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Why there’s no apostrophe in writers room

Social Media – Untitled DesignI’ve long wondered why there is no apostrophe in words like “writers room,” ‘homeowners association,” or “teachers college.”

Is the noun descriptive or possessive?

I found a good explanation in Emmy J. Favilla’s A World Without “Whom.”

Do not use an apostrophe when a word is primarily descriptive rather than possessive…. The word is acting more like an adjective than a possessive noun.

Grammar Girl agrees with this approach in her post on “Apostrophes.” Here’s how she explains the lack of an apostrophe in farmers market:

The market is used by the farmers, populated by the farmers, but generally not owned by the farmers. So it seems reasonable to conclude that you don’t use an apostrophe because the word farmers is there to identify the type of market. It’s acting like an adjective.

Exception for nouns that don’t end in s

There’s a word for these nouns that act as adjectives. They’re “attributive nouns,” according to Amy Einsohn in The Copyeditor’s Handbook.

And here’s a twist in the use of punctuation with attributive nouns. “If the plural form of the head noun does not end in s, however, the apostrophe is always used: the people’s republic, a children’s hospital,” says Einsohn.

English grammar sure is complicated.

 

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Let’s visit apostrophe hell

I’m not the only person who dislikes misplaced apostrophes (or should I say apostrophe’s?). There’s a Flickr page called Apostrophe Hell with photos of apostrophe abuse. Misused apostrophes turn up frequently on Mistake Monday on this blog. Below you’ll see some examples. I share them to remind all of us—including me—to pay attention to apostrophes when writing and proofreading.

Its vs. it’s

It’s vs. its is a classic example of where apostrophes are often abused, as you’ll see in the Mistake Monday examples below. Most often there’s an apostrophe where it’s not needed.
mm-its-its-6

 it's-its-fed

it's-its-8

Sometimes the mistake goes the other way. A sentence lacks the apostrophe needed to create the contraction for “it is.”
apostrophe abuse example

 

Other possessives

You need an apostrophe to form the possessive for most words other than “its” and “yours.” The proofreaders for the images below didn’t remember that.

 

 

advisors should be advisors'

sailors should be sailor's

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contractions

Apostrophes are also important to forming contractions.

For example, “let us” becomes “let’s”—at least that’s what should happen.lets should be let's

 

 

 

 

 

 

Random insertion of apostrophes

Sometimes people seem to insert apostrophes randomly. What was this person thinking?
meme's should be memes