What does a farmers market have in common with an assassins guild?
Well, I consulted this MW article about the former’s apostrophe (or lack thereof) and wondered whether I could apply the principle to the latter…
“Style guides try to make a distinction between possessive phrases and those that are merely descriptive. Since a farmers market is a place where farmers convene, but that does not necessarily belong to the farmers, many style guides recommend eliminating the apostrophe and simply treating the plural noun as a modifier: farmers market, a market for farmers.” (M-W.)
➡️ So, assassins guild?
That’s not what the Chicago Manual of Style or the New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors go for. For them, it’s styled as:
That’s what the OED goes for too — as its first listing, though it recognises other variants too.
➡️ So, assassins’ guild?
Am I even using something useful as a point of comparison? I’ve been down a rabbit hole and looked up loads of guilds. Guess what? So much inconsistency! And a load of them go for the Guild of X or the Guild of Y, perhaps to avoid having to be drawn on the apostrophe.
And I couldn’t see anything in New Hart’s Rules to suggest one way or the other. If any #edibuddies would like to point me in the direction of an entry on this, I’d be grateful.
Anyway, I’m sorry, nice M-W article, I’m going in the direction that NODWE and the OED have pointed me for this British English edit.
And Terry Pratchett. He used assassins’ guild in his novels.
THIS is the kind of stuff that occupies an editor’s mind after the computer goes off for the day.
I’m back at my desk tomorrow and my decision is reversible if anyone wants to weigh in. Like, why would you even use farmers’ market as a yardstick for this style choice…?! You’d be far better using… (You tell me.)