User Franklin asked "Master's of Early Childhood Education" or "master's in early childhood education", but it was closed as opinion-based.

However, the answer isn't opinion-based. As I answered, capitalization and the possessive are orthogonal to one another. If you capitalize because you're using the formal name of the degree, there's no apostrophe. If you say "master's degree" informally, you don't capitalize.

And, like I said, the field isn't capitalized unless it is a proper noun itself or is part of a formal title.

There are correct (insofar as language has "correct answers") guidelines to naming degrees. I think this question should be reopened.

  • You’re right it’s not opinion based. But the truth is reopening it won’t help, because the questions falls afoul of a couple other major boundaries on EL&U. A couple of our hot button issues, so to speak. First, it asks for proof-reading, which is explicitly off-topic per the help center, and second, the fundamental issues it asks about are so elementary that they’ve covered by just about every pedagogical or reference resource which concern themselves wth English (in other words “general reference”, or in other other words, “askers are expected to do their own research before asking us to do it”).
    – Dan Bron
    Jan 14, 2018 at 12:45
  • Ultimately, it’s too bad the question is closed under the wrong reason, it’s misleading, like an incorrect error message from a piece of software, but it’s also not worth the foofaraw if opening and re-closing it under one of the right reasons. And it won’t give you or OP any more satisfaction, either. I’m sorry that your answer got caught up in all this; these are just the guidelines in this site.
    – Dan Bron
    Jan 14, 2018 at 12:48
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    @DanBron I don't think it's off-topic proofreading either. Pursuant to the text of the closure reason, off-topic proofreading is when you ask for generalized corrections to a given text, instead of specifying a certain source of concern to be addressed. This does specify a source of concern, ergo, it's not really "proofreading". Failure to specify why you might want help might make a question unclear, but that's a different closure reason. So many closure reasons....
    – Tonepoet
    Jan 14, 2018 at 13:02
  • The opinion comes in in 'If you capitalize because you're using the formal name of the degree, there's no apostrophe. If you say "master's degree" informally, you don't capitalize.' Perhaps someone should tell this to some of the institutions listed in this Google search. Or perhaps you should retract. Jan 16, 2018 at 10:59
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth There's no reason to retract, I haven't stated anything that is wrong. Unfortunately, it's not my job to check every university's webpage for capitalization errors. I'd be happy to integrate information from their style guide if you happen to know which one they're using. Jan 16, 2018 at 18:41
  • I'm sure that most people would consider the learned bodies mentioned less likely to be in error than a single person who desires to keep an air of mystery about themself. Jan 16, 2018 at 22:13
  • I didn't know our bios were relevant to the discussion at hand. Jan 16, 2018 at 23:17
  • @Tonepoet The "specific source of concern" is far more specific than merely "Is the capitalisation right?". Please see the Help -- anchors can't be added, so scroll down to "How do I ask about checking my text?"
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jan 25, 2018 at 18:21
  • @AndrewLeach If that was the entirety of the question, then I might agree that this is proofreading, because that is more of a general editing question than a specified source of concern. However, I opine that the overall form of the question (and especially its title) tacitly indicates that the question is restricted to the propriety of the genitive forms of the degree's name, rather than the whole sentence, so I opine that an edit would be a better way of rectifying that problem than a proofreading closure. Either way, 'tis a moot point since the question should be closed regardless of that.
    – Tonepoet
    Jan 25, 2018 at 20:05

1 Answer 1


The only thing I can proffer is that the close voters probably felt as if this is strictly a matter of style that may vary from university to university, or from style guide to style guide, with no one source being so definitive as to disallow the other possible answers. Although I do not necessary agree with this rationale, because the closure reason allows there to be for some difference of opinion provided that a sound basis for it can be supplied. That sentiment is shared by the help center's What Types of Questions Should I Avoid Asking webpage, and the good subjective-bad subjective guidance.

However, even if I were to apply the more stringent test I still agree with you. I agree with you a little too much you see. Upon trying to do my own independent research to try and explain how there might be a plurality of answers I have only really found one, and this gives the question somewhat of the opposite problem. The question is so easy to answer in its present form that it is general reference.

The very first search I performed was master's degree apostrophe and the most promising webpages I saw while performing that search were from Western Michigan University and Daily Writing Tips and upon checking those pages it seems as if they both make the same endorsement. While some of us might not think that Daily Writing Tips is a very authoritative website in and of itself, it does have some writers with disclosed credentials and more importantly it makes reference to M.L.A. style. Thus these resources represent some adequately trustworthy resources, including the university which hands out the degree, the graduates who hold the degree and a highly respected style guide. I do not really think we can add much more value to that, especially since this question is merely asking for the rule, rather than an explanation of it and we have no way of knowing why this sort of answer is not satisfactory to the questioner.

When a question can be authoritatively answered using readily available resources then the question is too simple according to the general reference test and should be closed for the following reason:

Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic.

And if you think that test is too stringent, as you can see from the provided "research" link, many of our members would have it so that a question that does not provide any of its own research should be automatically closed, seemingly irrespective of whether or not the answer to the question can be easily found, and the questioner has not even tried. This may have influenced some of the votes to close, but the stack exchange system is somewhat flawed in that it usually only displays one of the closure reasons, except in the case of a tie, and that is the one which receive the most votes. (The reason I call this a flaw is because it makes it harder for people to realize that a given question may have more than one problem that needs solving when trying to have it reopened.)

  • 1
    I figured it was probably closed for multiple reasons but only "opinion" showed up. Still, I'm of the opinion that such a question, if it was asked "nicer" would be a good question here. After all, don't we want people coming here to ask questions like that? But I guess others disagree on the threshold. Jan 15, 2018 at 22:01

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