I would like to request more reopen votes for the following question: Does a person have two “masters’ degrees” or two “master’s degrees”?

As described clearly in the question post, it is not answered by Is there an apostrophe in a master's degree?, which doesn't discuss the placement of the apostrophe in the plural form of Master's degree.

I’m grateful for the additional votes: the question is now reopened.

  • 1
    If opened, I hope this means you'll add an answer.
    – Mitch
    Nov 17, 2018 at 17:46

1 Answer 1


The question is not a duplicate for that reason, but it does not show the questioner's attempt at research, and more importantly to me it may even be General Reference, so I do not think the community should cast votes to reopen it. In my general reference check, the first thing I thought to check is master degree plural possessive and I found the Johns Hopkins Bloomburg School of Public Health's style guide as my third result on google, which has the following advice:

Multiple master of arts (or master of science) degrees

Under no circumstances is the form "masters" (an "s" with no apostrophe) appropriate. Use the plural form as follows:

I have master of arts degrees in English and history.
I have masters' degrees in English and history.
The School offers masters' programs in public health, health science and health administration.

The second example seems to demonstrate that the plural possessive form of masters' would be used for multiple degrees, even if there is only one possessor.

Right now I would rather not reopen a question just to risk having what may be a general reference answer posted to it. Are there more reasonable search terms that would be more likely to be used in a cursory search, or do you find that answer to be inadequate in some way? Do you want to post a better answer? If you can explain why you think it is not general reference despite this cursory check, then I will consider casting my vote, but otherwise I do not think the question should be left open long enough to post an answer, and the community is slow to close questions that should be closed.

Maybe a moderator could reopen the question and swiftly reclose it, so that the right closure reason shows and people are not redirected to the wrong target question.

  • 4
    Google isn't general reference, though. For me, to be closed as "general reference" the answer has to be in a widely known, easily available reference work (I.e. most dictionaries or encyclopedias have the answer). The trouble with "it's on the first page of Google results" is that not everyone gets the same results from Google. I've actually seen SE questions where the OP says "I've tried googling, but all the results are porn". Whereas my results for the exact same search are mostly academic resources, because Google knows those are the the kind of results I usually want.
    – 1006a
    Nov 17, 2018 at 15:09
  • @1006a You are correct in stating that google is not gen. ref. and this is part of why I gave the chance to explain, but please note that it can lead to gen. ref., and I do not see why a freely available style guide from a university wouldn't qualify. Style guides are standard reference works, and the university source is relatively authoritative. If questioners include their own research effort, then I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and assume readily found sources are inadequate, but as things are I'm forced to check for myself.
    – Tonepoet
    Nov 17, 2018 at 15:38
  • @1006a Also, it is a good point that people can get differing results from google, and I do try to factor that into my personal audits. This is part of why I keep personalized results off, to see what most people are most likely to find, and use archive.is website to demonstrate search results rather than linking directly to google. Now archive.is caches the page independently of me, so the archival website results can differ from mine sometimes, but usually it seems to be just in the rankings.
    – Tonepoet
    Nov 17, 2018 at 15:56
  • 1
    That style guide does happen to show up in my top page of results, but I also get a Grammarly post and a couple of Grammarphobia posts, a Western Michigan University style guide, a couple of Chicago Manual of Style pages, two other random writing sites, and the question under discussion. The other sites that address the plural question, including the CMS, contradict the JHSPH advice. So even if that site comes up easily, I still don't see this as general ref.
    – 1006a
    Nov 17, 2018 at 16:12
  • 1
    Now that the question is reopened, I would like to see new answers that include the information in Tonepoet’s answer post and @1006a ‘s comments here. I made and deleted a “placeholder” post of my own; if either of you are interested in making answer posts, I will leave it deleted. If you aren’t interested, let me know so that I can undelete my answer and edit it into a community wiki that summarizes the information above.
    – herisson
    Nov 17, 2018 at 19:16
  • @Sumelic 1006a edited the information into the question itself, presumably to bars it from being posted into answers in its present form. That is a questionable practice in my opinion, but nobody listens to me when I raise my concerns about it anyway, and the upside to it is that it discourages general reference type answers. As for me, now that it is open, I think it'd be better if you wrote a thorough answer A.S.A.P. so that a general reference answer ca not compete with yours, since it'd be tragic to have this question reopened only to have a premature consensus granted to a lesser answer.
    – Tonepoet
    Nov 17, 2018 at 19:40
  • @sumelic I put two conflicting links into the question just to demonstrate that there is a question, but neither of the style guides I linked to offered much explanation so if you have a good answer ready to go I'd welcome it!
    – 1006a
    Nov 17, 2018 at 23:16

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