Apostrophes, Grammar, Punctuation

I Judged This Book by Its Cover . . .


. . . and I shouldn’t have!

Okay, well, as an editor, I had every right to judge this book by its cover — initially. When I first discovered the book in Tattered Cover, I stared at it, trying to make some sense of it. I grappled with possibilities, trying to imagine that this couldn’t be the mistake I perceived — and, of all places, on the cover of a book listed as a New York Times Bestseller!

Surely, the publisher didn’t just forget to add an apostrophe somewhere. Surely, SURELY, someone would have caught such a glaring error.

I did some further investigation, turning this time to the book’s pages for answers. And there it was, a simple explanation: The two men on the cover are brothers named Charlie and Eli, and — get this — their last name is Sisters. THERE it is; you see, this works because it is simply the main characters’ surname. Though far more uncommon than a name like Smith or Jones, the word gets treated the same regarding punctuation. One would write “the Jones brothers” or “the Smith brothers”; similarly, when used as a surname, Sisters does not need an apostrophe because it is serving as an adjective here. It functions similarly to the adjective happy, simply modifying a noun. Which electrons? The happy electrons. Which brothers? The Sisters brothers. No apostrophes are necessary because no possessive relationship exists between the two words.

An important moral for editors can be found in this post: Not all mistakes are, in actuality, mistakes. Sometimes, dear friends, editors are wrong. They don’t always hastily reach toward their red-pen holster and snatch the menacing object from its cozy home. Sometimes, editors must first understand the context under which the “mistakes” they find are written. Sometimes, they have to put the cap back on their beloved red pen. Certainly, many a grammar guru would see this title and mark it up as a nasty, dirty error. But they would be wrong, my friends, and those poor Sisters brothers would be terribly misunderstood.

I now rest my case.


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