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Which option is grammatical?

  1. There will be readings from Nikki Giovanni’s and Alice Walker’s writings.
  2. There will be readings from Nikki Giovanni and Alice Walker's writings.

Saying it out loud the latter sounds right, but looking at it the former looks better.

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

Wikipedia has this:

A distinction is made between joint possession (Jason and Sue’s e-mails: the e-mails of both Jason and Sue), and separate possession (Jason’s and Sue’s e-mails: both the e-mails of Jason and the e-mails of Sue). Style guides differ only in how much detail they provide concerning these.[7] Their consensus is that if possession is joint, only the last possessor has possessive inflection; in separate possession all the possessors have possessive inflection. If, however, any of the possessors is indicated by a pronoun, then for both joint and separate possession all of the possessors have possessive inflection (his and her e-mails; his, her, and Anthea’s e-mails; Jason’s and her e-mails; His and Sue’s e-mails; His and Sue’s wedding; His and Sue’s weddings).

More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostrophe#Possessive_apostrophe

So in your example, unless they are writings that Giovanni and Walker co-wrote, you should use Nikki Giovanni's and Alice Walker's writings. Although I agree that it trips off the tongue better with just the second 's, and no doubt only the pedants in the audience would pick you up on it ;)

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Good answer, so +1 – RedGrittyBrick Feb 8 '11 at 23:22

If in doubt, reword.

There will be readings from the writings of Nikki Giovanni and Alice Walker.

Written English is often (usually?) slightly more formal than spoken English. So of the two choices you offer, I'd write the first. This is mostly because I regard it as correct English.

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