My stylebook, right or wrong

March 15, 2013|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

Over at the Other Place, the blog site during the [cough] hiatus [cough], a commenter has just remarked on the formation of plurals:

You are wrong. The plural of A is As, not A's. An apostrophe for a plural is ALWAYS wrong.

Always this insistence on Right and Wrong,* and not just among the peeververein but sometimes among my fellow copy editors as well.

The formation of plurals of letters and numbers is not a rule but a convention. There are no Right and Wrong about the matter, but merely a choice of which of the current conventions to follow.

The Associated Press Stylebook says to make letters plural by adding an apostrophe and an s.The Chicago Manual of Style says to add only an s to a capital letter. The AP Stylebook makes decades plural by adding an s without an apostrophe: 1990s. The New York Times stylebook uses an apostrophe.

We are basically talking about spelling conventions, people. Arguing Right and Wrong on this point is an asinine waste of time. You might as well dispute color and colour, either of which is appropriate depending on context. Or whether it is Right or Wrong to capitalize president in references to the president of the United States in which no name is attached to the title.

One of the hallmarks of peevery, apart from adherence on bogus rules, is this dogmatic insistence that some minor convention with which the peever is familiar is binding on all writers at all times and places.

Yesterday on Twitter some eejit was insisting that St. Paddy for St. Patrick is an error, to which I replied, "Maybe you could develop a peeve about something that is actually wrong."

I may find it necessary to repeat that suggestion on other occasions.

*If Anonymous is so sure that he or she is right, why not disclose a name?


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