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can a word have two apostrophes? as in don't's (thinking of "do's and don't's")

63 replies

Greythorne · 03/01/2011 22:25

I do know how apostrophes work, i promise. And I know normal nouns in the plural don't have apostrophes (cats, dogs, ladies etc). But some words do take apostrophes in the plural:

  • abbreviations (D.V.D.'s)

So, what about do's and don't's? I am tempted to write "don't's" but that looks so strange.

What do you think?
OP posts:
Greythorne · 03/01/2011 23:21

Also, now I am on the subject, I have just had a look at Wikipedia (ok, not that reliable, but still) and they suggest:

Individual letters and abbreviations whose plural would be ambiguous if only an -s were added are pluralized by adding -'s.
mind your p's and q's
A.A.'s and B.A.'s
the note had three PS's
Opinion is divided on whether to extend this use of the apostrophe to related but nonambiguous cases, such as the plurals of numerals (e.g., 1990's vs. 1990s) and words used as terms (e.g., "his writing uses a lot of but's" vs. "his writing uses a lot of buts"). Some writers favor the use of the apostrophe as consistent with its application in ambiguous cases; others say it confuses the plural with the possessive -'s and should be avoided whenever possible in pluralization, a view with which The Chicago Manual of Style concurs.

OP posts:
Greythorne · 03/01/2011 23:23

Yes, precisely, it says "do's" not dos...hence my question! If it is do's, why is it not don't's?

OP posts:
Monty27 · 03/01/2011 23:25

It's does so spelt do's to differentiate it from does.

And don'ts doesn't need an apostrophe because its a plural plain and simple.

tethersend · 03/01/2011 23:26

Was just going to post exactly the same Wiki extract, Greythorne.

I remember being informed of this (CD's) on this very forum. I was arguing against the use of an apostrophe in the pluralisation of CD. I was wrong.

Greythorne · 03/01/2011 23:27

Yes, yes, I know!
That's my point! Everyone is saying there are no plurals with apostrophes, but there ARE...and do's is one!

So, maybe I was a bit OTT about don't's but it was more a question about why not, when do's does have an apostrophe!

OP posts:
PrincessFiorimonde · 03/01/2011 23:32

It could be argued that the word "dos" looks odd/suggests (at first glance) that it is a complete word meaning something different. Hence an apostrophe removes ambiguity/means the reader doesn't have to ponder the word before deciding what it means.

The word "don'ts", however, is unlikely to be confused with any other word and so does not require a second apostrophe.

(I offer this only as a pov; personally I would have "dos".)

Greythorne · 03/01/2011 23:34

i like your POV
makes sense

but it does mean a book called "Do's and Don'ts" looks odd. But heigh ho!

OP posts:
Greythorne · 03/01/2011 23:37

Oh, I knew I shouldn't have posted here as it would get me all riled up! I thought I could get away with asking a quick question, but no, it's a bunfight!

Now it is late and I have just had to scan through the whole of Eats, Shoots and's what Lynn says on page 45 of the hardback version:

The Tractable Apostrophe

used to indicate plurals of words:

What are the do's and don'ts?
Are there too many but's and and's at the begiings of sentences these days?

Game on!

OP posts:
Greythorne · 03/01/2011 23:42

But, have to admit, Lynn agrees with you all that it is DVDs not D.V.D.'s (page 46) with two caveats:

  1. it is a recent change and it used to be M.P.'s in British English (suppose DVDs didn't exist then)

2. she agrees with me that in the US, it is DVD's and 1980's.
OP posts:
Greythorne · 03/01/2011 23:43

Ok, bed now.

OP posts:
Monty27 · 03/01/2011 23:44

Grey - lol, go and have a lie down


SharkSlayer · 03/01/2011 23:48

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Monty27 · 04/01/2011 00:07

Shark - thank you for putting my theory more eloquently.


SharkSlayer · 04/01/2011 00:32

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Quattrocento · 04/01/2011 00:41

Only read the op

Don'ts only has one apostrophe because it is the plural of don't.

Blu · 04/01/2011 09:11

Dos may well look odd, but presumably that is beause the whole phrase is a colloquial saying and is gramatically flawed. A do is not a noun, and neither is a don't.

PrincessFiorimonde · 04/01/2011 12:38

Blu, yes, fair point. And meant to say last night that I liked Grimma's example of sha'n't/shan't.

Agree that the general convention in British English now is to use DVDs, 1960s, etc. Interesting that American English still prefers DVD's, 1960's, etc.

However, Greythorne is surely quite right to point out that we can't say apostrophes are never used to signify a plural. I like her examples:

Plural letters in lowercase are given an apostrophe, such as "how many i's are there in "initial"?"


mind your p's and q's

I'm still thinking about ands and buts, though!

ElbowFan · 04/01/2011 13:25

To return to the original question about the possibility of a word having 2 apostrophes I've been waiting for someone to come up with one - in the absence of any other offers can I suggest ... foc's'cle

wem · 04/01/2011 13:39

My take on it is that punctuation is there to make reading easier, not to lay down arbitrary rules. If an apostrophe makes the word easier to understand, then use it - as in your example of 'how many i's in initial'. DVDs is clearly the plural of DVD, so doesn't need an apostrophe.

hocuspontas · 04/01/2011 13:46

It would look more attractive as 'i's to me. And 'p's and 'q's. Just put the letters in quotes. The apostrophes look wrong.

DirtyMartini · 04/01/2011 14:22

What about capitalizing the individual letters? Mind your Ps and Qs?

Just trying it out.

PrincessFiorimonde · 04/01/2011 16:46

ElbowFan - yes, foc's'cle is good.

Wem - yes, agreed. But I'm now taken with hocuspontas' suggestion.

GrimmaTheNome · 04/01/2011 16:58

But as it's a contraction of "forecastle", it really should be fo'c's'cle Grin

GrimmaTheNome · 04/01/2011 17:04

I mean fo'c's'le not fo'c's'cle

(the 2- apostrophe form is fo'c'sle not foc's'cle, that confused me.)

activate · 04/01/2011 17:09

you don't ever use an apostrophe to mark a plural - ever

apostrophes are possessive or missing letter

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