Double Possessive

Last week, I received this question from Cherie:

Which is correct?
the College’s associate’s degree programs or
the College’s associate degree programs?

First things first.

If the college uses associate degree programs, I’d recommend:

The college’s associate degree programs.

If the college uses associate’s degree programs, I’d avoid the double possessive by putting it like this:

The associate’s degree programs at the college.

You have probably noticed that I changed College (up style of capitalization) to college (down style of capitalization).

Amy Einsohn, author of The Copyeditor’s Handbook offers several examples of down style versus up style:

  • down style: The president announced; The Truman administration; After the secretary of state left
  • up style: The President announced; The Truman Administration; After the Secretary of State left.

Here’s another example of down style, from The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition:

Albion College was founded in 1835. The college has some illustrious alumni.

Chicago favors down style. So do I. With up style, my eyes strain over the many ups and downs.

What do you think? Any comments, questions?

Tara’s Writing Studio


About 123clear

I translate foggy information into plain English.
This entry was posted in capitalization, possessive noun. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Double Possessive

  1. Shawna says:

    This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I genuinely enjoy
    reading through your articles. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums
    that deal with the same subjects?

    • 123clear says:

      Hi, Shawna. Good to hear from you.

      I don’t know of any specific blog to suggest. I expect that you’ll find plenty of valuable resources with a web search or two.


  2. Ian says:

    Re up-style vs down-style, my own preference would be to use up-style when used as a title (President Obama) but down-style when used as a description (the president went to Washington). Of course there are other distinctions which could be made such as upstyle for the President [of the USA] but downstyle for the president [of a university].

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