2

There's a sentence in my textbook:

My sister got A's in her final exam.

Shouldn't be As instead in this case?

Can 's also be a kind of stylish for the plural?

  • 1
    Yes, it can. Since "As" is a word, sometimes writers will "set off" the plural "s" with an apostrophe, to make it easier to read. – Andrew Dec 28 '17 at 14:27
6

This is a matter of style. In an interesting 2010 blog post that touched on this topic, one writer quoted from the style guide of the New York Times:

Use apostrophes for plurals of abbreviations that have capital letters and periods: M.D.’s, C.P.A.’s. Also use apostrophes for plurals formed from single letters: He received A’s and B’s on his report card. Mind your p’s and q’s.

But do not use apostrophes for plurals of abbreviations without periods, or for plurals formed from figures: TVs, PCs, DVDs; 1990s, 747s, size 7s.

Yet another reason to use an apostrophe in your particular example is to avoid confusing the plural As (meaning more than one A) with the adverb/conjunction as.

As for the general case (a "stylish" plural), that's probably best avoided most of the time, but rare exceptions exist. For example, I could see myself writing:

That's one of the do's on my do's-and-don'ts list

That might be justifiable, because the word dos looks more like the Spanish word for two than the plural of the word do (which is a word that isn't pluralized very often). However, I'd be willing to let a professional editor override that style choice.

I found one other grammarbook website that talked about some of these very same issues, under Rule 2b, Do not use an apostrophe + s to make a regular noun plural:

In special cases, such as when forming a plural of a word that is not normally a noun, some writers add an apostrophe for clarity.

Example: Here are some do's and don'ts.

In that sentence, the verb do is used as a plural noun, and the apostrophe was added because the writer felt that dos was confusing. Not all writers agree; some see no problem with dos and don'ts.

However, with single lowercase letters, it is advisable to use apostrophes.

Example: My a's look like u's.

The website goes on to say, "Imagine the confusion if you wrote that sentence without apostrophes. Readers would see My as look like us, and feel lost."

  • I really like this answer. Very well said, J.R. I've upvoted it! – Nick Dec 28 '17 at 21:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.