Grammar of verbs for nouns with "(s)"?

Subject: Grammar of verbs for nouns with "(s)"?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: Technical Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 Dec 2008 10:09:51 -0500

Tom Johnson wondered: <<In my user interface, I have a confirmation
message that says, "Success! Your meeting(s) have been deleted." The
"(s)" makes the subject singular or plural. This leaves me wondering
whether "have" is grammatically correct. I'm not even sure what the
(s) is called. Any help here?>>

Ideally, the interface should be smart enough to choose the correct
noun-verb combination (singular for one deleted meeting or plural for
two or more) based on the user's actions, but that's never gonna
happen. <g> But in defense of this suggestion, this communicates what
has happened far more clearly than the current solution: users should
be told unequivocally what happened (one item deleted or more items
deleted) to provide feedback on what they just did. I've deleted more
than one file by mistake, and would have appreciated the warning that
I didn't just delete the one file I wanted to eliminate. Why not
provide similar feedback for meetings?

The "(s)" is called an atrocity. <g> Well, perhaps that's too strong a
word. But it's lazy and inherently equivocal. If you can't persuade
the programmers to provide clear and correct feedback, at least make
the ambiguity explicit <g>: "The meeting or meetings that you selected
have been deleted." An argument could be made for deleting the word
"success", since the disappearance of the meeting from the view should
provide clearer feedback that the deletion succeeded. But I don't
suppose the word hurts.

Geoff Hart (
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
***Now available*** _Effective onscreen editing_


ComponentOne Doc-To-Help 2009 is your all-in-one authoring and publishing
solution. Author in Doc-To-Help's XML-based editor, Microsoft Word or
HTML and publish to the Web, Help systems or printed manuals.

Help & Manual 5: The complete help authoring tool for individual
authors and teams. Professional power, intuitive interface. Write
once, publish to 8 formats. Multi-user authoring and version control!

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Please move off-topic discussions to the Chat list, at:

RE: Grammar of verbs for nouns with "(s)": From: Sean Brierley

Previous by Author: Video Help System?
Next by Author: How many warnings are too many?
Previous by Thread: RE: Grammar of verbs for nouns with "(s)"
Next by Thread: Re: Grammar of verbs for nouns with "(s)"

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads