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Say I have two authors that each wrote a book (not together) and I want to refer to both of them in one sentence while lumping their books into one noun, should I put an apostrophe right after the second author?

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You should make them both possessive if they do not share ownership of the books.

For example:

I read Stephen King's and J.K. Rowling's books.

If they wrote books together then you would only pluralise the last in the list.

It all comes down to ownership, or co-ownership. If they are co-owners, or co-authors, then they are grouped together and are made possesive as a group noun, for example:

  • I'm at my mum and dad's house. (they own the house together, so one is possessive)
  • I've been to John's and David's houses (two different houses, so both are made possessive)

As an alternative to your example, you could also write:

I read the books of [author 1] and [author 2].

This example doesn't need possessive nouns.

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  • Surely to John's and David's houses (rather than house) if there are two houses. To John's and David's daughter (singular) would imply that both men were her parents, not that there were two daughters involved.. brians.wsu.edu/2016/05/19/joint-possessives – Ronald Sole Aug 13 '20 at 15:00
  • Ah okay, that makes sense. – Eric Aug 13 '20 at 15:50
  • @RonaldSole Only if John and David own more than one house each. If the daughter were both John and David's then she would be "John and David's daughter". – Astralbee Aug 13 '20 at 16:20
  • @Astralbee It's definitely John and David's daughter if they are co-parents. But the phrase John's and David's houses is ambiguous in terms of how many houses they each own. They could each own only one house, and the sentence would be exactly the same. – Jason Bassford Aug 13 '20 at 19:11
  • @Astralbee And "John's and David's house* in your answer is wrong, no matter what it's describing. They can't individually own the same house. – Jason Bassford Aug 13 '20 at 19:14

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