An old question asks, master's or masters? The accepted answer (and the only viable candidate) says it has to have an apostrophe. But Academia SE has a tag definition for masters that shows the usage is more nuanced:

Queries related to a master's degree, sometimes referred to as a post-graduate degree.

A master's degree is an academic degree granted to individuals who have undergone study demonstrating a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice.

The duration of a masters degree is about one to two years which may vary because of different educational systems' policies. Masters students may have to conduct a research project as their thesis at the end of their masters level.

(The linked wikipedia entry, on the other hand, consistently uses the apostrophe.)

I'd like to see an answer that acknowledges the use of the no-apostrophe version, and explains the borders of acceptability, for example, when does master's look too stuffy? When does masters look too informal?

So, may I write a new question? If that's not considered kosher, the only alternative I can think of is to set a bounty.

Note that when I googled

holding a master's degree

(without quotes), Google prominently displayed the accepted answer to the seven year old ELU accepted answer.

Also, what's the best way to draw attention to either a new question or a bounty among the Academia crowd? Although I believe the question belongs on ELU, it would be interesting for Academia too. The way I've seen this handled at Spanish SE is to put "ELU meets Academia" at the beginning of the title. But that doesn't necessarily catch Academia's attention.

And finally, "interdisciplinary" was the closest I could come up with. Is there a better way to express the overlap?

My primary question is, may I write a new question. Please consider the other two as bonus content.

  • FWIW: I've always seen and used master's. Is it possible that their tag description needs an update?
    – NVZ Mod
    Oct 2, 2017 at 16:06
  • 3
    OP here: my original question was simply asking for a prescriptive ruling on whether the apostrophe should be used. In my view, it should therefore stay unchanged, although I would be happy to edit it if the majority felt otherwise. If things have change since then, I think a new question is appropriate.
    – dave
    Oct 3, 2017 at 22:31

1 Answer 1


Your question seems different enough in scope from the old question to be considered a non-duplicate. What are essentially follow-up questions generally seem to be acceptable here; for example master or master's follows up on the same 2010 question. This is preferable to editing an existing question to go beyond what the original questioner wanted and/or in a way that "breaks" existing answers. In this case, the older question seems to be asking for a prescriptive "ruling" on whether an apostrophe should be used or not; you are asking about whether there may be systematic reasons for omitting the apostrophe.

If you do ask a new question, you should note the older question and its answer and then quote the tag text and any other apostrophe-free examples you've run across and ask your more nuanced, descriptive question about casual use.

As far as bringing it to the attention of Academia SE, maybe post a link in their chat or even ask a question in their Meta? If you think the tag description is in error you could ask about that, with a link to the related question here.

  • Can you point out the quotation you're saying violates the plagiarism rule? Maybe I am looking in the wrong place. At first glance I see nothing that isn't attributed and fair use.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 2, 2017 at 18:06
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    Every single word after "Read the following article for more details:" is from the linked article. Word for word, with no excerpting or summarizing or interpretation. The quotes are all appropriately attributed...by the original author. It's the equivalent of showing someone else's video on your YouTube channel, with a five second "thought you might like this video" intro slapped on the front. That's what I mean about the spirit, if not the letter.
    – 1006a
    Oct 2, 2017 at 18:45
  • I missed the forest for the trees. Yeah, this is a problem.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 2, 2017 at 18:53
  • @MetaEd Okaay, the copy and pasted answer (posted in Oct 2010) has been deleted. Wouldn't it have been easier to simply edit and used block quotes throughout? A 5 or 10-second operation. BTW the OP has reformatted his answer, properly, according to SE guidelines, which were formalized when exactly? Oh, the bit about editing is also relevant to 1006a who has the necessary Rep.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 3, 2017 at 8:48
  • @Mari-LouA in re editing: I considered it, but see my point about not wanting to draw attention to the question. I also didn't flag it or all that it be deleted, and wouldn't have mentioned it at all if it hadn't come up in Meta, just thought it could languish in 7-year-old obscurity along with lots of other questions and answers that no longer meet site standards but, presumably, were fine when they were posted. If it were an active question by a new user I would have handled it differently, but this is an inactive question by a 20k+ user.
    – 1006a
    Oct 3, 2017 at 12:29
  • Ah, tchrist has undeleted it. Good man! problem with mods deleting stuff, they are the only ones who can undelete posts. Us mere mortals have to sit and wait around until then.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 3, 2017 at 12:38
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    @Mari-LouA I did some digging. Though there was agreement at the beginning of in SE's history that academic dishonesty, including plagiarism, needed to be discouraged, the formalization of a policy seems to have begun when the question “Plagiarism should be addressed specifically in the FAQ” was posted early in 2011. FAQ texts were drafted as answers there. This also ultimately led to the addition of “How to reference material written by others” to all site help centers in late 2013.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 3, 2017 at 20:52

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