A weekly grammar tip created by Student Success Center Peer Writing Tutors.
University of Houston-Victoria
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Victoria, TX 77901
|Plurals of Letters, Abbreviations and
by David Felts
One of the most common ways to represent the plural form of letters, abbreviations, and numbers is to attach an apostrophe and an s. Though this way of representing plurality works in many cases, when one has a choice of styles for showing plurality, it is best to remain consistent to avoid confusing the reader. Adding the apostrophe and s is a great way to avoid confusion, especially with lower case letters. Here’s an example of two sentences, one using only an s to make the letter plural and one with the apostrophe and the s:
Ex.: For his report, he was sure to dot all his is and cross all his ts.
For his report, he was sure to dot all his i’s and cross all his t’s.
Notice that the first sentence is confusing. Further, not using an apostrophe with plural vowels can create a word and make the sentence’s meaning unclear. Plural capital letters do not need apostrophes, but if the possibility of confusion exists, use an apostrophe. Here are example sentences that stress this point:
Ex.: As on my transcript are great for my GPA.
A’s on my transcript are great for my GPA.
For abbreviations and numbers, the same rule of adding an apostrophe and s can be applied.
Ex.: We could look at their GPA’s to determine their academic standing.
Wow, look at all those 4.0’s.
Note: Though this seems pretty simple, the
waters can get muddied. The common way to denote plurality of years in
decades is without the apostrophe and using only the s: the 1980s,
the '80s. Also, some style manuals and grammar guides recommend not using apostrophes with plural
abbreviations and numbers. Two such guides are the MLA Handbook
and APA Manual. The plurals from the examples above would be GPAs and 4.0s
in APA or MLA style. Here,
the purpose is again clarity. Let’s look at a couple of examples of how
using the apostrophe can be confusing:
Ex.: My GPA’s effect on my admission to the school is undeniable.
Their GPA’s affect their admissions.
In the first sentence, GPA’s is singular possessive, and GPA’s in the second sentence is plural. To avoid this confusion, some guides say that you should omit apostrophes with plural abbreviations and numbers.
So, the most important thing to remember is when you have a choice of acceptable styles, pick one and remain consistent throughout the writing.
|Recommended Grammar Website of the Week
by David Felts
Along with our own website, www.uhv.edu/ac, we recommend the following site: The Keables Guide. This website has a page devoted to abbreviations, numbers, italics, and spelling.Visit this site at http://www.iolani.honolulu.hi.us/Keables/KeablesGuide/PartFour/AbbrevNumsItalicsSpelling.htm
|Test Your Knowledge
by David Felts
Test your understanding by correcting, if needed, the followings sentences—remembering to avoid any confusion.
1. Mississippi has a lot of is and ss.
2. What is DDT’s chemical makeup?
3. How many As did you get this semester?
1. Mississippi has a lot of i’s and s’s.
2. What is DDT’s chemical makeup? (This sentence does not need correction because DDT’s is a singular possessive.)
3. How many A’s did you get this semester?
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