Possessives and Attributives

Q. I’m wondering how you would handle a possessive of a city-and-state combination: While we were able to recast the sentence, suppose we need to express “the streets of Anytown, New York” as compactly as possible. “Anytown, New York’s, streets” puts the possessive squarely on “New York” because of the necessary comma—and you couldn’t do the logical “Anytown, New York,’s streets” as if the commas were parentheses! Or do we just bite the bullet and have an even longer sentence?

Q. Hello. I can’t find a clear answer to the question of how to form the possessive of an acronym, especially a plural one. For example, I see the use of an apostrophe without a following s used often (CBS’ programming). I think an s is appropriate in any case, including when the acronym itself is plural. Is this correct?

Q. Hello, I am copyediting an article and wish to know what the plural form of “master’s degree” is. I believe it should be “masters’ degrees,” as this would be most logical, but I would appreciate your input. All of the online forums I follow have different opinions regarding this matter, and no dictionaries provide a plural form, so I would like to clear up the matter with you. Thank you very much.

Q. Would one say, “He was a close friend of Gabriel’s” or “He was a close friend of Gabriel”? Is there a rule governing this?

Q. My colleagues and I are debating a grammar issue. We read the grammar rules, but we are still unclear. Here is the sentence: “Your employees are the business’s most valuable assets.” Business is singular but it could be interpreted as plural. Which of the following is correct?

Your employees are the business’ most valuable assets.


Your employees are the business’s most valuable assets.

Q. If a phrase is possessive in the first instance it is used, is the abbreviation possessive as well? For example, should it be “Student Psychological Help Line’s (SPHL) 24/7 assistance center” or “Student Psychological Help Line’s (SPHL’s) 24/7 assistance center”? I know that you answered this question already. However, your answer was to avoid that type of phrase. In my case, I work for a company in which the possessive phrase, which gets abbreviated, is part of a larger phrase. (The above example is real.) Hence, I need to know what to do if you absolutely have to use this sort of wording.

Q. An editor for a journal using CMOS has changed all of my plural possessives (patients’ suffering, positivists’ project) to, e.g., patients’s suffering, positivists’s project. This is incorrect. The former, not the latter, is correct. Yes?

Q. My boss has told me that our company name should not have an apostrophe+s after it in proposals, reports, or text, even in a possessive situation. Her primary stated reason was that “it is cumbersome.” I understand, if we are talking about “the BigFirm Stress Team.” But in an instance like “One of BigFirm past projects,” I do not think it makes sense. If the intent of the sentence is to express ownership, you need an indication of that, which should be done with ’s, correct? I would prefer to say that we should tend toward the use of the attributive (“the BigFirm Stress Team”) but that there are instances where it would be more correct to use the possessive, in which case, we would: “One of BigFirm’s greatest success stories.” What do you think?

Q. I am agitated about the institutional inconsistency on this point and found the College Board to be of no help, so I turn to you. What is the proper treatment of an associate degree? As I have stated it, or is it “associates” or “associate’s”?

Q. Which is the correct singular possessive form? “Professor Davis’ class” or “Professor Davis’s class”? My history professor specifically requests our guide be the CMOS. Am I wrong that CMOS promotes both usages in this case?