English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Possible Duplicate:
“Nikki’s and Alice’s X” vs. “Nikki and Alice’s X”
Preferred way to apostrophise in case of dual or multiple ownership by distinct entities

(writers' and teachers' wages) or (writers and teachers' wages)

writers and teachers are both plural

When you have multiple nouns, and all those nouns own the same thing, do you put the apostrophe showing possesion in all the nouns or just the last noun?

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by coleopterist, MετάEd, jwpat7, Cameron, Jasper Loy Oct 16 '12 at 6:31

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

This question can be improved by citing reference works you have already consulted to try to answer your own question before asking here. Let us know why you feel the results were inadequate. – MετάEd Oct 16 '12 at 3:28
up vote 4 down vote accepted

According to The Grammar Bible by Michael Strumpf (page 29), in a section on "Possessive Case":

Sometimes possession is shared by several nouns. In these cases, just make the last word in the series possessive.

  • America and Canada's timber resources are dwindling

  • Thomas and French's discovery shocked the world.

  • Leslie and Eric's lasagna is to die for.

These sentences all contain nouns that show joint ownership. In the first sentence, the resources belong to America and Canada. In the second sentence, the discovery belongs to both Thomas and French. In the third sentence, the lasagna belongs to both Eric and Leslie.

To show individual ownership, apply the possessive sign to each item in the series.

  • America's and Canada's timber resources are dwindling

  • Thomas's and French's discoveries shocked the world. [Note: I personally would have used Thomas' instead of Thomas's.]

  • Leslie's and Eric's lasagnas are to die for.

In these examples, each noun has individual ownership of resources, of a discovery, or of a lasagna. These things are not shared.

In your example, if you followed the above advice, you would write either: The writers and teachers' wages were stagnant. Or The writers' and teachers' wages were stagnant. It depends on if you consider the ownership of wages joint or individual. I would actually recommend rewording this anyway: The wages of the writers and teachers were stagnant.

share|improve this answer
+1 As it is according to common sense as well. – Kris Oct 16 '12 at 5:10

I would definitely include the apostrophes on both, to avoid ambiguity. "Writers and teachers' wages have gone up" could be misinterpreted to mean writers themselves have somehow gone up. Most people would probably be able to intuit your meaning, but it might require a quick second reading (which you never want as a writer).

It follows the same sort of rule as suspended hyphens, as in "He had great short- and long-term memory." The first word should carry some punctuation to show its relationship to what follows.

share|improve this answer