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My brother and I are setting up a painting and decorating business and there's a small dispute to where our apostrophe goes. Initially, I thought "Sheppards' Painting and Decorating Company" would be correct showing that Sheppard is plural with the two of us. But other people are saying it's just Sheppard's because it's the family name? Please, someone put us out of our misery for good.

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  • You're doing this in English. There's no way to not be miserable!
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 21:14
  • You may name your company as you please (subject to trading laws), but the apostrophe is often omitted. If you include it, some people will place it as you do, and some the other way — no matter which you choose. So I would call it "Sheppards." The famous Woolworth & Co. Ltd was known as Woolworths. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 21:17
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    Is it the company of the Sheppard family, or the company of some members of the Sheppard family?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 21:23
  • Hamleys toy shop was named after William Hamley. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 21:23
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    Business signage is no notoriously bad at apostrophes, there's a whole term for it: the grocer's appostrophe. So no matter what you choose, expect everybody (perhaps including your employees) to get it wrong.
    – Blckknght
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 22:05

3 Answers 3

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I think the correct one would be Sheppards' .

Sheppard's will be a single person's. Sheppards' will mean a family's or "of people named Shappard each".

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  • Agreed. What's more, the placing of the apostrophe will be a talking point for those who notice such things, and all publicity is good publicity. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 22:35
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    Hi VF, welcome to EL&U. This isn't a bad start, but it's too short: the system has flagged it as "low-quality because of its length and content." An answer on EL&U is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct. It's best if you edit your answer to provide more information - e.g., explain the grammar rule behind your choice of punctuation. For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour. :-) Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 22:55
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Firstly, it's your shingle. You two get to name it.

Secondly, you're correct. Two Sheppards own this business, so the plural possessive applies exactly as you thought.

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For better clarification, let's use a name that ends in S.

Imagine your family's last name isn't Sheppard but is Jones instead. With that in mind, to say something that means, "Welcome to our home," you'd say, "Welcome to the Joneses'," pluralizing Jones and then making it possessive, not "Welcome to the Jones'." That's why your welcome mat would likewise say, "Welcome to the Joneses'," not "Welcome to the Jones'." Even saying "Welcome to the Jones'" sounds weird, partly because of the common expression "Keeping up with the Joneses," which is why it's a good tool for clarifying this issue.

So, you are right to name your business Sheppards' since that denotes it's a family business, as opposed to Sheppard's, which would incorrectly denote it's the business of one individual named Sheppard.

Counterpoint:

A glaring example is McDonald's. Roy Croc was the singular founder of McDonald's, but the restaurant's name isn't Croc's because Roy Croc, who at the time was just a restaurant supplier, had no name recognition and so bought the name and service from the McDonald brothers, whose carry-out hamburger business was aptly called McDonald Brothers' and did have name recognition. In reinventing the business, Croc promptly dropped Brothers' from the name, but when he did, he should've made "McDonald" plural possessive, just like "Brothers" had been, thus naming it "McDonalds'," not "McDonald's," but, alas, he didn't have English Stack Exchange to consult.

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