Possessives: Possessives II

March 13, 2003: Issue 52

SIM STYLE: It’s OK to get a little possessive.
In our business discussions around the office, we have a tendency to use homeowner names as adjectives.
• the Hornback house
• the Mullins family room

There’s nothing wrong with this, but when it seeps into copy, it can sound impersonal. Most people don’t talk that way in casual conversation; they assign ownership by making a name possessive. In general, we should do the same in print.
• the Hornbacks’ house
• the Mullinses’ family room.

Along the same lines, we sometimes make nouns possessive when we don’t need to. Inanimate common nouns usually need not be possessive.
• the bathroom floor (not the bathroom’s floor)
• the island countertop (not the island’s countertop)

For more information, see Possessives section in the SIM Stylebook.

GRAMMAR: Clauses, and their effect
We recently addressed the basics of phrases, which you’ll remember are groups of related words that lack both a subject and a predicate. On the agenda this time: clauses, the other main building blocks of all sentences. A clause is a group of words that does contain a subject and a predicate. Let’s look at the two main types.

An independent clause can (but doesn’t always) stand alone as a complete sentence.
• THE COUPLE REMODELED THE LIVING ROOM.
• After the flood, THE COUPLE REMODELED THE LIVING ROOM.

A dependent (or subordinate) clause contains a subject and a predicate but does not express a complete thought and cannot stand on its own. Dependent clauses serve three functions in sentences: as adjectives, adverbs, or nouns. It’s not as confusing as it sounds.

Check out these examples.
• The couple, WHO HAD GROWN TIRED OF THE SPACE ANYWAY, remodeled the living room. (The dependent adjective clause modifies the noun “couple.”)
• AFTER THE FLOOD SWEPT THROUGH THE HOUSE, the couple
remodeled the living room. (The dependent adverb clause modifies the verb by telling “when.”)
• THAT THE LIVING ROOM WOULD BE REMODELED was a given. (The dependent clause serves as a noun; the pronoun “it” could be substituted for the entire clause.)

For more information see Issue 49.

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