Susan 馃悵 Rooks, blog
American Grammar Checkup: Traps for the Unwary, Part 2

American Grammar Checkup: Traps for the Unwary, Part 2

Brush Up on Your
American Grammar Skills

Grammar Goddess Communication
Look Smart. Sound Smart.

SusanR@GrammarGoddess. com


Last week I started a series on common errors that can trap even the best writers. You can read that one here.

Today we're looking at one of the smaller punctuation marks -- the apostrophe -- to make sure we all know what it does and what it doesn't. And our focus in this post is on what the apostrophe is not supposed to do:

We do not use an apostrophe to create a regular plural word. Not in English, anyway.

I have written about this before, but I realize that no matter how many times I write about it -- or how many times others do -- many folks either don't see the posts, don't read the posts, or read them but simply forget.

So, here are four points to remember:

1.聽 Form the plural of a regular noun (even an abbreviation) such as cat, dog, house, friend, taco, pizza, Monday, condo, CD, or TV by adding an s to the word, NOT an apostrophe, even if it's a "foreign" word.

聽 聽 聽 cats - dogs - houses - friends - tacos - pizzas - Mondays - condos - CDs - TVs

2.聽 Form the plural of nouns ending in聽ch, sh, s, x, or z by adding聽es.

聽 聽 聽 catches - churches - dishes - dresses - fetches - fixes - foxes - buzzes - quizzes

BUT #1: If the ch ending is pronounced like k, add just an s: stomach/stomachs

Also add聽es聽to potato, tomato, and hobo: potatoes, tomatoes, hoboes (but not photo)

3.聽聽Form the plural of an irregular noun such as woman, man, cactus, elf, calf, leaf, knife, louse, or mouse by changing the spelling.

聽 聽 聽 women - men - cacti - elves -calves -leaves - knives - mice - lice

BUT #2: If you are writing about single letters that might be misunderstood because of the s ending, use an apostrophe.

She got all A's in school this year! (Without the apostrophe, a reader might see As as the word "as," even with the capital letter.)

4.聽 Form plurals of numbers, dates, or acronyms by just adding an s.

They were popular in the 1800s. She's in her early 80s. Those kids were born in the late 1990s. He scored all 10s in the competition! How many ATMs are in this building?

And of course, just to be even more difficult (English really is a tough language), some words are written the same whether they're singular or plural. Doesn't seem fair, does it?

聽 聽 聽 deer - fish - sheep - bison - shrimp - moose - aircraft - spacecraft

(I have no idea why 99% of these words relate to animals, or why they are formed this way. And I also don't know why it's one moose/two moose, but one goose/two geese.)

Bottom line: Do not use an apostrophe to create a plural word.

Next week we'll look at the two rules for using apostrophes: forming possessives (singular and plural) and forming contractions of words and dates. Stay tuned!

Does this post help? Have I persuaded you not to use an apostrophe to form a plural word?

Are there other English words you might wonder about?


Thanks for taking the time to read this post.聽If you learned something, I hope you will . . .聽

Find it relevant and/or聽share聽it, so your connections can see it and perhaps learn too.聽

Comment,聽so you can be seen by my connections. You never know who would be interested in聽YOU! (Ask聽Deb Helfrich聽how well it worked for her!)聽


My previous posts can be seen here on my website,聽and they're easy to find because they're categorized.聽


Do the associates in your company聽look and sound as smart as they are?聽They would if they could take one of my聽Brush Up on Your Skills聽workshops right where they work. If your company hires outside experts to teach any topic to its associates, I would appreciate your sharing my posts and website聽with your Human Resources or Training Manager.聽

Are you a member of an association聽or other group that is looking for a speaker for one of its meetings?聽There are many communication-based topics that would create a lighthearted and interesting presentation.聽

Like Share Comment

Claire L Cardwell

4 years ago #26

Don't know how I missed this the first time around Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks, the Grammar Goddess... That apostrophe often trips me up!
And so you shall, Lisa Jones!

