Which of the following is correct?

Washington biographer Ron Chernow says...

Washington's biographer Ron Chernow says...

The only difference that comes to mind is that the latter implies there are no other Washington biographers, but what if there was only one biographer? Is the latter then preferred over the former, while the former is more appropriate for one of many biographers? Is one always preferred over the other? I've seen both used.

  • 2
    The one that is most accurate is preferred. We don't have enough information to make that determination here. – Jim Nov 14 '18 at 16:53
  • “British historian Sir Martin Gilbert, official Churchill biographer, dies ...” and “Winston Churchill's biographer, Martin Gilbert, dies” Both forms are used, but adding "official" in the noun phrase makes it clearer. – Mari-Lou A Nov 14 '18 at 18:38
  • Are you talking about a biographer who lives in the state of Washington or are you talking about a biographer who is detailing the life of (I assume) George Washington? – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Nov 14 '18 at 20:48
  • @JasonBassford George Washington. – Zenon Nov 14 '18 at 21:49
  • In the case of a biographer of George Washington, the possessive would only make sense if the person had been appointed by Washington (or a legal representative) as his biographer (at some point). – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Nov 14 '18 at 21:54

If referring to a person (e.g. George Washington; and provided that person is identified prior to the statement in question), "Washington biographer" implies that Ron Chernow was one of possibly several biographers. "Washington's biographer" implies that Ron Chernow was Washington's only [official] biographer.

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