Punctuation Tips: Using Apostrophes After Last Names
  • 3-minute read
  • 4th July 2023

Punctuation Tips: Using Apostrophes After Last Names

Apostrophes (’) can be confusing little things! Using them requires following several sets of rules, which we cover in other blog posts.

Here, we’ll look at how to use apostrophes after last names.

Apostrophes with names show possession. They facilitate a shorter way of saying that something belongs, or is related, to someone.

Last Names Ending in a Letter Other Than s

This rule covers names such as Biden, Bush, and Roosevelt (but you don’t have to be a president to use this rule!)

To make last names that don’t end in s possessive, we add an apostrophe, followed by s, at the end of the name.

Joe Biden’s wife is called Jill.

George H. W. Bush’s son was also called George.

Last Names Ending in s

This is where things get a little more complicated, but we can simplify the rules for you. To make names such as Banks, Rivers, and Holmes possessive, we have a choice. We can just add an apostrophe at the end of the name, like this:

Emily Banks’ daughter loved riding motorcycles.

Jason Rivers’ luggage was lost by the airline.

Or we can add an apostrophe and another s, as follows:

Jane Homess shoes are always clean and shiny.

Matt Joness monster truck blocked the road.

Showing Possession With a Whole Family’s Name

When we write about a family, let’s say the Smith family, we can call them “the Smiths.” We don’t use an apostrophe in this case because we’re not showing possession. We’re just writing about more than one member of the Smith family. All we’ve done is make “Smith” into its plural form.

But what should we do if we want to write about something that belongs to the Smith family?

To use the possessive form here, we start with the plural form of the last name and add an apostrophe. (For a plural possessive last name, we don’t add a second s.)

The Smiths’ journey home took a long time.

We had a great night at the Masons’ party.

Exceptions to the Rule

This is a blog post about the English language, so you just know there’ll be exceptions!

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If a last name ends in s or z, make it plural by adding es:

The Joneses are a lovely family.

The Sanchezes are all brilliant baseball players.

To show possession for names like these, we just add an apostrophe, as before:

The Joneses’ yard was full of flowers.

I like all the Sanchezes’ dogs, but I like their Boston terrier best.


The apostrophe after a last name shows possession. Its use depends on the last letter of the last name.

If the last name ends in a letter other than s, add an apostrophe, followed by the letter s.

If the last name ends in s, either add just an apostrophe, or add an apostrophe followed by the letter s.

If you’re writing about more than one person with the same last name (a family, some brothers and sisters, etc.), first pluralize the last name and then add an apostrophe.

If the last name ends in s or z, pluralize it by adding es, then add an apostrophe to show possession.


Now that I understand how to use apostrophes with last names, where can I find out how to use them with first names?

Proofed has an easy-to-follow post about that too!

What can I do if I’m not sure I’ve used apostrophes correctly?

Contact us, and our experts will check your writing.

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