The Dreaded Apluralstrophe!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Beware of...

The Dreaded Apluralstrophe!

1970's; ABC's; 6's; PhD's; IQ's; dog's; cat's; plural's, etc.'s

Possessives are not plurals. You can debate it, but it's illogical, wrong, and pandemic.

Exceptions are often, lamentably, made if one means to pluralize a single letter -- "x's," for example -- but this can easily be overcome with italics: xs. With a simple manipulation of the font, the ambiguity is corrected.


The Ridger, FCD said...

My father just received some of those "free gift" address labels labeled "The Davis's". Though he might like to think of himself as The Davis (actually, I wrong him), he refuses to use the labels.

alienvoord said...

Some sources, like the Oxford Companion to the English Language, note that the use of the apostrophe to mark plurals is standard in four uses:
"(1) With abbreviations such as V.I.P.'s or VIP's, although forms such as VIPs are now widespread. (2) With letters of the alphabet, as in His i's are just like his a's and Dot your i's and cross your t's. [...] (3) In decade dates, such as the 1980's, although such apostrophe-free forms as the 1980s are widespread, as are such truncations as the '80s, the form the '80's being unlikely. (4) In family names, especially if they end in -s, as in keeping up with the Jones's, as opposed to the Joneses, a form that is also common.

Dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

I see that alienvoord was also impelled to defend these specialized functions of the apostrophe, which are all too often lumped together with the vulgar greengrocer's apostrophe. I'll add that the New York Times style guide was until recently (last year, I believe) notorious for mandating the apluralstrophe (an excellent coinage, btw) in some of the situations he mentions.

Personally, I only use the apluralstrophe in its meta sense, to pluralize letters (and sometimes words-as-words, like the do in "do's and don'ts.") But it's largely a matter of style.