Posted by: episystechpubs | October 26, 2015

Editor’s Corner: Just Say No to (s)

Good morning, folks. I hope you all enjoyed your weekend as much as I did.

Today I’m going to talk to you about how you should indicate that a noun can be either singular or plural. Many writers use (s) for this purpose. For example, “Check the error(s) in the log file.”

This habit creates clunky sentences that slow your readers down, which is one reason that most style guides advise against using (s).

Our own highly acclaimed Symitar Style Guide says, “Just use the plural form . . . because the plural covers the singular.”

Example:

  • Incorrect: The file(s) referenced in the document(s) must be created and maintained by someone who has the appropriate authorization.
  • Correct: The files referenced in the documents must be created and maintained by someone who has the appropriate authorization.

You do have another option, if you need it. You can also use each, every, or any of before the noun to make it singular.

Example:

· Incorrect: Return the column(s) to their original position(s).

· Correct: Return each column to its original position.

And of course, you can always revise the sentence.

Example:

· Incorrect: Check the error(s) in the log file.

· Correct: Check the log file for errors.

So, you have several convenient options, and that means that you can leave the prickly, confusing (s) behind.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432


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