Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

The possessive apostrophe. Part 4 – initialisms

with 7 comments

British Parliament and London Eye at night
Image via Wikipedia

For some basic information about the possessive apostrophe, go to: The possessive apostrophe. Part 1: the basics.

Let’s use the initialisms ‘MP’ (Member of Parliament) and ‘PTA’ (Parent Teacher Association) to show how to use the possessive apostrophe with initialisms.

The MP’s papers were scattered all over the office.”

This means the papers belonging to one MP were scattered.

The MPs’ papers were scattered all over the office.”

This means the papers belonging to two or more MPs were scattered.

The PTA’s AGM was cancelled last year.”

This means the AGM of one PTA was cancelled.

The PTAs’ AGM was cancelled last year.”

This means that the AGM of two or more PTAs was cancelled.

Don’t put apostrophes into initialisms when they’re not needed. For example, if you are talking about ten MPs, that’s how you write it (not “ten MP’s”). Remember to throw something at your TV screen every time you see this scrolling along the bottom of BBC News; it happens regularly, so best to use a sponge.

Apostrophes and plural initialisms

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7 Responses

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  1. I saw on Sky Sports an advertisement for the The Players’ Championship which reminded me of this blog post. If it was written The Players Championship without the ‘, would that be ok? Because I’m guessing that The Players or The Players’ both denotes more than two or more players competing in the tournament?

    Aky

    08/05/2011 at 1:25 am

  2. Ah — sporting events. Tricky chaps.

    Most don’t take an apostrophe as far as I am aware, including the one you have cited. So the following are all correct:

    Champions League
    Masters Series
    Masters Tournament
    Players Championship

    Strictly speaking, from a grammatical point of view, it would not be ‘wrong’ to add the possessive apostrophe, but as these are the official titles of the events that’s how they should be written.

    Always best to check on an individual basis — for example by looking on the official website.

    Thanks for raising that interesting point!

    Deborah

    08/05/2011 at 9:41 am

  3. How about if it is written simply MPs? Does that mean it’s more than two? BBC’s Pakistan correspondent Aleem Maqbool in his summary of an article wrote:

    “MPs who attended the closed session though, said the head of the intelligence agencies, Gen Pasha, who made a rare appearance to explain himself, had a tough time from some quarters and offered his resignation – though the prime minister did not accept it.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13398281

    What should he have done here? It sounds OK and gives the impression that more than one MP have agreed to the resolution but but grammatically is it right?

    Aky

    14/05/2011 at 7:53 pm

    • Yes, you are absolutely right: MPs means two or more MPs. It is used correctly in the example you cite. MPs is simply the plural of MP.

      You only need the possessive apostrophe if you want to say that something belongs to an MP or MPs:

      The MP’s house (The house that belongs to one MP)

      The MPs’ meeting room (The meeting room that belongs to two or more MPs)

      Deborah

      14/05/2011 at 8:16 pm

  4. Here is one that has been driving me nuts:

    Is it Jorge M. A.’s endless frustration with apostrophes or would it be Jorge M. A.s (which looks completely wrong to me) endless frustration with apostrophes?

    I ask because all of the possessive initialism examples i have seen drop the periods.

    Jorge M. A.

    15/05/2011 at 6:59 pm

    • Hi, there — welcome, and thanks for your question.

      It would be:

      Jorge M. A.’s endless frustration with apostrophes

      The possessive apostrophe is required because the endless frustration belongs to Jorge M. A.; “Jorge M. A.s” without the possessive apostrophe would just be a plural. For example:

      How many Jorge M. A.s do you know?

      (Both examples look a little strange here because of the way the name is being written, but the full stop(s) shouldn’t be dropped if that’s how the person wishes their name to appear.)

      Deborah

      15/05/2011 at 8:50 pm

      • Thank you very much.

        Jorge M. A.

        15/05/2011 at 9:13 pm


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