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.

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