Which of these is correct?

The Union of Concerned Scientists's main goal is to prevent nuclear war.


The Union of Concerned Scientists' main goal is to prevent nuclear war.

The noun phrase that is taking the possessive ("Union of Concerned Scientists") is singular, which would suggest adding 's. But the actual word on which the apostrophe is appended ("Scientists") is plural, which would suggest only adding an apostrophe.

Wikipedia gives the former construction as an example (in the subsection "Basic rule (compound nouns)"), but the article does not specifically address this issue in its main text.

  • In order to avoid excessive loss of saliva in pronunciation it is common to merely add an apostrophe to a plural-s possessive. If it were the Union of Concerned Women, then an apostrophe-s would be the construction. – Nigel J May 23 '18 at 20:11
  • What makes you think this is any different from the normal case? The whole just an apostrophe versus always add apostrophe-‘s’ is a matter of style anyway – BladorthinTheGrey May 23 '18 at 21:04
  • @BladorthinTheGrey By "the normal case" do you mean "singular nouns take 's to become possessive" or "nouns that end in a pluralizing suffix take ' to become possessive"? – tparker May 23 '18 at 21:35
  • 1
    Somewhere between a rule of thumb and a binding law is 'add an apostrophe-s after a terminal s if and only if you change the pronunciation'. So if one accepts this rule, as with 'a' and 'an' pronunciation alone governs the written form here. This University of Sussex article by Larry Trask explains this. Thus Steve Davis's victory but Saint Saens' music. So would you say scientistses? // Not given as an 'answer', as I seem to remember @tchrist answering this. – Edwin Ashworth May 23 '18 at 22:39

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