Saw a sign the other day for a fundraising “sausage and pancake’s” breakfast, and thought about how often plural words are confused with plural possessive words. The easy way to remember the difference is that plural words – unless they are plural possessive words – do not have an apostrophe. The apostrophe is only used for possessive words – plural or singular, or for contractions.
A “singular” is one, while a “plural” is more than one. Generally, to form a plural, add an “s.” There are some exceptions:
- To words ending in a consonant plus “y,” drop the “y” and add “ies.”
- To words ending in a consonant plus “o” or to words ending in “x,” “s,” “z,” “ch,” or “sh,” add “es.”
So, for example, “uncle” becomes “uncles“; “company” becomes “companies“; and “Jones” becomes “Joneses.”
- You could have one uncle, or six uncles.
- You could talk about one company, or eight companies.
- Your friend could be Joe Jones, and his family would be the Joneses.
Note: There are a few words that change in the plural form, e.g., woman becomes women; man becomes men; child becomes children.
Did you notice that when you are making a plural word, you do not use an apostrophe?
Bonus: The Six Steps to Easier Spelling
- Read more. The eye recognizes words by their shapes. Have you ever looked at a word and said, “That just doesn’t look right”? Train your eye by reading more, so that it recognizes the shapes of correctly spelled words more readily.
- Develop a “hit list.” As you are reading, keep a pen and paper at your elbow. When you see a word that doesn’t look like it is correctly spelled, make a note of it to check out with the dictionary later. If the word is correctly spelled, put it on your “hit list.” You can also add unfamiliar words to your list.
- Obtain a pad of self-stick notes. There are usually about 20-25 sheets to a 2 ½” or 3” pad.
- Write the first word on your “hit list” on each sheet in your own handwriting. Work on just one word at a time.
- Post those individual sheets everywhere. On the mirror, by the coffee pot, on the front door, on the back door, on the refrigerator, and – well, you get the idea.
- Leave the sheets up for 24 to 48 hours, then remove them.
Follow these six steps, and the correct spelling is yours!
Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email email@example.com to learn more.
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