Compound Possession

Learn why it is "Squiggly and Aardvark's big adventure."

Mignon Fogarty,
Episode #075

Today's topic is compound possession.

Compound Possession

Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips to Clean Up Your Writing was named one of the top five non-fiction audiobooks of 2007 on iTunes. So I thought it might be fun to play a short excerpt of the audiobook here. This excerpt answers a question I just got from a listener. Here's the question:

My name is Scott, I'm from L.A., I'm an editor, and I'm working on a TV show right now where we've got a banner, and it says, “Joe Blow” and underneath it says, “John and Doug's Real Estate Agent.” Now, John and Doug are two partners and they share this real estate agent, and I believe that it should be John's and Doug's Real Estate Agent, even though that looks totally wrong. I just would like to know if this is a gray area or if it is in fact empirically wrong to put “John and Doug's Real Estate Agent” where there is only one apostrophe there.

Buy Now

Thanks, Scott. This is something that a lot of people are confused about; in fact, it's the question they brought me on the Oprah Winfrey Show to answer. It's not a gray area, and in your case the banner is correct as written—with one apostrophe. This is kind of a crazy mnemonic, but just remember that apostrophes are shaped like hairdryers (at least in some fonts). Here's the excerpt from my audiobook; that memory trick will make sense soon:


The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.