St Thomas’ Hospital or St Thomas’s Hospital?

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[This entry originally appeared on Clare Lynch’s blog, goodcopybadcopy]

In the comments to a previous post, reader katypea asks the following:

“St. Thomas’ Hospital” (as per the directional signage around Waterloo) or “St. Thomas’s Hospital” (as per my sheer editorial common sense). Please tell me i won the arguement with The Boyfriend last night…?

It’s an apostrophe question many people struggle with, so I thought my answer warranted a post of its own.

The rule is simple: use ‘s if you pronounce the second s, but just add the apostrophe on its own if you don’t.

For example, when I worked as a writer at UBS I might easily have written a sentence like this:

Huw Jenkins’ appointment as the CEO of UBS’s investment banking division was announced last night.

So yes, katypea, your editorial good sense was correct. If you fancy launching a campaign to have the signs changed, I’m in. Just watch how you spell “argument”!

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11 Responses to St Thomas’ Hospital or St Thomas’s Hospital?

  1. real gent February 9, 2009 at 11:39 pm #

    so it’s not so much a question of if the apostophe is to be deployed. it is a question of how. personally i’m all for wanton’ undeserved apostrophical abuse.

  2. Clare Lynch February 10, 2009 at 10:44 am #

    Wanton undeserved abuse sounds rather ungentlemanly for a real gent.

  3. katypea February 11, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    I’m mortified. I consider myself severely (and deservedly) spanked for that little oversight.

  4. katypea February 11, 2009 at 12:45 pm #

    Your sentence could then have been quickly followed by: Huw Jenkins’ departure from UBS’s investment banking division was announced the next week…

  5. Clare Lynch February 11, 2009 at 1:13 pm #

    Ha, ha – yes, that irony was not lost on me!

  6. Elaine February 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm #

    Why don’t you just say Thomases!

    Or. To my Asses

  7. Brad Shorr February 20, 2009 at 10:33 pm #

    Hi Clare, I’ve given you the Premio Dardos Award. Check my blog for details!

  8. Pez May 21, 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    I know I’m late to the party here, but I saw this linked from the latest blog post, and I wanted to ask…

    What about place names? I know that St James’s Park in London takes the ‘s, but St James’ Park in Newcastle doesn’t. Couldn’t St Thomas'(s) be similar to the Newcastle United stadium in this respect?

    Love the blog, by the way. It’s like someone took the language rants out of my head and put them on screen.

    • Clare Lynch May 21, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

      Thanks for popping by, Robert. Interesting that there are two varieties for “St James”. The rule of thumb that I was taught was to write it as you pronounce it, but clearly that doesn’t work here – unless Novacastrians pronounce it differently to Londoners? Horrifically, there are moves to drop the apostrophe altogether from place names in order to avoid the confusion. See this post.

  9. Dave McCourt November 10, 2009 at 6:14 pm #

    Interesting post. It made me get my Judith Butcher out (The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, etc, 3rd edition). She refers to Hart’s Rules (39th edition) which:

    …recommend[s] that in English names ‘s should be used in all monosyllables and disyllables, in longer words where it sounds right; however, the s is usually omitted when the last syllable is pronounced iz: Bridges’, Moses’, but James’s, Thomas’s.

  10. Kate Gates February 11, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

    I trained at St Thomas’ Hospital. Two saints: apostle and Becket. Oh, and nice to hear a mention of Judith Butcher, I knew her well, founder of freelance editors and proofreaders!

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