April 16, 2010

"user group" or "users group"?

I'm organizing a database user group (formerly Oracle user group) at my work place. One trivial question comes up. Should it be "Database User Group" or "Database Users Group" with plural "Users"? While people are making comments with respect to English grammar, I thought it would be helpful to check how most people say on the Internet. So here it is my email to them:

"users group" or "user group"? Here's Google exact word search hit count (when you search, enclose the words in double quotes):

user group: 7,950,000
users group: 3,580,000
oracle user group: 80,400
oracle users group: 70,100
unix user group: 32,100
unix users group: 50,600
linux user group: 566,000
linux users group: 2,800,000
mac user group: 53,400
mac users group: 43,300
java user group: 82,700
java users group: 36,800

Although how people say on the Internet doesn't mean it's grammatical, it's at least statistically more popular. So we can use that as a reference. It looks like more people prefer the singular "user group". When it's broken down to a specific type of user group, all that I checked except Linux and UNIX people prefer singular. (No wonder UNIX and especially Linux people are the most likely associated with geeks in this society.) My conclusion of this search: the geekier and less coherent the members are, the more likely they prefer plural, "users group".


Yong Huang at April 30, 2013 at 10:38 AM said...

I received a comment from a reader that I think is quite informative and I'd like to share. His comment follows.

I believe that "XYZ Users Group" is the best choice.

Here is a quote from the article that I think supports my position.

------------------- begin quote -------------------
The first choice in each group is a plural noun in the possessive case (Fathers', Veterans', Majors', Bankers' and Executives').
The second choice in each group is a singular noun in the possessive case (Father's, Veteran's, Major's, Banker's, and Executive's).
The third choice in each group uses a plural noun that is not in the possessive case. We refer to it as an attributive; that is, it functions as a modifier and does not need to be possessive.
To make the best choices in the five groups above, we must consider whether the possessive or the attributive is more appropriate and, if the possessive case is appropriate, whether the possessives ought to be singular or plural.

Unfortunately, one rule does not govern in all instances when it comes to deciding when to treat a noun as merely attributive and when to make it possessive. The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed., University of Chicago Press) admits that "the line between a possessive or genitive form and a noun used attributively-as an adjective-is sometimes fuzzy, especially in the plural." This style manual suggests that writers omit the apostrophe "in proper names (often corporate names) or where there is clearly no possessive meaning" (p. 284):

Publishers Weekly

Diners Club
------------------- end quote -------------------

But the article goes on and on.
My own rule is
When the group is not possessed by one or more users but is "for" them rather than "possessed by" them, use the attributive form - no " ' ".

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