Contractions With Proper Nouns (Brian's a baseball Fan) - RIP Bill Walsh

Years ago Bill Walsh helped me confirm whether or not you could use contractions with proper nouns, which I jokingly referred to as the "Klems rule." Here's what he had to say. (He will be missed.)
Author:
Publish date:

I was saddened by the news that Bill Walsh, copy editor at The Washington Post and one of the smartest grammarians around, died yesterday. According to The Washington Post, Walsh's wife said he died of complications from bile-duct cancer. Walsh was only 55. The news reminded me of the time more than 10 years ago when I was a younger member of the Writer's Digest staff and I would reach out to him for clarification of certain grammar and style rules. He was always willing to help and quick to respond—and witty about it all as well. Here is one of the posts where I quoted him as my expert. He will be missed.

Contractions With Proper Nouns (Brian's a baseball Fan)

Blue Question Mark

Q: I recently got into a grammar debate with my wife and would like you to settle things for us once and for all: Can you use contractions with a proper noun ("Jodie's in charge" instead of "Jodie is in charge")?—Benjamin W.

A: There are two main reasons to use apostrophes: 1. to form a possessive (Brian's baseball team wears green) and 2. to replace missing letters (Brian has a baseball jersey that's [that is] green). But does that replacement rule apply to names, places and things (Brian's a baseball fan)?

Whether it's a pronoun, plain noun or proper noun, it is acceptable to tack the apostrophe-s onto the end of nouns to replace "is." There are no rules against it. In fact, if you search in stylebooks, online grammar sources and the like, there really isn't any information floating around on this specific use of the apostrophe-s ('s). So I am hereby declaring this the Klems Rule (after all, I've always wanted a grammatical rule named after me).

To make sure something wasn't slipping past me, I contacted my fellow grammarian Bill Walsh, copy chief at The Washington Post and author of The Elephants of Style (McGraw-Hill) and asked him about this rule.

"If Brian's a baseball fan, then Brian's a baseball fan," Walsh says. "Aside from questions of formality, the only stumbling block might be if your proper noun ends in s—Washington's a great town, but Paris ... Paris just 'is.'"

Ultimately this is a style issue and you have the choice whether or not to apply it to your writing. If you're writing something formal, like a white paper or thesis, you probably shouldn't use it—then again, you probably shouldn't use any contractions. But if you're writing an article, short story or book, there's no reason you can't. And if someone challenges you, refer him to the Klems Rule.

Thanks for visiting The Writer's Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.

brian-klems-2013

Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian's free Writer's Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter
Listen to Brian on: The Writer's Market Podcast

Tags
terms:
Grammar Rules
Adapt vs. Adept vs. Adopt (Grammar Rules)

Adapt vs. Adept vs. Adopt (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use adapt vs. adept vs. adopt with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

wow no thank you

Nuggets of Humor

Bestselling humor author Samantha Irby talks about her writing process and finding funny topics for essays.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Guidelines

Announcing the 14th annual April Poem-A-Day Challenge on Poetic Asides. Here are the guidelines for this fun annual poeming challenge that starts on April 1.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Call for Submissions, Free Downloads, and more!

This week, we’re excited to announce a call for submissions to the WD Self-Published Book Awards, free resources for writers, and more!

Flash Fiction Challenge

2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 28

Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today's prompt is to write a story using only dialogue.

Nicole Galland: On Returning to Familiar Characters

Nicole Galland: On Returning to Familiar Characters

Bestselling author Nicole Galland explains what it was like to dive into writing a series and how speculative fiction allows her to explore her interests.

6 Tools for Writing Nonfiction That Breathes

6 Tools for Writing Nonfiction That Breathes

Nonfiction author Liz Heinecke gives her top 6 tips for crafting a nonfiction book that will really capture your subject.

Flash Fiction Challenge

2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 27

Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today's prompt is to write something that makes you laugh.

Poetic Forms

Ars Poetica: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at ars poetica and the art of writing poems about poems.