Subject: Re: plurals vs. apostrophes
To: None <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Greg A. Woods <email@example.com>
Date: 07/26/2000 15:32:01
[ On Wednesday, July 26, 2000 at 12:40:01 (-0500), Erich T. Enke wrote: ]
> Subject: Re: plurals vs. apostrophes
> I thought it might be from words that normally don't have plurals, such as
> computer acronyms. When someone comes across MTA for instance, how does
> one pluralize it? MTAs doesn't look right to some people because of the
> change in case, MTAS is equally bad because the S appears to be part of
> the acronym. So MTA's is introduced, giving a spacer between the acronym
> and the pluralizing s.
IMNSHO the correct plural is indeed: MTAs
To heck with the visual impact of the case difference. Why the
upper-case display of such acronyms is visually jarring in the first
place (at least to those unlike myself who have such sensitivities :-),
so why worry about the 's'!?!?!?!
In any case the use of an apostrophe for pluralisation is wrong and it's
not just visually ugly but it's also semantically wrong. It does imply
posession and such incorrect usage leads to unnecessary difficulty for
The only time the apostrophe rule is ever broken, to the best of my
knowledge, is in "its" and "it's".
Now, just to clarify, Webster's Third New International Dictionary of
the English Language, Unabridged (but publised in America by Americans)
15.1 nouns formed from abbreviations.
Abbreviations formed by literation and used as nouns add either
appostrophe and -s or MORE [emphasis mine] often just -s.
and they then go on to show some examples with both alternates:
Note that from a logical point of view (though I'm not trying to argue
that English is a logical language!) the lower-case 's' suffix helps in
the case of abbreviations that end in 'S' too (though not with the
pronunciation of course! ;-).
I paged through my copy of The Oxford English Reference Dictionary (2nd
ed., 1996), which only gives plural forms when the are non-standard,
hoping to find an abbreviation, but of those I found none would
ordinarily be used in their plural sense. This leads me to believe they
follow the more common use described by Webster's and simply append a
lower-case 's' character to form the plural of an abbreviation used as a
Greg A. Woods
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