Posted by: episystechpubs | January 2, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Rules for English Plurals

Now that we’re all settled in to 2020, we can sit back, take a little break from the revelry, and have a quiet chat about the rules of pluralization. Yep. We’re starting the year off with a slow grammar roll.

When you want to pluralize a word, the basic rule is to add an s. Sometimes, however, you have to add es, as my friend Jan. W. pointed out, which prompted me to look into the rules a little more closely. My research led me to a short list of rules for pluralizing many English words. I thought it would be a helpful reminder for you. I am not including the exceptions like child/children, person/people, etc. I’m afraid you’re on your own memorizing those.

So, which words are pluralized with es instead of s? The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) explains that we add es to words that end in ch, j, s, sh, x, or z. Who knew? Here are some examples:

  • torch/torches
  • raj/rajes (not many English words end in j)
  • lass/lasses
  • crash/crashes
  • tax/taxes
  • fizz/fizzes

Pluralizing names works the same way—you add s for most names, but you add es for names that end in ch, j, s, sh, x, or z:

  • Burcher/Burchers
  • Church/Churches
  • Jones/Joneses
  • Walsh/Walshes
  • Martinez/Martinezes (that’s a mouthful)

CMOS also provides this rule for pluralizing a compound word (with or without a hyphen)—you usually add s to the first word:

  • fathers-in-law
  • masters of arts
  • attorneys general

And finally, CMOS provided this list of words and phrases that sometimes create problems. Note that we do not use apostrophes for these plurals—that’s a common mistake that people make:

  • ifs ands or buts
  • dos and don’ts (there’s an apostrophe for the contraction don’t, but not for the plural of do)
  • threes and fours
  • maybes
  • yeses and nos (again, no apostrophe for nos)

CMOS didn’t mention the phrase to-dos, but Kearn L. and I would like to add it to the list above. Merriam-Webster spells it with a hyphen.

Happy New Year everyone!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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