I see both usage, with "honors calculus" much more common. This is in reference to courses and programs in high school and universities with a higher level of requirements than the regular counterpart.

My Microsoft Word software does not like "honors", it prefers "honor's" in above context. What is the correct usage and why?

On Word if I type "Student's project was part of an honors calculus course" the word "honors" gets double blue underlining which implies questionable grammar.

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  • If your word processor is flagging honors as a misspelling, it's definitely confused. "How many honors did you receive" is assuredly a correct sentence, as is "This memorial honors the memory of a great hero." – Juhasz Feb 5 at 16:20
  • @Juhasz Those examples are not the same and I suspect OP's word processor wouldn’t flag those. – Jim Feb 5 at 16:25
  • @Jim, I guess spell checkers are more sophisticated than I remember them being if they're able to read the word in context, that is, parse the sentence to determine if the right part of speech is being used. – Juhasz Feb 5 at 16:38
  • @Juhasz Word is almost certainly not flagging it as a misspelling. Instead, it would be flagging it as an error in grammar. (Word also does a basic form of grammar checking—assuming you leave it enabled.) I think a misspelling is underlined in red, while a grammar issue is underlined in blue. In order to answer this question, we have to know the exact sentence in which the word is appearing. – Jason Bassford Feb 5 at 17:12
  • 1
    In that example, the wording is a bit strange. I would instead say: The student's project was part of a course contributing to an honours degree in calculus. There are definitely degrees and honours degrees. But, that side, just because Word underlines it as questionable grammar, that doesn't mean that it's wrong. The interpretation of grammar is sometimes subjective, and Word (as with any other program meant to catch grammar mistakes) will present false-positives. – Jason Bassford Feb 5 at 19:11

The typical spelling of honors in this context has no apostrophe: honors course (or honours course, if you use the spelling honour with a U).

This is an example of a compound or attributive noun construction where, unusually, the first element has the form of a plural noun. The Oxford English Dictionary gives examples dating back to 1860 of the use of hono(u)rs in this context; none of the examples uses an apostrophe.

Word's grammar checker may be incorrectly flagging this construction because of the rarity of compound/attributive noun constructions with plural first elements. Although unusual, such constructions are not ungrammatical. You can see some other examples in the answers to When are attributive nouns plural? and Singular/plural Nouns as Adjectives; the question Plural nouns in nominal compounds is also relevant.

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