Why Is There No Apostrophe?

We discussed this for some time and decided not to include an apostrophe for the following reasons:

  • Writers House belongs to no single group of people. It is an undergraduate learning community devoted to “writing,” broadly construed. Since Writers House is dedicated to reimagining writing in the twenty-first century—a project that belongs to no single department—we felt that including the apostrophe to signify possession would be both misleading and counter to the spirit that led to the creation of Writers House.
  • At Writers House, all writers are expected to master grammar’s rules and conventions. But all writers are also expected to know the difference between a rule, a convention, and an inviolable law.
  • Aesthetically, as a title, Writers House looks better than Writers’ House. Since the title adorns the entry to this learning community and appears on all our publicity and our letterhead, aesthetic considerations were, reasonably enough, taken into account.
  • In conceiving of a learning community dedicated to writing, we turned to our peers for examples and were inspired by the Kelly Writers House (no apostrophe) at Penn, as well Franklin and Marshall’s Writers House.
  • We worried about newspaper articles that would face the following construction: Rutgers University’s Writers House. As all who know the rules governing the apostrophe would agree, the opportunities for error in that construction are many—and such opportunities are often taken up by the popular press.
  • We entertained the idea that Writers functioned adjectivally in the phrase Writers House. At some point, we agreed that this was plausible, but only when weighed along with all the other arguments for leaving the apostrophe off.
  • We noted that Rutgers University has no apostrophe. The university doesn’t belong to Henry Rutgers: the name of the place is Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey. The name of the place where students are engaging with and reimagining the act of writing in the twenty-first century is Writers House.
  • We don’t use either a definite or an indefinite article before Writers House, because Writers House functions grammatically as the name for a specific place.
  • The coin landed on its side.
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