The abstruse apostrophe by Angela Caldin
I’ve been pondering this week on apostrophes. What a sad life she must lead, I hear you sigh. But actually this particular case is quite interesting. It concerns the question of whether there should be an apostrophe after a plural adjectival or attributive noun.
Specifically, I was writing up the notes of our recent residents meeting and wondering if there should be an apostrophe after residents or not. I looked it up and it seems that in this case, either would be acceptable:
Residents’ meeting – the word residents’ is a possessor. The phrase could be rewritten as meeting of residents.
Residents meeting – the word residents is an attributive noun: a noun that describes a main noun.
Other examples of plural attributive nouns which don’t need an apostrophe are:
- Ladies Room
- Benefits Office
- Arts Degree
- News Room
- Sports Medicine
- Drinks Manufacturer
There are other examples like Veterans Day or Teachers Union where the absence of an apostrophe is grammatically correct, but it wouldn’t be grammatically incorrect to include one.