Possible Duplicate:
“Nikki’s and Alice’s X” vs. “Nikki and Alice’s X”
Preferred way to apostrophise in case of dual or multiple ownership by distinct entities

(writers' and teachers' wages) or (writers and teachers' wages)

writers and teachers are both plural

When you have multiple nouns, and all those nouns own the same thing, do you put the apostrophe showing possesion in all the nouns or just the last noun?


2 Answers 2


According to The Grammar Bible by Michael Strumpf (page 29), in a section on "Possessive Case":

Sometimes possession is shared by several nouns. In these cases, just make the last word in the series possessive.

  • America and Canada's timber resources are dwindling

  • Thomas and French's discovery shocked the world.

  • Leslie and Eric's lasagna is to die for.

These sentences all contain nouns that show joint ownership. In the first sentence, the resources belong to America and Canada. In the second sentence, the discovery belongs to both Thomas and French. In the third sentence, the lasagna belongs to both Eric and Leslie.

To show individual ownership, apply the possessive sign to each item in the series.

  • America's and Canada's timber resources are dwindling

  • Thomas's and French's discoveries shocked the world. [Note: I personally would have used Thomas' instead of Thomas's.]

  • Leslie's and Eric's lasagnas are to die for.

In these examples, each noun has individual ownership of resources, of a discovery, or of a lasagna. These things are not shared.

In your example, if you followed the above advice, you would write either: The writers and teachers' wages were stagnant. Or The writers' and teachers' wages were stagnant. It depends on if you consider the ownership of wages joint or individual. I would actually recommend rewording this anyway: The wages of the writers and teachers were stagnant.

  • +1 As it is according to common sense as well.
    – Kris
    Oct 16, 2012 at 5:10

I would definitely include the apostrophes on both, to avoid ambiguity. "Writers and teachers' wages have gone up" could be misinterpreted to mean writers themselves have somehow gone up. Most people would probably be able to intuit your meaning, but it might require a quick second reading (which you never want as a writer).

It follows the same sort of rule as suspended hyphens, as in "He had great short- and long-term memory." The first word should carry some punctuation to show its relationship to what follows.