Answers to Questions About Possessives
Here are three queries from DailyWritingTips.com readers about pesky apostrophes, followed by my responses.
1. Please tell me the proper placement of an apostrophe when making possessive a singular abbreviation that ends in an s. In other words, for “Office of Financial Services,” should it be written OFS’s or OFS’, or something different?
Either form is correct, depending on which style you use. Associated Press style, for example, which prevails in newspaper journalism and other less formal contexts, requires the possessive form for the spelled-out name as shown here: “The Office of Financial Services’ report has been delayed,” so the abbreviated form is “The OFS’ report has been delayed.”
However, The Chicago Manual of Style, which prevails in book publishing and other more formal contexts, and similar style guides recommend, for example, “The Office of Financial Services’s report has been delayed.” The abbreviated form is “The OFS’s report has been delayed.” I recommend this style. (Note that an s follows the apostrophe even when a word or an abbreviation ends in s, such as in “Thomas’s report has been delayed.”)
2. I edit corporate documents that use this rule: The first time a government name appears in the document, spell out the name — for example, National Institutes of Health — and follow it in parentheses with its acronym (NIH). But when the name’s first appearance in the document is in the possessive form, do I use the possessive form in the parentheses? For example, should it read, “The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) new mandate is clear” or “The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) new mandate is clear”?
The Chicago Manual of Style does not cover this issue, but its website recommends what I suggest to resolve the related issue in this post: Recast the sentence to avoid the possessive form (“The new mandate of the National Institutes of Health is clear”).
3. The title of a brochure I’m designing is “Wholesale Buyer’s Guide.” Is the possessive apostrophe needed on Buyer’s, or is it just “Wholesale Buyers Guide”? Or, perhaps, “Wholesale Buyers’ Guide”?
“Buyers Guide,” “Buyer’s Guide,” and “Buyers’ Guide” are all common, and they all have some merit, though I favor the latter.
In “Buyers Guide,” Buyers is an attributive noun — one that serves as an adjective (just like school in “school bus” or window in “window seat”). It means, essentially, “guide of the buyers,” which I don’t think sufficiently expresses that idea that it’s something offered for someone’s use.
“Buyer’s Guide” suggests that it’s for one person — technically correct, but the guide was created for all buyers, not just one, so I think “Buyers’ Guide” is the best option.
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