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is the use of the apostrophe in the following sentence correct: ... The data users' wish to visualize comes in many formats, all of which cannot obviously be directly supported. ...

I am convinced it is a genitive and requires the apostrophe. Some of my colleagues don't agree...

Thanks in advance.

  • 1
    Is it the data or the wish which comes in many formats? – Andrew Leach Oct 17 '13 at 12:45
  • It is the wish that comes in many formats. – Nico Vertriest Oct 17 '13 at 12:47
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If it is the wish which comes in many formats, then the apostrophe is correct.

The data users' wish to visualize comes in many formats, all of which cannot obviously be directly supported.

It's slightly awkward because visualise would normally need an object, like this:

The data users' wish to visualize the network traffic comes in many formats, all of which cannot obviously be directly supported.

The sentence can be simplified as follows, to show that the possessive apostrophe is necessary:

  • The data users' wish to visualize comes in many formats, all of which cannot obviously be directly supported.

  • The data users' wish to visualize comes in many formats.

  • The data users' wish comes in many formats.

  • Their wish comes in many formats.


If it is the data which comes in many formats, then the apostrophe is incorrect.

The data users wish to visualize comes in many formats, all of which cannot obviously be directly supported.

It becomes clearer if the omitted that is replaced:

The data that users wish to visualize comes in many formats, all of which cannot obviously be directly supported.

This changes the meaning quite radically.


If your colleagues are saying that the apostrophe is wrong, it's likely that they are reading the sentence the second way.

  • Rewording to something like "The wish by data users ..."; "The desire that data users have to visualize .." would remove the ambiguity. – TrevorD Oct 17 '13 at 13:37
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    @NicoVertriest if you feel that this answer is correct, you should mark it as answered. :) – Lumberjack Oct 17 '13 at 14:33

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