Recently I clashed again with an editor. When I referred to one man, say Mr. Peterson, I wrote Mr. Peterson's car. When I wrote about the family's car, I wrote the Petersons' car (or the Peterson car), but when I wrote that the Petersons went to Hawaii, I did not place an apostrophe in the word Peterson.
Am I crazy or have I been wrong all my life? The editor said to write The Peterson's went to Hawaii is the grammatically correct way to write this. I hope to receive a little backup, and if somehow I've been wrong all these years, you can sue me as soon as I win the lottery. :)

In this particular book, several family names crop up a number of times, and at least she has agreed to change all these to my liking, "even though it's not grammatically correct".

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Luckily my editor agreed to do it my way without admitting anything. Sort of like pleading no contest or something.
This is so scary - to think that anyone like this is EDITING work is frightening. This is not "to your liking"; this is what is RIGHT.

Like Larry Chavis, I've been noticing foolishness like this in published books recently and it scares the bejesus out of me that the industry has gotten so lax. Yes, keep up the fight for good grammar and punctuation - and although you may want to stay in your editor's good graces, I would point out to her (albeit nicely) that what you are insisting on is not a matter of your personal taste - it's what IS correct.
I think calling the editor an idiot is pretty harsh, especially since he/she may have a point. Apostrophes are used sometimes for clarification. For example, "My child got all A's on his report card." If you omitted the apostrophe, it could be misinterpreted as "as". It's not likely to happen, but try writing it As, and people will think something is weird, even if they get what you mean. We also do it with years, like 1970's, though 1970s is more common nowadays, it didn't use to be.

So, Peterson is a name, and in order to avoid confusion, the editor put in an apostrophe so the reader would know the s denotes a plural form and is not a part of the name.

I do agree in this case that an apostrophe is not necessary, if for no other reason than it looks better without one, but there is a reason someone might use an apostrophe there.
But I think that far from avoiding confusion, adding the apostrophe here, in this very specific case, lends to it. Because "Peterson's" means does not mean plural. Despite the fact that we may use it with years and singular letters, we don't use it with names. Or, at least, we didn't before. And I think doing so now just is bad, not to mention confusing, English. But of course, with enough people doing it it will become acceptable and normal. Ugh.
i agree it doesn't help in this case. I'm just saying that might be what the editor was thinking. Calling the editor an idiot and ill-educated is harsh, especially since it seems no one stopped to think why the editor would say it was a mistake.
That's correct, it didn't help in this case. It was wrong, period. I'm all for trying to understand what someone might have been trying to accomplish, but for an editor to advocate something so obviously incorrect places his credentials in serious doubt. He's a professional in his field, and thus must be held to a higher standard. I have to wonder how many manuscripts he may have passed on because the writer didn't meet his standards, how often this editor must have dismissed books because "this guy can't eben tell the difference between a plural and a possessive." He may not be an idiot by the dictionary definition; he certainly has no business being an editor.
In all fairness I realize that even highly educated persons sometimes have a pet boo-boo that comes up all the time. I've heard people say revelent when they mean relevent, calvary when they mean cavalry, and so on. Or they can't remember i before e save when following c. I remember once pompously correcting a friend in the pronunciation of a word, and then later realized that he was right and I was completely wrong.
In the instance under discussion I got my way, so what the heck. I had no idea that so many other editors give their authors a bad time as well.
When I was with St. Martin's, they did not edit (read and suggest changes in the novel), but they did have copy editors. As far as I could tell, these were competent and thorough. But I think we should all keep in mind, that the author is responsible for a) a clean ms, b) scrutiny of and approval or correction of the copy-editor's changes, and c) approval of the galleys. It is possible that a mistake happened after the final reading of the galleys, but this is fairly rare.

I do not turn over my ms. to the copy editor and wash my hands of it.
Neither am I so arrogant as to overrule each and every change proposed by the copy-editor.

The "break" scenario above (and I think the sound-alikes have happened to all of us in the rush of writing) should have been caught by the next person reading the ms.
Here's what I love about this question; about this issue: it is not subjective. There's no need to roll out of bed in the morning and re-write the rules. They're already written. No reason to argue with editors: not when there's just gobs of reference material around to back up your position. When editorial questions come up, you just have to refer to the book. Which book? Well, that's the thing, right? At both January Magazine and The Rap Sheet, we defer always -- always -- to current AP Style. Most book publishers use either The Chicago Manual of Style or some slightly customized version of same that they call "house style." If you know which style they use, you can just have a copy in with your other reference material in order to wave it under the appropriate nose when necessary. (And I'd say you'd better do that pronto!)

In either case, there is no style manual in the English language available on this planet that would have you give the Petersons that particular bit of punctuation in that instance.
what she said ^
I actually use MLA (Modern Language Association). It's a moot point on the small stuff. They all agree. The difference between Chicago, MLA, or APA has more to do with acknowledging sources and typing bibliographies. Yes, any college handbook will also answer the basic questions.
Actually, not entirely true. For instance, if memory serves Chicago and AP Style differ quite sharply on the handling of serial commas. And, see: the reason to understand the nuances of your publisher's house style is so that you have the answer at hand. So that, when the individual you're dealing with waffles or the copyeditor comes up with something that makes you suspect she's on crack *you* do not waffle. And why? Because you have the final answer right there in your hot little hand.

See, again, my feeling is that while a lot of people treat this like a subjective topic, it is not. And I'm not talking work for college here. I'm not talking writing for a high school class. A lot of those teachers we had? They sort of baffle you with their bullshit and make you feel as though it *is* somewhat subjective. It is not.

When it comes to the way words are used in print, there is definitive authority. As a writer who aims to be happy with the way her work looks in print, it's your job to ferret out which authority your publishers bow to, and then make 'em stick to it. Easy as pie, right?


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