reporters took a look at Andy. Here is the result: http://therapidian.org/young-journalists-honor-andy-angelo-legacy.

Here is the story I wrote for the ACES website after Andy’s death: http://www.copydesk.org/3018/2010-robinson-prize-winner-andy-angelo-dies-at-age-55/.

Here is the Facebook page for the House that Andy Built, which I hope will have photos of Saturday’s build: https://www.facebook.com/TheHouseThatAndyBuilt.