1. Education
Richard Nordquist

Questions of Style: James' Web Site or James's website?

By January 21, 2008

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If you're out to settle a wager, be warned before you visit our Grammar and Usage Advice Sites. Even the editors of the top style guides sometimes disagree. Take the case of Web site, Website, and website: which one is the standard form?

About once a week, David Minthorn of APStylebook.com patiently responds to this question in essentially the same way:

AP decided early on that Web site was a component of the World Wide Web--two words, capital W. However, we lowercase compound nouns based on it (such as webcam). There are no plans to change this. (Jan. 7, 2008)

Also favoring Web site are the editors of The Chicago Manual of Style Online--but not the experts at AskOxford.com:

It always takes a little time for new words to settle to a standardized form. Our most recent dictionary, the revised 11th edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, published in July 2004, shows website as the standard form, and future dictionaries will reflect this.
Likewise, we find this usage note at the online site of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:
The transition from World Wide Web site to Web site to website seems to have progressed as rapidly as the technology itself. The development of website as a single uncapitalized word mirrors the development of other technological expressions which have tended to evolve into unhyphenated forms as they become more familiar. Thus email has recently been gaining ground over the forms E-mail and e-mail, especially in texts that are more technologically oriented.

So it's website--unless you're committed to the AP Stylebook or The Chicago Manual of Style.

And what about adding an -s to the possessive form of James?

Again, the authorities differ. With singular proper names ending in -s, insists the AP Stylebook, "Use only an apostrophe: Achilles' heel, Agnes' book, Ceres' rites"--a ruling upheld by the most recent edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA Guide).

Not so fast, say most of the other guides. According to The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage (1999), "Almost all singular words ending in s require a second s as well as the apostrophe to form the possessive: James's; Chris's; The Times's."

And in this case, The Chicago Manual of Style agrees with the Times Manual. So does The Economist Style Guide (2005): "With singular words and names that end in s: use the normal possessive ending 's: boss's, St. James's, caucus's, Jones's, Delors's, Shanks's."

Most college writing handbooks also advocate the addition of s after the apostrophe--though The Blair Handbook (2003) does include an escape clause: "For singular nouns ending in s, it is always correct to form the possessive by adding both an apostrophe and -s. However, if pronouncing the additional syllable is awkward--as with last names that sound like plurals--some writers add only an apostrophe."

In the face of such disagreements over simple matters of usage, what should a poor writer do? Our advice is to visit the Top Grammar and Usage Advice Sites, choose any one authority, and stick with it. Or at least stick with it until you run across a ruling that you simply can't abide. At that point, turn to our Grammar & Composition Forum, and together we'll cook up our own conventions.

In the meantime, let's visit James's website.

Guides to Usage


June 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm
(1) Jonathan says:

You’re explanation is correct in it’s entirety. I blame Microsoft Spell Checker for much of our illiteracy.

September 5, 2011 at 1:59 am
(2) Joe says:

Thanks for this! This was very helpful.

June 11, 2012 at 6:04 am
(3) Gillian Gott says:

Jonathan, “…in it’s entirety”? Really!

July 30, 2012 at 6:52 am
(4) Christine H says:

Jonathan, “You’re explanation…” Double really!!

August 20, 2012 at 1:03 am
(5) MIssy S. says:

Can’t we please establish a set of grammar rules that can be followed by everyone?

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