1/24/2008

Now that's one powerful writer

If there's just one Hollywood writer on strike, as Google News headlines above -- and 800-plus other articles on Google News -- suggest, can't someone work things out with him or her?

Mr. Rewrite is too busy reading reference books to bother with TV, but even he knows there are quite a few writers on strike. If you're writing about them, you need to use the plural writers.

It gets much more complicated after that. Is it a writers' strike or a writers strike? Mr. Rewrite honestly doesn't care as long as you don't put an apostrophe before the S. Just be consistent once you make the call.

To make the call, decide how you view writers in this context. As Grammar Girl notes, if you consider the strike as belonging to the writers, go with the plural possessive writers'. If you think writers describes the type of strike ruining your TV viewing, go with writers. In the latter case, as Mr. Rewrite's Chicago Manual of Style notes, writers is a noun being used as an adjective, also known as an attributive noun.

Grammar Girl prefers writers strike, just as she prefers teachers strike. But she prefers homeowners' association because that group clearly belongs to homeowners. The Chicago Manual of Style, however, recommends the possessive in any case like this (e.g. consumers' group, taxpayers' association) except when using proper names that don't take the possessive or when there clearly isn't a need for the possessive (e.g. housewares sale).

Mr. Rewrite will follow Grammar Girl's lead because he likes her name. Writers strike it is.

We looked to The Associated Press for guidance, but its stories offer both writers and writers' and even a couple of stray writer's. That said, AP appears to favor writers.

Yawn. Who cares about all of this grammar anyway? The most important question to Mr. Rewrite: How is the writers strike is affecting the BYU students mentioned in that last headline? He's ever so worried.

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