While writing a technical document; me and my colleague argued over the correct pluralisation within a sentence using the term 'alignment'.

The original was: "The address must have 16 byte alignment" and my colleague believed it should be '16 bytes alignment', but this just doesn't sound right to me.

The meaning behind the sentence is that the alignment should be to a spacing of 16 bytes in 'width'


and the intent means that given the above layout, the following would be invalid:


(It instead must be)


And so we can see that we must be aligned to larger 'objects' of size 16.

So the ultimate question - Which is 'more correct':

  1. "must have 16 byte alignment"
  2. "must have 16 bytes alignment"
  3. "must have 16-byte alignment"
  4. other
  • 2
    It's definite byte in the singular. For comparison, see: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/55945/… – Ronald Sole Aug 3 '18 at 10:17
  • 2
    Alignment is a red herring. The rule governs units of measure. Compare: A two-ton shark. A ten-foot ladder. A fifteen-mile journey. A twelve-inch ruler. A three-piece suit. A ninety-storey highrise. A four-door sedan. A two-byte character. A two-bit gangster. A ten-gallon hat. A two-pint carafe. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 3 '18 at 12:30

There are a couple of ways it can be expressed:

 . . . must have a 16-byte alignment.
 . . . must have an alignment of 16 bytes.

In the first sentence, 16-byte is being used adjectivally and takes a singular form. (But in either case, you shouldn't forget to use the article.)

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