Post Possession (where the possessor follows the possessed)


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Thread: Post Possession (where the possessor follows the possessed)

  1. #1

    Post Possession (where the possessor follows the possessed)

    I have finally got around to reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves, having bought a copy cheaply at a charity shop, and I am disappointed that, despite her claim, the author Lynne Truss is not consistently a stickler for correct punctuation. Her mistake was to write lists of errors involving apostrophes. While it is relatively easy to be a stickler when faced with one error it is difficult to pay close attention to every item in a list.

    Under the heading "No possessive where possessive is required" her first example is "Citizens Advice Bureau". Presumably she believes that this should read "Citizens' Advice Bureau" but she is wrong. Neither the advice nor the bureau belong to the citizens. I should know about this having worked at such a bureau for about ten years. The correct interpretation of the name is that it is a bureau which gives its advice to citizens.

    Here is another example of the same thing. I am a posts writer, i.e. I write posts. I am not possessed by these posts even if my readers are. Indeed I possess them. Where the possessor follows the possessed there cannot be an apostrophe. Even if one states that I am a writer of posts that doesn't make me a posts' writer, but if you are wondering who this particular post's writer is then it is indeed me. However, this is not direct possession but arises indirectly from the fact that the writing of the post is mine, i.e. the writing belongs to both the post and myself. This potential complication can arise whenever a noun implying an interaction, such as "advice" or "writer", is contained in a phrase.

    The bottom line when writing any punctuation is to ensure that it conveys the intended information. In the case of "Citizens Advice Bureau" this book's author evidently didn't attempt to infer the correct meaning from the correct punctuation but simply hastily imposed her own incorrect meaning. It wasn't bad punctuation but bad reading on her part. Reading is as much a skill as writing and sometimes it can be the readers who get things wrong, but they don't usually put their errors in writing for all to see as she did. Of course here in WF we readers do it all the time with our critiques, so we wouldn't make a mistake like this one, would we? Well, maybe only if we write long lists of supposed errors in our critiques without giving our own fallibility adequate thought as she obviously did.

    As a critical reader look for the meaning that the punctuation, or lack of it, implies first and only doubt the punctuation if that meaning makes no sense. Don't give your own meaning precedence over the writer's. The writing and meaning are theirs, not yours.
    Last edited by JustRob; April 30th, 2018 at 01:41 PM.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

  2. #2
    I have never been one to like strict rules in writing, or speech. Language is a variable … Sorry I won't go off into that diatribe, I have whole threads on it … But as I was saying, never been a fan of strict rules, so it is quite pleasing seeing someone who is coming to grief with their own rules The shame is I don't suppose she will ever read it, unless she Googles her name one night in a fit of pride and comes across it by chance. Does she have a web address? I might e-mail her a link
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  3. #3
    Music Guru Trollheart's Avatar
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    All right, I have to admit that when I read the thread title I thought you were talking about Satan chasing a doomed soul!

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
    All right, I have to admit that when I read the thread title I thought you were talking about Satan chasing a doomed soul!
    When it comes to the correct use of apostrophes the devil can certainly be in the detail. In fact with his obsession with possession he could well have created the damned things.
    'Sharing an experience creates a reality.' Create a new reality today.
    'There has to be some give and take.' If I can take my time I'm willing to give it.
    'The most difficult criticism that a writer has to comprehend is silence.' So speak up.

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