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In the phrase beginners guide to …, where should the apostrophe go?

  1. Beginners Guide to […]
  2. Beginners Guide to […]

In my particular case, this is the title for a presentation so there are multiple beginners that are being addressed.

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3 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

If your intention is to address each member of the audience directly, I suggest you prefix the phrase with an appropriate article, as in:

A Beginner's Guide to Shoe Hurling

or

The Beginner's Guide to Shoe Hurling

The use of the apostrophe before s seems more apt in this context.

Although:

Beginners' Guide to Shoe Hurling

is also grammatically correct, but would make your presentation sound impersonal.

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Thanks. That's exactly what I'll do. –  Simon P Stevens Nov 28 '10 at 18:13
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You can argue cogently for either position:

  • Beginner's Guide - this is a guide for one beginner at a time (and is probably the best choice)

  • Beginners' Guide - this is a guide for all beginners at the same time.

However, normally one person is reading (one copy of) a text at a time, and therefore "Beginner's" is the more normal. It is more likely that you will be perceived as not knowing how to handle apostrophes if you use "Beginners'".

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Thanks. So in the context of a presentation given to multiple people, the second is the better choice? –  Simon P Stevens Nov 28 '10 at 17:40
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Either is correct and you'd have to choose based on context: "A beginner's guide to peg solitaire" vs "Beginners' guide to flash-mob culture".

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