FROM TODAY’S SEATTLE TIMES (November 4, 2013, page B2), comes this headline: “2 Adults Charged With Promoting Minors’ Sex Abuse.” I know what it means to say, but the placement of the words is technically incorrect and confusing.
The apostrophe at the end of minors (minors’) makes the word possessive. So, what do these minors possess? Sex abuse! Sex abuse is the object of the possessive noun “minors’.”
The sentence is saying that a pair of adults were encouraging two or more minors in sexually abusing someone or something.
To avoid this, the headline should have read “2 adults charged with promoting sex abuse of minors.”
Alas, it’s too late . .
HEADER IMAGE: The cartoon at the top of this page is by Signe Wilkinson for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
William Strunk Jr’s original edition of The Elements Of Style (1919) was all of fifty-three pages long. In 1959, it was revised and expanded by one of his students, the famous children’s book author E.B. White. It is one of the best selling and most influential grammar and punctuation books ever published. I have used the authors’ names for one of the categories of this site: Strunkandwhiten It! For more information, refer to “On William Strunk and Elements of Style.”