A couple of days ago I received from a reader an email that included the following:
I’ve got a question about the use of apostrophes in notice period provisions. I was rather surprised to see that section 8.96 of the MSCD includes apostrophes after the number of days/weeks/months in your example provisions. Shouldn’t such provisions simply refer to “days”, “weeks” or “months” without the apostrophe? As I read it, including an apostrophe indicates a possessive (i.e., that day/week/month owns the notice period) and I always thought the reference should simply be to the number of days/weeks/months (i.e., the “s” is there because the reference is typically to multiple days/weeks/months). Do the days/weeks/months really own the notice period or am I thinking about this wrong?
A deeply unscientific review of a sample of contracts filed on the SEC’s EDGAR system in the last few days showed that of those contract that included the usage X days’ notice, about one third dispensed with the apostrophe. That being the case, I thought my response to this reader might be of broader interest. Here it is:
Regarding the apostrophe after notice, think how you’d refer to a notice period that’s one day long: you’d say one day’s notice, with an apostrophe, not one day notice. So when you refer to a notice period that’s several days long, you say days’, with the apostrophe.
As to why you use the possessive at all, I think it’s because five days’ notice is an alternative to notice of five days. That’s analogous to David’s hat being equivalent to the hat of David.