Posted by: Jack Henry | July 8, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Parentheses and Plurals

Today’s tidbit is a little bit more information from the book But Can I Start a Sentence with “But”? Advice from the Chicago Manual of Style Q&A.

Q. Is it correct to use parentheses to indicate the possibility of a noun as a singular or plural? Example: Child(ren).

A. I wouldn’t do it. It’s not so much an issue of correctness as of ickiness.

Q. In a policy, I have to indicate that the word facility could be plural. The person editing the document has written it as facility(s). What is the correct way to portray nouns that end in y when necessary to indicate they could be singular or plural?

A. “Facility or facilities” and “one or more facilities” are both clear. And often the simple singular does just fine in implying one or more: “In the event that your facility is struck by terrorists, this contract is void.” You can see that if two facilities were struck by terrorists, the clause would apply to both.

We are definitely in agreement with the CMOS when it comes to the icky factor of using parentheses to indicate a noun might be singular or plural. Not only does it look indecisive, the second you start using verbs it causes more problems. (The child(ren) is (are) going to the store. Ew!)

When writing, spell it out for your reader (as in the second answer “facility or facilities”) or use the single (or plural) version of the noun throughout the document. Your readers know whether they have one facility or two, one server or three, a single wire or fifteen wires—and they can “translate” the verbs from “is” to “are” accordingly.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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