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The suggestions in this same forum say that the use of the phrase "the car's antenna" is correct.


  1. Nobody mentioned the use of "the car antenna" -- which to me would be much more natural, although not perfectly precise. It is clear that the particular "car's antenna" may be borrowed from e.g. a transistor radio, so that in that case "the car's antenna is a transistor-radio antenna". [Please correct all that is wrong here, and comment the use of the hyphen.]

  2. I want to write a short and elegant title in a computer program that would describe "the parameters of a model". Is it correct to use: 2.a The Model Parameters, or for short, and because it is in the title: Model Parameters; 2.b The Model's Parameters, or for short, in the title: Model's Parameters.

By definition of the Saxon genitive, the more precise would be 2.b, correct? But when you Google "model parameters" and "model's parameters", you get about 3 millions for the (a) choice and 30 times less (a hundred thousand) for the (b). And I bet that most of the people wanted to say the same thing: "the parameters of the model", and were trying to abbreviate it. Was there anybody who wanted to say something like "the model-like parameters", or "modelish parameters" -- I guess no one!

The same thing applies to:

3.a The user password; 3.b The user's password.

Please comment heavily on the question 2. It would be nothing strange that most of the people just write what is common or simpler, but what woul the experts suggest? In cases like this, where the distinction is almost negligible, is it OK to go for the simpler solution. It also concerns another example from this pages: "The ProductName's Desgin" or "The ProductName Design".

Thanks in advance.

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The "thematic genitive" (the car's antenna) puts focus on antenna, and the car is the topic: you were talking about a specific car, and now you are going to focus on its antenna. The car antenna, on the other hand, expresses that you are going to talk about an antenna, but there needn't be a car that you have talked about earlier; it is simply a semi-adjective that describes what kind of antenna you're going to talk about. // So you need to tell us a bit more about this title (although I think you probably mean model parameters): previous topic? Nature of the text? &c –  Cerberus May 8 '13 at 4:27
Thanks a lot @Cerebrus, your answer clarifies the use of the Saxon genitive vs. noun as adjective. The precise, elaborate, title was supposed to be “The parameters of the model”. Please check my hint in the question – isn’t that (“the parameters of the model”) what most of the 3 million titles found on Google were also about? –  Robert May 17 '13 at 10:24

1 Answer 1

To address your second question, I would go with Model Parameters. I've been a technical writer for over 20 years and one of my first lessons as a technical writer was to avoid the saxon genitive if at all possible. For example, use "the cards on the shelf" instead of "the shelf's cards". It's more concise and clearer for your reader. I would especially avoid the saxon genitive in a title. If you consider a table of contents where multiple titles are structured as saxon genitives, it becomes difficult to read very quickly.

I have less of an issue with "the user's password", but I still wouldn't use "User's Password" in a title. "User Password" is more concise.

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Thanks a lot Christina, so it may not be the language purists choice, but it certainly is a common one (as my Googling showed). You, as a technical writer, certainly are the person to give the professional significancy to the answer. –  Robert May 17 '13 at 9:35
Now I see that I have another problem: my program has already fixed acronym DSA, and a longer version DynSysA, stemming from: "Dynamical Systems Automata" -- the original title that I’ve made without Saxon genitive. Its precise title should be "Automata for Dynamical Systems". Its purpose is to generate a type of computational automata (the automata used in computer science to describe computer languages, structures, algorithms, etc... –  Robert May 17 '13 at 10:15
How do I solve this? (1) "Dynamical Systems Automata" -- to me it sounds inaccurate, also -- can the noun as an adjective be in plural -- I don't think so. (2) To make the use of Saxon genitive, as the last resort: "Dynamical Systems' Automata". (3) "Automata for Dynamical Systems" (requires a huge remake). Please comment what is wrong, what is the best choice, and what is acceptable (though perhaps not very nice). –  Robert May 17 '13 at 10:16

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