Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Arkansas's vs Arkansas' law/Open letter to Rep. Steve Harrelson

To Representative Steve Harrelson: As an English teacher, I agree with the spelling your resolution called for - Arkansas's as correct possessive spelling. The rules I learned, and always taught as an English teacher, are that all singular nouns (including those that end in s) are changed to possessive with an apostrophe and an s. All plural nouns that end in s are changed to possessive by adding just an apostrophe. By those rules, the apostrophe and the s would make Arkansas's spelling of the possessive correct. You run into that problem with proper names as well like Mr. Jones's house burned last night. Some people leave that last "s" off, but I think it should be left on. Otherwise there will be a great deal of confusion over the rules. See this link for the Dem Gazette article on this bill:

As an English teacher of 27 year, I don't get bent out of shape over a grammatical error. Not everyone has a major in English. I have gaps in my knowledge in other fields, so I understand. However, sometimes I think other people think I am wrong when I am right; so I rather like your bill.

It does make another point as well. English is not black and white like math. English teachers do disagree on some minor points, and sometimes students have a hard time understanding that. And sometimes it is hard for one English teacher to edit a student's paper for another English teacher (like when I help with my grandchildren's English homework) because teachers they may see some minor points differently. As a teacher, I am aware of that; but children (and sometimes adults) have a hard time understanding it. I just sent the article about your resolution to my 12 year old grandson to make him see that point a little better.

Just as an example, some people think a comma should go before the "so" in the sentences in my 2nd paragraph above; some teachers don't. Some teachers consider "so" to be a conjunction and the comma appropriate; some teachers consider "so" to be a conjunctive adverb and the comma inappropriate. Some teachers say never start a sentence with "And". I often want to start a sentence with "And" but rarely do because other people will think I am wrong.



Anonymous ses said...

What makes Arkansas plural

2:51 PM, March 05, 2007  
Anonymous LafinJack said...

As an English teacher of 27 year...

Does 'year' become plural after 28 of them are gathered together?

6:26 PM, May 17, 2007  

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