John Rylance

5 years ago #24

" I saw a mouse. Where? There on the stair. Where on the stair? Right there on the stair. A mouse with clogs on. Well I declare going clip cloppty clop on the stair. Oh yeh! A comedy song from my youth called "A windmill in old Amsterdam"
Yes it did indeed, John Rylance!

John Rylance

5 years ago #22

As the cartoon cat used to say " I hate those mices to pieces"#29
Actually, @Chas Wyatt, it's back in the '70s . . . apostrophe must go where the 19 or 18 or whatever numbers are no longer there . . . in front of 70, not behind it. Does that help? And you're in good company; the apostrophe drives many writers nuts!

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #20

Mouse, mice. Oh look I have a family of mouses living in my house. I know, but it rhymes lol.
El mribte Mohammed, thanks so much for sharing my post!
Grammar is a terrible beast. It stalks me all the time.
Hi @Susan Botelho! Nice to see you here. Yes, you done good, as is so often said incorrectly! The basic American rule, which makes very little sense, says we always put periods and commas inside final quotation marks, even if we're only quoting the last word. And I do not believe CD's is widely accepted . . . maybe widely used, but that's a whole different thing. One small point with apostrophes and plurals: When we're writing "She got all A's on her tests," the rule usually drops away because it's possible that without the apostrophe a reader could read "As" as "as." Now, how's THAT for a clunky sentence?

Martin Wright

5 years ago #16

There are very few who would be so apostolic about the apostrophe.
It's more of a phrase, Cyndi wilkins, and it's spelled heebiejeebie. So says the Urban dictionary, anyway.
Yes, it can be, Jill Dawson, and thanks for sharing the post with your followers!

John Rylance

5 years ago #13

A suggestion as to why in the U.K. we say houses rather than hice is that amongst the Upper Classes house is pronounced hice, therefore they say hices which further confuses the issue.#11

Cyndi wilkins

5 years ago #12

I hear ya! And let's not even mention the me the heebie geebies!!! Is that a word???
Your posts are always so helpful, Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks. I like your new profile pic.
John Rylance, the British system often differs from the American one; we don't use fishes in ours, although we certainly could given that we do use dishes!
Vincent Andrew, that's something we'll cover next week, but the rule says that if a singular name or word ends in s and you're making it possessive, you can either add an apostrophe and s, or just the apostrophe. I usually recommend going by the original rule (apostrophe and s) for those who get confused by all this, but there is a choice. Some of the choice concerns how you would say the name . . . if you'd add an extra syllable after James -- and I would -- you would add the extra s to account for it. Stay tuned for next week's Traps #3!
And I will never understand how some of thse word choices get made, Cyndi wilkins! Even house, mouse, and louse . . . house/houses, but mouse/mice. Shouldn't the plural of house be hice?

Cyndi wilkins

5 years ago #7

I ALWAYS learn something from your posts Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks...I am still confused by " One moose/two moose, but one goose/two geese.)" Sounds like the perfect topic for a Dr. Suess book!!! My favorite is "One Fish Red Fish Two Fish Blue Fish!"
Thanks so much, Milos Djukic, for sharing my post!
Jim \ud83d\udc1d Cody, click on the link. It's now a beBee link.
Jim, if you go to my page, you'll see it -- it's just four down from the top. Or let me change the link here to the one on beBee.
I thought I had put part 1 on beBee, Jim \ud83d\udc1d Cody. Let me check.
Some of them are seriously weird, Jim \ud83d\udc1d Cody! But if we can just remember to NOT use apostrophes to form plurals, at least we'll be ahead of the game!

John Rylance

5 years ago #1

@Sarah Rooks, just like dish and dishes, and wish and wishes, you can have fish and fishes, so says my Dictionary. Though we always say shoal of fish, never a shoal of fishes.

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