Posted by: episystechpubs | April 13, 2015

Editor’s Corner: Crazy Rules for Plural Letters

It is with my humblest apologies that I introduce today’s slightly confusing topic, Making Single Letters Plural. Here is the full story and rule on this practice, from The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl™, by Mignon Fogarty (p.179).

Note: This rule is different from the rules for acronyms, initialisms, and decades. You make these items plural with a simple “s,” no apostrophe. For example: ATMs, PINs, 1900s.

The Apostrophe Exception: Making Single Letters Plural

It’s shocking, but you make single letters plural by putting an apostrophe before the s!

Mind your p’s and q’s.

The apostrophe makes it clear that you’re writing about multiple p’s and q’s. The apostrophe is especially important when you are writing about a’s, I’s, and u’s because without the apostrophe, readers could easily thing you are writing the words as, is, and us.

The Chicago Manual of Style goes a little further. It says that if you are talking about letters you should italicize the letter itself. Here are some examples:

· Bob prefers the letter R to the letter B, so he always signs his name as Robert.

· My name begins with a capital K.

· That word starts with a lowercase g.

· I have horrible Scrabble tiles! I’m stuck with three i’s, one a, and three o’s.

But here’s an interesting tidbit. There are two common phrases in which you add the ‘s, but you do not italicize the letters. Those phrases are:

· Mind your p’s and q’s!

· Dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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