Re: Do's and Don'ts

Subject: Re: Do's and Don'ts
From: Earl Morton <WorkgWords -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 21 Dec 1996 13:49:34 -0500

<< >I need to use the phrase "Do's and Don'ts" except that I'm not
>quite sure on how it should be written: "Dos" or "Do's".

"Do's" is often used, but I think it's a sign of creeping illiteracy:
many people, I notice, don't know the difference between a plural and
a possessive apostrophe.

<snip>

I'm dead against using an
apostrophe. It's likely to be misread, and anything that reduces clarity
should be avoided. I suppose that "Dos" might be misread as "DOS," but
the lower case letters should be enough of a guide.
>>

This is a guess, but I suspect there is so much uncertainty and difference of
opinion on this issue because English doesn't have an accepted mechanism for
handling this exact situation. The usual way to form a plural is to add an
"s." However, in this case that changes the pronunciation because when a
syllable with a single vowel ends with a consonant, the vowel is usually
short, leaving "dos" pronounced like the operating system. We instinctively
know this is not what we intend, so we try to do something to keep the
syllable from ending with a consonant, such as inserting the apostrophe or
printing it "DOs." The problems with these potential solutions are obvious:
The apostrophe makes the form look like a possesive instead of a plural, and
English doesn't normally use capital letters for this purpose.

The bottom line is that English does not provide a "correct" way. Whatever is
done must be a compromise chosen by what would hopefully cause the least
confusion. It's up to the discretion of the writer and editor. (I'd vote for
"do's.")

Earl Morton
WorkgWords -at- aol -dot- com


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