Good v. Well May Irk Me but I ain’t No Grammar Girl
Those near & dear to my heart hate me for correcting their “I’m doing good” or “I think I did good on my test.” Eeeeeeeeeek. That way of speaking is as melodic as nails scratching down a blackboard.
Contrary to popular opinion, however, I am not a pro when it comes to grammar (cf. Grammar Girl). I am getting better but, please note, I was raised on Philly-speak where it’s common to say things like “It ain’t happening” or “What are you up to? I’m done class.”
Those of you who follow my column know that I am a big fan of Life’s Little Coincidences. How perfect is it that when I am reading a book like The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin, I finally find out the answer to one of the grammatical conundrums that has always confused me. (and my last name ends with an “s” so it makes it even more of a conundrum).
Today, I found out that the authority is behind Justice Souter (Appointed by President George H.W. Bush, Souter has gained quite a reputation due to his liberal-leaning opinions. He’s also known to skidattle back to his childhood home in New Hampshire, sans television, internet, and answering machine, when he is not doing his SCOTUS-thang).
Hey, I’ll vote with Justice Souter most times over the other authority: Justice Thomas.
(See: Article on the possessive by LegalWritingPro.com)
When the Supreme Court reviewed Kansas v. Marsh last term, the justices didn’t just split over whether to uphold a Kansas death-penalty statute.
They also disagreed over a usage issue that has driven many lawyers to blows: Whether to write “Kansas’ statute,” as Justice Thomas did in his majority opinion, or “Kansas’s statute,” as Justice Souter did in his dissent.
I know some of you are still skeptical, so here’s where some well-known authorities stand:
- The Souter approach: Add ’s, unless biblical or classical.Strunk & White, The Elements of Style
The Chicago Manual of Style
Bryan Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage
Fowler’s Modern English Usage
U.S. Government Printing Office, Style Manual
- The Thomas approach: Add only an apostrophe.Associated Press Stylebook
- The Libertarian approach: Either way is fine.Wilson Follett, Modern American Usage