While writing an academic paper on chemistry, I have to write a section, entitled:

Cumene hydroperoxide's dissociative adsorption.

My question is, would it be correct to write it without 's ? In other words, which one is more grammatically correct? The previous one or one of the following:

Cumene hydroperoxide dissociative adsorption.

Dissociative adsorption of cumene hydroperoxide.

My first tongue is Spanish, and I'm afraid the third option may be a too literal translation and will not sound as proper english.

  • 4
    Definitely leave in the 's' as is, BUT I would recommend the last option: "Dissociative Absorption of Cumene Hydroperoxide" -- In addition, make sure to capitalize every word that isn't a preposition or a conjunction if this is the title of a section.
    – Adam Hayes
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 16:32
  • 2
    Nothing wrong with either the first or the third version. The second is only proper if treated as technical jargon vs "properly formed" English.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 16:56
  • 1
    You are best going with / accepting ghostarbeiter's answer here. It is easily the best. Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 17:23
  • #3 is easier to understand.
    – ab2
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 20:13

2 Answers 2


Cumene hydroperoxide's dissociative adsorption.

is considered correct, since both Cumene hydroperoxide and dissociative adsorption are nouns. It is similiar to The chair's leg. However, there is some discussion on this, so you may want to avoid using it.

The third sentence,

Dissociative adsorption of cumene hydroperoxide.

is also correct. For the reason that the correctness of the first sentence is sometimes disputed, I would prefer this one.


The third option is best. As a matter of style the "apostrophe-s" form is rarely used with long compound words. It would sound particularly odd in formal academic writing.

The possessive apostrophe-s form is most natural with simple animate nouns and ownership or parts of a whole: John's dog, the dog's left front paw. It is less common with inanimate nouns and mere properties: for instance, the color of the sky on Mars sounds far more natural than using apostrophe-s.

Regarding the second option, sometimes nouns can be used in this way, for instance: Carbon dioxide emission is a factor in global warming. But when both the first part and the second part are two-word phrases, it sounds clumsy and is best rephrased using "of".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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