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December 03, 2019

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Lorraine A Gehring

Dave Barry wrote a comedic book in the 90s about business communication. In it he said an apostrophe is there to warn you an S is coming.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Lorraine,

That's a good one! Of course, there's the example of "The Joneses' house is for sale," with the apostrophe after the s. But it's still a good line.

Thanks for commenting.

Lynn

George Raymond

I always want to add an apostrophe to "users manual", but many people don't. Are they all wrong? Is "users" a possessive noun here, or an adjective? Can we say that a "users' manual" belongs to the users, whereas a "users manual" is for the users?

George Raymond

The singular possessive - "user's manual" - might make more sense than "users' manual".

Peter Schreiner

I failed on women's, perhaps because I always puzzle why yours is not your's. And, for what it is worth, why isn't it, for what its worth? If the worth of the matter belongs to it. Speaking of for what it's worth, domain names do not accept an apostrophe. Black's Pub may be correct, but they'd have to settle for blackspub.com.

Thanks for the lesson.

Greg

The answer for the one about animals and poop would vary depending upon if the owner has one pet or more than one pet that is pooping.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi George,

This question has been on your mind for years. I saw it in a comment from years back.

I checked a couple of reference books for you:

THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE almost always uses an apostrophe in situations like the "users manual" example. CHICAGO writes: "Chicago dispenses with the apostrophe only in proper names (often corporate names) that do not officially include one. In a few established cases, a singular noun can be used attributively; if in doubt, choose the plural possessive. (Irregular plurals such as 'children' and 'women' must always be in the possessive.)"

CHICAGO lists these examples:
children's rights (or child rights)
farmers' market [That looks weird, doesn't it?]
women's soccer team
boys' clubs
veterans' organizations
consumers' group (or consumer group)
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
Diners Club
Department of Veterans Affairs

Interestingly, CHICAGO adds:

"In some cases, the distinction between attributive and possessive is subtle. Of the following two examples, only the first connotes actual possession: the Lakers' game plan (the team's game plan), BUT the Lakers game (the game featuring the team).

"When in doubt, opt for the possessive."

On the other hand, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS STYLEBOOK writes: "Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in s when it is used primarily in a descriptive sense: citizens band radio, a Cincinnati Reds infielder, a teachers college, a Teamsters request, a writers guide." AP says a bit more than that, but that part is relevant to your question.

I guess you just need to choose and hope no one complains. I prefer "users manual" or "user manual."

Lynn

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Peter,

I have a quick answer to your query. Possessive pronouns never have apostrophes. You are always correct with these:

mine
yours
your
his
hers
her
ours
our
theirs
their
its

Thanks for reminding us about domain names. Good point!

Lynn

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Greg, you are right about "pets." I chose to keep it simple, thinking that "pet's" would most often be correct.

Of course, we might also use "pet poop," but it sounds a bit odd.

Thanks for commenting.

Lynn

Donna Kevan

I see Spa's and Pool's frequently in Phoenix on signs and advertisements. It drives me crazy!! I want to go to the business and point out their error, but I wonder how it got as far as publication. Don't advertising and signage companies catch such errors? Apparently not. :-(

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Donna,

Shocking, isn't it? One would think that signmakers would check with experts if they weren't sure.

Lynn

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