Home FAQs Punctuation Punctuation
Punctuation

Question:
Which of the following is correct:
Annual Shareholders’ Meeting or Annual Shareholders Meeting? In our office we are divided on whether to use the apostrophe.

Answer:
Annual Shareholders’ Meeting is correct.


Question:
We're wondering what is the proper way to write town-wide? Our organization is called "Town Wide PTO,” but, of course, we have a conundrum about the correct way to indicate that it is a group that includes representatives from all of the schools in our town (as opposed to describing a very expansive hamlet). We're stumped and would greatly appreciate your advice!

Answer:
When two words function as a single adjective, it is usually best to hyphenate: Town-wide PTO. Interestingly, a number of "-wide"combinations are now written as a single word -- among them worldwide, nationwide, countrywide, countywide, citywide, communitywide, industrywide, statewide, and storewide (although some of these look odd). So even though I could not locate the example of townwide, I believe you have the option of writing it the single word: Townwide PTO.   Do not write two capitalized unhyphenated words: Town Wide PTO; and, if you hyphenate, do not capitalize "wide” as it does not have the same weight as "Town.”. Whatever you choose, be consistent. That's the key in many fuzzy punctuation situations. I myself prefer Town-wide PTO.


Question:
Should well-protected be hyphenated in the following sentence? Before entering a world where chemical hazards lie in wait, you need to be well-protected.

Answer:
No. Well combinations (well educated, well intended, well protected, etc.) are not hyphenated when they come after the verb. They are hyphenated when they precede the verb so you have well-protected employees but employees who should be well protected.


Question:
I never know when a hyphen is needed for compound modifiers. Tell me whether hyphens are required in these expressions:
The boat embarked on a three-hour tour.
I received a last-minute call from the President.

Answer:
Yes, the rule is to use a hyphen when two or more words are used as a single modifier before a noun: three-hour tour (or 3-hour tour), last-minute call, short-term employment, up-to-date material, computer-related problem, etc. When the same phrases are used after the verb, they are not hyphenated.  Note: There are a few exceptions to the hyphenation requirement such as high school teacher, credit card customer, data entry clerk.


Question:
I was recently married and have a new surname – Hughes. Please tell me how the plural of Hughes should be written and also how to show possession.

Answer:
You’ve touched a sensitive chord for many people whose names end in the letters s and z and require a new syllable to pluralize. One must say Hugheses or Joneses and, therefore, add es. As for possession, if one Hughes is doing the possessing, add ’s. (Sandra Hughes’s decision). If several Hugheses are doing the possessing, use an apostrophe after the plural form ( the Hugheses’ party). To many people, the correct versions look offensive. (“That’s not my name,” they complain.) To them, I suggest restructuring the sentence: The Hughes family made the decision.


 

Question:
What do you do for the plural of an acronym? Take this sentence: There will be a strong and swift movement toward “Pay-for-performance compensation,” not only for CEOs (or CEO’s) but across all levels of public and private companies.

Answer:
CEOs is the preferred form. According to today’s standards, capital letters are made plural by adding s without an apostrophe: CEOs, PTAs, HMOs, unless confusion could occur because a new word is created: He received all A’s.
Yet some authorities still suggest the use of an apostrophe before the s: CEO’s, PTA’s, HMO’s. For clarity’s sake, uncapitalized letters and abbreviations form their plural with an apostrophe: Mind your p’s and q’s.


Questiion:
Would clean up be one or two words when used as an adjective, i.e. Clean Up Day?

Answer:
We used to prefer hyphenation – Clean-Up Day or Clean-up day – but contemporary use seems to favor Cleanup Day. There is no hard and fast rule. Because it’s an adjective, the words are not simply separated without hyphenation as in Clean Up Day.  Of course, if I ask you to clean up your room, I am using a verb form – no hyphen.


Question:
My company recently ran an ad with the following sentence:
“Our company has over 120 years experience in the horticultural industry.”
Of course, I would have preferred that they put an “of” between “years” and “experience”. But they didn’t, and now I’m wondering if there should be an apostrophe after the “s” is the word “years” in the above sentence. Should it be, “Our company has over 120 years’ experience….”? What do think?

Answer:
The sentence as it is written requires an apostrophe after “years” – 120 years’ experience. It follows the rule that regular plural words (ending in s for the plural) form the possessive by adding an apostrophe. In this case, the word “years” has a possessive relationship to experience and is punctuated just like 120 managers’ experience or 120 horses’ experience.


Question:
I am addressing a letter to:
Mr. John Smith III
1234 Coconut Drive
Honolulu, Hawaii 96843
Dear Mr. Smith III: or should it be Dear Mr. Smith:

Answer:
Correct version: Dear Mr. Smith:
Question:
I’m responsible for a monthly newsletter from my church. Do I need a comma between month and year when I put the date of the issue – May, 2006 or May 2006?

Answer:
May 2006 is correct. Do not use a comma unless a day is included: May 15, 2006

Question:
Public holidays with possessives before the word Day are punctuated in various ways. For example, I’ve seen Veteran’s Day Veterans’ Day, and Veterans Day. The same goes for Mothers Day, Fathers Day,
even Grandparents Day. Is it OK to write them without punctuation?

Answer:
Good question. There are many discrepancies in current usage (reflected also in the greeting cards and advertised  sales related to those holidays!)  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the correct forms are as follows: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Veterans Day, Presidents’ Day, Grandparents’ Day. Both Valentine’s Day and Valentines Day are correct.


Question:
Please let me know if you agree with the usage of the apostrophe in this sentence:  There will be strong and swift movement toward pay for performance compensation, not only for CEO’s but across all levels of public and private companies.

Answer:
Do not use an apostrophe. Write CEOs. Capital letter abbreviations are pluralized by adding s alone.


 

 

Publication and Reprint Information

Unless otherwise attributed, all material is written and edited by Susan B. Kline. Copyright © Susan B. Kline 2011. All rights reserved. I invite you to reprint material from this website for educational purposes, provided this copyright notice ("Written and edited by Susan B. Kline, copyright Susan B. Kline, [year]. All rights reserved.") and a link to http://www.sbkline.com is included in the credits.