Archive for September 12th, 2013

Possessive Ships

Short post today, longer post tomorrow.

I’ve started the new generation ship novel, which inevitably means referring to the ship by name. Style manuals for this are very clear, the names of ships are italicized. So it’s the Sarah Constant. Though many style guides would yell at me for saying “the”. And I get that point. The name of the ship is just that. A name. You wouldn’t say “that novel is written by the DL Thurston,” you’d say “that novel is written by DL Thurston.” (Though you can choose to use the first form with italics: “that novel is written by the DL Thurston.”)

Likewise, proper style is to say “I am traveling on Sarah Constant,” not “…the Sarah Constant.” But that just feels wrong, ya know? Especially because most of us science fiction fans grew up with Star Trek, not the Navy style manual. In Star Trek it’s always “the Enterprise.” “Captain Picard is in command of the Enterprise,” instead of the proper “Captain Picard is in command of Enterprise.” Maybe Starfleet just never adopted the Navy style manual, though it certainly adopted everything else.

However, I had a deeper question. How do you use a ship’s name in the possessive? Are the apostrophe and s italicized or not? Being that I was operating on a Sudafed last night, this struck me as a Very Important Question that Needed Answering Now.

So I found two style manuals that talk about ships in the possessive. And they disagreed. According to the National Geographic style manual, the answer is Constant’s. According to the Wikipedia style manual the answer is Constant‘s.

Can you see the difference?

Let me make it bigger.

Constant’s vs Constant‘s

There. Maybe you can see it. Probably you can’t. I know the difference, and I have a hard time seeing it. The official National Geographic style is to italicize the apostrophe. The Wikipedia style is to not italicize the apostrophe. Both say not to italicize the s.

In the light of day, it really doesn’t much matter right now. I just need to be consistent, and when it’s published one day (hopefully) it’ll be up to the style manual of the publisher.

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