Re: User's, Users, Users'

Subject: Re: User's, Users, Users'
From: Allen Schaaf <soundbyte -at- sound-by-design -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2002 08:59:59 -0700

At 04:21 AM 8/22/02, hillc -at- ctcorp -dot- com wrote:


I've had feedback from various sources who have all quoting me
various grammatical rules as to why it should be User's, or Users, or
Users'. Is there a standard? Is there a right way and wrong way?

Okay, I'll jump in and I'm prepared to be stomped on.

First, rules of grammar were imposed by people who wanted to regularize the chaotic nature of the English language so the rules reflect theory, not the reality of how English was used at the time.

Second, English usage changes over time, a kind of genetic drift, if you will, and the rules of grammar always have to play catch-up.

So, given these facts, let's leave the grammarians to their arguments and apply some logic to the solution.

First of all, there are going to be many, many users if the game is successful, right? And the manual will be theirs once they have bought the game, right?

So I suggest that the plural possessive, Users', is the correct answer.

Now my question is that an apostrophe is used to indicate letters that been left out in a contraction, like couldn't, right? Why don't we do that when we use initialisms?

Look at this sentence fragment: "Most SMEs agree...." To me that looks wrong. I think it should be: "Most SME's agree...." But that doesn't seem right either as it looks like a singular possessive and that does not match with "agree." And "Most SMEs' agree...." is clearly wrong because it is a plural possessive, not an indication of a contraction as the apostrophe is external to where the letters are left out.


Allen Schaaf
Sr. Tech Writer
Currently looking for work.

Who says bad manuals aren't a risk to your life? Just ask the passengers of the jet where the engine caught fire because the company's maintenance manual was wrong about how to install one key bolt. (NTSB Report on GE CF6 engine fire, American Airlines flight 574, July 9, 1998. <>)

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