Proper Apostrophe Use: Possessive Apostrophe In Brand/Corporate Names
I was writing a post for another blog the other day about McDonald’s Canada introducing free Wi-Fi at locations across Canada. As I composed the post, I realized that I needed to indicate possession for the brand McDonald’s. The sentence needed to indicate the customers who are possessed by McDonald’s and, try as I may, I couldn’t find a way to avoid this quandary.
Maybe some of you don’t see a problem so please allow me to explain why this is an issue. The actual corporate name of the restaurants is McDonald’s – as in the restaurant is owned by someone named McDonald. Therefore, the brand name in of itself is already expressing possession and uses an apostrophe accordingly. However, for my purposes, the name of the brand is McDonald’s making the whole thing a proper noun and not a proper noun with a possessive apostrophe and s at its end. Therefore, I was stumped wondering if I should be treating the brand name as if it were any other name that ends in s (like with Travis or Chris which become Travis’ or Chris’) and just add an apostrophe after the s, or if I should just leave the name as is and assume the the already present “apostrophe s” in the brand name was going to do double duty. The problem with treating McDonald’s as just another regular proper noun was that it would end up being McDonald’s’ which, to me, looked really awkward and just not right.
I consulted my Twitter stream and ended up going with the advice of @pshag aka Brad Machry who said that adding the possessive apostrophe was absolutely, 100% correct. I decided to trust Brad’s confidence in his answer and write the word that way in my article. However, I still would like to see it actually written somewhere; be it in the AP Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing or even from an English professor, or professional editor. I have since looked this up in Wikipedia (where else!) under the “Apostrophe” article, subheading “General Principles For The Possessive Apostrophe“. Under that subheading is another smaller category (which has no anchor, so no direct link) “With other punctuation; compounds with pronouns” where it says:
If an original apostrophe, or apostrophe with s, occurs at the end, it is left by itself to do double duty: Our employees are better paid than McDonald’s employees; Standard & Poor’s indexes are widely used; the 5uu’s first album (the fixed forms of McDonald’s and Standard & Poor’s already include possessive apostrophes; 5uu’s already has a non-possessive apostrophe before its final s).
So whatever person wrote that into Wikipedia also must have been pretty confident about their exactly opposing opinion on the matter versus Brad’s. However, I still don’t know whom to believe as neither Wikipedia nor Brad have given me a source for where they learned this or on what set of rules or style guide they are basing their claims.
I did try to look into this one myself before I asked anyone on Twitter or even decided to Google it. Before I did either of those things I pulled out my trusty, old “A Writer’s Reference, Sixth Edition” by Diana Hacker which, if you don’t know, is both the most widely adopted English handbook on the market AND the best-selling college (what Canadians refer to as university) textbook of any kind, in any discipline. After thoroughly checking the book and going to the “A Writer’s Reference Sixth Edition” website I still came up empty handed. (I didn’t have a membership for the website any more so I couldn’t really use it but I DID go there.) I then checked if Diana Hacker had a Twitter account in the hope that I could ask her directly but, again, I came up empty handed.
This is why I ask you, my readers, to help me out on this one. What is the proper way to indicate possession when the proper noun itself already has a possession-indicating apostrophe? Please let me know in the comments below and, if possible, let me know the source for why you think it should go one way or the other.