Posted by: Jack Henry | May 4, 2017

Editor’s Corner: You Have an Appointment

Jackie, my co-editor and friend, and I were talking about the term “doctor’s appointment.” We hear it all the time, but is it correct? Should it be “doctor appointment”? I’m afraid I don’t have an easy answer for you. The experts are all over the place on this one.

My first instinct was that “doctor’s appointment” is incorrect because the apostrophe denotes possession. I assumed it couldn’t be right because the appointment doesn’t belong to the doctor, it belongs to me. And I quickly found a resource that agrees with me: Everything Language and Grammar.

Though I love to be right, I know that one resource is not proof positive; and anyway, we started wondering whether the term might be possessive because the doctor also has an appointment with me, right? So, I kept looking and found an article on that substantiates the point of view that the appointment also belongs to the doctor. Dictionarykiwi is “created by the community,” so it’s not the most reputable resource, but the article makes a legitimate point.

I kept looking, hoping for something more conclusive, and I found a slightly confused pair of grammarians on A Way with Words,a radio program about language. They hemmed and hawed and finally determined that the term “doctor’s appointment” is used much more often than “doctor appointment.” They said that “doctor’s appointment” is a term that is “lexicalized,” meaning that usage becomes habit, and then we’re stuck with it, whether we like it or not. If you want to listen to their discussion, click here.

I found a few more articles, but they didn’t really offer anything new. Now we’re all confused, right? Well, here’s the upshot. Language evolves depending on common usage. Whether or not it’s correct, most people say and write “doctor’s appointment.” Because there is an ongoing argument about the correctness of the phrase, what you can do is simply avoid using it. You can say (or write) that you have an appointment with the doctor or that you have a medical appointment. That way, the sticklers who think it’s wrong have got nothing on you!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

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