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Ah, plurals. How they tempt the most decisive of spellers to make a simple error. How often we see a sign on the side of the road: “Mango’s, 50 cents!” “All Mattress’s 45% Off!”
Here is the rule: NEVER EVER EVER MAKE A PLURAL USING AN APOSTROPHE.
Please? Pretty please? You may repeat the mantra of Ms. Huffington and myself as you do so: “Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it right.”
I know everyone, everywhere pluralizes with an apostrophe. They. Are. Wrong. And I am not afraid to tell them that–in the sweetest, most Southern, non-condescending way possible, of course. (OK, really, I would never tell anyone to their face unless they insisted they were right.)
Most words are pluralized with an s.
- Teddy bears
- College graduations
- Trips to Timbuktu
If the word already ends in an s, you will add an es to pluralize it.
- Buses [OR busses, technically. But I don’t know why.]
If the word ends in x, sh, ss, or ch, you’ll also want to pluralize with an es.
If you are pluralizing an abbreviation, I lean toward NOT using an apostrophe. Ms. Huffington does note that the New York Times style manual says it’s OK to use an apostrophe there; I believe Chicago manual says no. So, there will be no chastising on that part, but as it’s still not technically CORRECT, I would not use one just to be smarter than the NYT. 😉
Of course, in all of this you must know whether you want the said noun to be plural (meaning there are more than one of the item/person/whatever) or possessive–or, please don’t even say it, PLURAL POSSESSIVE.
Let’s talk about plural possessives next week. I’m not sure I could maintain your attention for that matter.
If you’re truly perplexed on a word, you can always search for it in an online dictionary. The plurals are right there, written out for you to peruse.
So come on! In the comments, leave me some correct plurals! Or some funny examples of incorrect ones you’ve seen around your town.
Reading Like a Writer: Why don’t we revisit some beloved childhood classics? What IS it that makes them classic–to you if to no one else? Charlotte’s Web is one of my very favorite books of all time. Its author, E.B. White, was a master of grammar and diction; he wrote for the New York Times and The New Yorker. What makes it so great? Profound characters. Not underestimating children. Funny animals. Slop. And who knows what else? But it is unequal to any other book in my daughter’s nursery, in my opinion. So pick up an old favorite and explore it as an adult. I’ll be fishing out Charlotte’s Web or Betsy-Tacy or The Attic Mice for a read this week.
Other amusing articles on apostrophes
Apostrophes don’t swing both ways
I’m beginning to think I hate apostrophes
The care and feeding of apostrophes — much more comprehensive than what we’re covering here today, but great!
As always, e-mail me with your questions or if you need a professional proofreader.