Is there a term for the tendency to omit the apostrophe in high-profile items where it would otherwise be expected? – such as “Student Manual” instead of “Student’s Manual” (and “Facilitator Guide” instead of “Facilitator’s Guide”)? This seems to be done in news items also, perhaps partly out of a tendency towards yellow journalism. For example, a recent news story in Yahoo! News had the lead, “Robert Kennedy son …”, instead of “Robert Kennedy’s son…”. The casual reader is pulled in by the expectation that the article is about Robert Kennedy himself.

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    So, a couple things: First, headlines in most publications typically utilize non-standard syntax, grammar, etc. in favor of brevity due to space concerns, so let's throw out headline examples (although I'm not sure how Robert Kennedy son would make you think it's about RFK himself). Second, are you indicating that you believe "Student Manual" is an error of some sort? These seem like fairly common noun compounds unless there's some specific usage where the possessive is obviously required.
    – Dusty
    Feb 27, 2012 at 23:09
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    I propose butcher's apostrophe. Or butcher apostrophe, to maintain its integrity.
    – prash
    Feb 28, 2012 at 21:20
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    You're not just omitting the apostrophe - you're also omitting the 's'. That is different than the greengrocer's apostrophe which adds an ' but otherwise leaves spelling alone: APPLES TWENTY CENT'S Feb 29, 2012 at 15:55
  • Related.
    – tchrist
    Nov 18, 2023 at 20:24

1 Answer 1


This recent news from the UK suggests we may want to call it the Waterstones Apostrophe. Seriously, though...

It could be argued that in some cases omitting the apostrophe is just fine. Each of the three cases below has a perfectly grammatical interpretation with the same meaning: there is a manual and it has to do with students.

1 Student's Manual (N-gen N) = possessor - possessed noun
2 Student Manual (N N) = attributive noun - modified noun
3 Students Manual (N-pl N) = attributive noun - modified noun

Note that the use of the genitive 's in (1) is not truly a possessive relationship anyway. Also, since the manual is intended for use by one or more students, the use of either the singular of plural of the attributive adjunct student in (2) and (3) could be well-motivated.

So the Waterstones Apostrophe isn't as much of a problem as the Greengrocer's. This is probably why there is no commonly accepted name for it.

Hm, perhaps there is one common exception:


Also found with "MENS". Of course neither MENS nor WOMENS is a proper word. So we might also call this the Restroom Apostrophe.

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    Very good. I've up-voted it and accpeted it, but please edit "Not" to be the obviously-intended "Note":) Feb 29, 2012 at 21:00

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