In the phrase beginners guide to …, where should the apostrophe go?

  1. Beginners Guide to […]
  2. Beginners Guide to […]

In my particular case, this is the title for a presentation so there are multiple beginners that are being addressed.

up vote 15 down vote accepted

If your intention is to address each member of the audience directly, I suggest you prefix the phrase with an appropriate article, as in:

A Beginner's Guide to Shoe Hurling

or

The Beginner's Guide to Shoe Hurling

The use of the apostrophe before s seems more apt in this context.

Although:

Beginners' Guide to Shoe Hurling

is also grammatically correct, but would make your presentation sound impersonal.

You can argue cogently for either position:

  • Beginner's Guide - this is a guide for one beginner at a time (and is probably the best choice)

  • Beginners' Guide - this is a guide for all beginners at the same time.

However, normally one person is reading (one copy of) a text at a time, and therefore "Beginner's" is the more normal. It is more likely that you will be perceived as not knowing how to handle apostrophes if you use "Beginners'".

  • Thanks. So in the context of a presentation given to multiple people, the second is the better choice? – Simon P Stevens Nov 28 '10 at 17:40

Either is correct and you'd have to choose based on context: "A beginner's guide to peg solitaire" vs "Beginners' guide to flash-mob culture".

Your Answer

 
discard

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.