spelling troubles: Master of Science vs. Master's of Science
November 30, 2009 12:22 AM   Subscribe

Confused on spelling variations: Master of Science vs. Master's of Science.

I am preparing some resumes, and found out that I have never needed to spell many varations of Master of Science.

I am confused about 2 points: the "'s" and the capitalization of Master

For example:

"I am currently finishing a Master of Science". I think this is wrong?

"I am currently finishing a Master's of Science" - is that right? or is it

"I am currently finishing a master's of science" (no capitalization)

Also, do thing become different when the sentence becomes:

"I am currently finishing a Master of Science degree". It seems to me in this case the possessive nature changes?

another case:

"I am pursuing a Master's degree" (or should it be a small m?")

If it makes a difference I am writing Canadian English.

very confused - thanks for the help.

ps: no i am not pursuing a Master's (master's?) degree in English :P
posted by figTree to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Master of Science is capitalized, and master's degree is not. And Master of Science does not have an apostrophe-s. I'm not a grammar expert, but I've had occasion to write it down myself before, and these are the conventions I understand to be correct.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:39 AM on November 30, 2009

It depends where you are. Google search gives 29,300,00 for masters, and 29,400,000 for master's. Wikipedia says Master's. Even within one country, (Australia for example) there's variation on whether its Masters or Master's. Check how your institution describes and stick that way. Oh, and I would include capitalization, regardless because it is the name of your degree.
posted by b33j at 12:39 AM on November 30, 2009

The University of Toronto website lists it as a Master's Degree.
posted by twistofrhyme at 12:42 AM on November 30, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback so far. To those listing how it is spelled by institutions, I realize it varies, i am looking for specific uses of it in sentences.

From what i gather, i am with so_gracefully. I figure the apostrophe-s changes when:

"I am finishing a master's degree"

but the -s disappears when changed to:

"I am finishing a master of science degree" (althought here, im not certain about the lack of capitals)
posted by figTree at 12:58 AM on November 30, 2009

My AP style guide recommends:
Use an apostrophe in bachelor’s degree, a master’s, etc.
There is no apostrophe in Bachelor of Arts or Master of Science.

So that is:
"I am finishing a master's degree." (as you guessed)
"I am finishing a master's." (by extension, per AP)
"I am finishing a Master of Science degree." (not your guess)

The first two are just descriptions of a type of degree, if that helps you remember, while the latter is a formal title.
posted by rokusan at 1:16 AM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A bit of explanation: "Master's of Science Degree" is an archaic set phrase. Modern English doesn't allow possessives embedded inside noun phrases. Nowadays we put the the possessive at the end of the whole phrase or avoid it, eg. we say "my mother-in-law's car" not "mother's-in-law car." (It's kind of like a possessive goto statement, admitted in some phrases for backwards compatibility with Elizabethan English.) Because it sounds funny, there's a tendency to correct it to modern usage by killing the possessive and treating "Master of Science" as a phrase modifying "Degree."

I say it like so_gracefully does - and the AP says it's OK too. But I'm in the south-eastern US. If most Canadian Universities use "M's of S," go with that. If usage in Canada is mixed, you're OK either way.
posted by nangar at 2:34 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I work with people writing biographies of donors at a(n American) university; our style guide would say that "I am finishing a master of science degree" is incorrect--you need the possessive and the capitals. However, if you are a Master of Science, then no apostrophe is needed, because it is a title.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:21 AM on November 30, 2009

Although, come to think of it, we would be instructed to write something like "I am finishing a master's degree in science", as "Master's of Science Degree" wouldn't be the correct title of the degree.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:22 AM on November 30, 2009

You could also look at your transcript and just write it exactly the way it appears there.

This sounds like one of those classic overthinking situations so common to writing a resume. Which also begs the question, why are you listing it that way on a resume? I was under the impression that proper sentences are discouraged from resumes and you should do bulleted lists. My resume reads thus (except with better formatting):

University 2 City, State
M.S. in blahdy blah May 2010 (expected)
GPA 8.7
Awards, Honors, blah blah

University 1 City, State
B. A. in B.S. 19xx-20xx
GPA 6.8
Awards, Honors, blah blah

For my cover letter, I would say "I am currently working towards a Master of Science in Blahblah, with an expected graduation date of May 2010."
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:10 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree that "a master's degree in [field]" sounds classiest, if you're allowed to fiddle that way.
posted by rokusan at 6:11 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm going to break the trend and say use the abbreviation in the sentence, like "I am currently pursuing my MSc in Math". I have no proof to back myself up except that's what I did and I got the job(s). I think that it highlights the field (Math, Stats, Ecology) rather than the degree (Arts or Science) which is probably more important for the people looking over your CV.

And just in case, the correct abbreviation in Canada is MSc/BSc (with more punctuation? I don't know. I like the look without, but then again I'm in the sciences).
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:21 AM on November 30, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone.

hydobatiae, you bring up an interesting side point of writing MSc

but what about MSc versus M.Sc. ? any rules or anything with that one?
posted by figTree at 12:12 PM on November 30, 2009

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