Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I’ve been looking over what has been posted regarding the use of ’s.

I used to be a Technical Writer (years ago). The title of one of our training documents was Users’ Guide. Once, a coworker said every time he saw that title he expected users to start coming.

Never made any sense to me, but I have to admit that the majority of us didn't understand the use of s’ in place of ’s. What is the difference?

share|improve this question
6  
7  
Surely if you were a Technical Writer you must have noticed that standard practice is simply to call any such document a User Guide. I think it would be fatuous to agonise over how many people might read it, or whether they "own" it. –  FumbleFingers Aug 3 '11 at 18:04
    
I've also often seen it written with no apostrophe: "Users Guide". I think the reasoning is that the point isn't that the user owns the guide, but that the guide is for or about the user. Like, "Setup Instructions" -- you wouldn't write "Setup's Instructions". I don't claim that that's correct -- personally I'm very confused on this one myself. –  Jay Nov 14 '11 at 17:38
1  
As @FumbleFingers states and is common knowledge and practise. It is User Guide. Therefore both choices in this question are invalid and any answer choosing one or the other is not legitimate. Also note that the guide can only really be used by a single person at a time, making it a User Guide. –  Chris Jan 23 '13 at 2:13
add comment

4 Answers 4

It's not an Installation's Guide - it's an Installation Guide

Thus, wouldn't it just be a User Guide? I think so.

share|improve this answer
1  
-1 The guide belongs to the user/users in the second example, but it doesn't belong to the installation in the first. Your reasoning is thus flawed. –  CesarGon Jul 11 '13 at 19:16
add comment

It may just be my excessive mental flexibility this morning, but actually both make perfect sense to me.

In one case, we have the guide "belonging to" (i.e., "for the benefit of", and targeted at) the single abstract user who represents all the actual physical incarnate users. There is in a very real sense only one user reading this thing at a time, and it is that person that the writer is addressing.

In the other case, we have the actual physical users, who are certainly legion, and without which there would be no point in the existence of the Guide. It is to these people, collectively, that the Guide belongs.

I have written a lot of these things in my day, but to be honest I could not tell you now what I called them at the time.

share|improve this answer
add comment

The difference is this: s' is used for plural possessive; 's is used for singular possessive; s' can also be used at the end of proper names that end in s to indicate the possessive without adding the extra s.

Since only one user is likely to be reading a "User's Guide" at a time, it would make sense to use the 's in that title. That may be why your co-worker thought it was funny; possibly he envisioned hordes of people trying to read the document at once.

share|improve this answer
add comment

The difference is in the number of users.

User's guide: A guide belonging to one user.

Users' guide: A guide belonging to all the users.

I'd be inclined to use the first sense rather than the second sense, since the "one" user is really an abstract representation of all the users anyway.

share|improve this answer
    
Thank you! Mystery solved. –  Marilyn Aug 3 '11 at 17:05
1  
A helpful way to think about this is to substitute the word "owner". You will find an "Owner's Manual" but never an "Owners' Manual". –  Andrew Vit Oct 2 '11 at 21:41
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.