Posted by: Jack Henry | October 14, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Let’s Call It a Driving License

Not long ago, in an article I wrote about apostrophes and possessive words, I discussed “driver license” vs. “driver’s license.” I said then that the correct term is “driver’s license.” Quite a few of you checked your licenses and promptly let me know that “Driver License” is written, as clear as day, right at the top of your license.

Here’s the not so funny part—my California license is called a “Driver License.” How did I never notice that? (It could be because the photo is so bad, that I don’t notice anything else.) You won’t be surprised to know that the states are not consistent about what they call this license.

I did some more digging to find out why some states don’t use the possessive term, “driver’s license,” and here’s what I found, according to Wikipedia:

  • A “driver’s license” is a license that belongs to a driver.
  • A “driver license” is a license to drive.

So, I can show you my personal driver’s license (it is mine; it belongs to me), but the DMV issueds me a driver license (a license to drive). No wonder people are confused!

My manager, Ben, put it this way: he said that states that call it a driver license “…might want to emphasize that the license doesn’t belong to a driver (since no one has an innate right to drive). Rather, the license turns a nondriver into a driver.” OK. That makes sense, but it doesn’t explain why some states call it a driver’s license, some call it a driver license, and some call it an operator license. Oh, the inconsistency!

In the UK, it is called a “driving license.” That solves the problem. I’m going with that.

Oh, and I also have one of these:

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | Symitar®

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

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Editing: Symitar Documentation Services

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