Proper Name That’s Plural: Apostrophe or Not?

By Linda S. Stark and Patricia Yuu Pan

How do you know when to add an apostrophe to more than one of something that forms a proper noun, such as a person’s last name? You don’t have to be a grammar wizard to get the right answer. If you want to show ownership, add an apostrophe. If your intent is to indicate a multiple something (otherwise known as a plural), leave out the squiggly little thing.

Examples of missing and misplaced apostrophes are everywhere, throughout personal and professional communications. Although readers may skip over the grammatical stumbling blocks, careless punctuation and spelling can trip you up when you’re looking for a job, marketing your business, communicating with your kid’s (or kids’) teachers, writing out graduation party invitations, or signing holiday cards.

To make everyday life and special occasions brightest, follow this simple rule of grammar:

An apostrophe signals possession, or ownership. (In grammar-speak, this is called the possessive case.) Don’t use it unless you want to make clear the Mertzes, for example, own something.

A better choice for forming a signature or greeting that will fly with grammar police (and others who notice such things) is this construction: the Mertz family or the Mertz household, or “Happy holidays from the Mertzes.” You also could go with the “Mertzes’ wishes for happy holidays.”

The following table shows the possessive forms of proper names in singular (s) and plural (pl):

Proper noun Proper noun ending in ch, sh, s, x, z Possessive
Ricardo (s)

Ricardos (pl)

Ricardo’s (s)

Ricardos’ (pl)

Mertz (s)

Mertzes (pl)

Mertz’s (s)

Mertzes’ (pl)

Here are some examples of what to do with apostrophes in plurals, and what to avoid when faced with confusion over when to add an “s,” “es,” or single quote mark that does double duty as an apostrophe.

Say youre job hunting (or, your job hunting is in progress). You put together a resume that touches on your vast experience with the Kardashian franchise. Would you be wrong to add an apostrophe for Kardashian’s franchise? No, because the Kardashians own their deal. But listen to the way each one sounds: the Kardashian franchise and the Kardashians’ franchise. The first one uses Kardashian as an adjective, rather than as a possessive — and it reads smoother.

Perhaps, you own a business, and you want to get out there with all the great stuff you have to offer. If you put up a sign that tells the world, “Jasmines Wonderful Lobster’s Tails’s 4 U,” you’re likely to miss the boat. You might get on board with “Jasmine’s Wonderful Lobster Tails 4 U.”

What if you want to send a note to someone whos in a position to share knowledge with your children? Whose job might that be – yours? To come across as not only involved, but also knowledgeable, you may want to say, “My wife and I do want to meet with you at 6:00 p.m. in your classroom. So, please expect a visit from the Garretts right around then.”

The plural choice (always without apostrophe, unless showing ownership or possession) depends upon letter combinations. If a name ends in ch, sh, s, x, z, an “es” gets added to form the plural — most of the time.

Like most things, exceptions are possible, like when an end sound turns more toward a “z” than an “s.” Example: “Garbers” (as a last name for more than one Garber) would work a whole lot better in any space than Garberses. To make the Garbers’s name possessive, you may add either an apostrophe or an apostrophe + another “s.” Both are acceptable.