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I have a web application that displays the status of batch processing jobs on our computer cluster. To me, the title should read:

Job status

not

Jobs status

but I really don't know why and I'm not sure I'm right. Could you kindly explain?

  • I am thinking of a tabular personnel chart, whose columns are headed name, address, date of birth, etc. I wouldn't consider pluralising those, even though they head lists of many names. Is this a parallel situation to what you have in mind? – WS2 Oct 14 '16 at 8:47
  • Do you mean the status of individual jobs, or the aggregate status of all jobs? – Hot Licks Oct 14 '16 at 12:23
  • @HotLicks : both actually. The interface gives you aggregate numbers, but allows you to display individual jobs as well. – static_rtti Oct 14 '16 at 12:51
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    Jobs status doesn't make sense but Jobs' statuses could. Nonetheless, I'd still opt with job status. – BladorthinTheGrey Oct 16 '16 at 10:52
  • In the US, "job status". For all I know, other places may vary. – GEdgar Oct 16 '16 at 11:16
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+50

In the phrase, job is an attributive noun: a noun functioning as an adjective qualifying status.

In English, adjectives are not inflected for number. In the phrase red apples, the adjective red doesn't alter depending on the number of apples; neither does it alter if the apples are different shades of red (so there is more than one red).

Thus: Job status. There may be different statuses, and different jobs, but job here doesn't get inflected: it's acting as an adjective.

There are those who support the demise of the possessive apostrophe; who maintain it's acceptable to talk of childrens clothes, mens wear instead of children's clothes and men's wear (as opposed to the compound nouns childrenswear, menswear, which can't have an apostophe in the middle). On this basis, Jobs status might be acceptable for Jobs' status: using the apostrophe is fussy and could even lead to confusion with the late Steve Jobs.

However, having two s together in the middle of the phrase looks odd and it's not easy to say distinctly. There's not much difference between saying jobs status and job status. Purely on practical grounds in this case, it's another character in a column heading.

Given that using an apostrophe seems overly fussy, omitting it is still currently disputed, and the singular job is understandable and justifiable, use Job status.

  • Note that the missing apostrophe in the examples you give is also related to the tendency to use irregular plurals in compounds where regular nouns would use the singular. Jobs’ status(es), with or without an apostrophe, sounds and reads almost bizarre to me, though men’s status(es) is fine. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 16 '16 at 12:02
  • @J Hmm. Certainly I wouldn't use Man status! Perhaps a little more finesse is required in an answer to the question. (Feel free!) – Andrew Leach Oct 16 '16 at 13:00
  • I’d say if it meant anything, man status would be the current status of someone’s attempt to become (like?) a man. I suppose it could be a rather crude way of referring to the progress of someone undergoing gender-reassignment treatment. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 16 '16 at 13:08

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