Plural of ‘Basis of Design’

September 26, 2013

From a recent writing tip I wrote for my work colleagues (oil and gas industry)…


PB asked: Do you have any opinion on the plural of ‘Basis of Design’?  I think it should be ‘Bases of Design’, but perhaps that’s too old fashioned, as most people I talk to refer to the ‘Basis of Designs’ – but that jars with me a little!

Great question, PB!

The plural is on the word ‘basis’ not ‘design’, so you are correct – it should be ‘Bases of Design’ because ‘bases’ is the plural of ‘basis’. If you had a document called the ‘fundamental of design’ (yuck!), then the plural would be on ‘fundamental’ not ‘design’; i.e. ‘fundamentals of design’ or ‘design fundamentals’ (unless, of course, you were talking about multiple designs).

The problem is that ‘bases’ can be pronounced, read, or interpreted in two ways – ‘bases’ as in baseball, or ‘bayseez’ as in the plural of ‘basis’. Other words ending in ‘-is’ that become ‘-es’ with a ‘-seez’ pronunciation include: analysis/analyses, thesis/theses, and axis/axes. It’s all about context – if you were talking about a graph, then you would pronounce ‘axes’ as ‘ackseez’, not ‘axes’ as in the wood chopping tool. Likewise, ‘Bases of Design’ should be pronounced  as ‘bayseez’, not ‘bases.

You could avoid the issue altogether by rewording – for example, instead of ‘… the Bases of Design…’, use ‘…. the Basis of Design documents…’ thus putting the plural on ‘document’ instead of on ‘basis’. often, ‘documents’ is implied in ‘Bases of Design’, so by stating ‘documents’ the reader is clear that that’s what you mean.

(Personally, my preference would be ‘Design Basis’ as I find ‘Basis of Design’ clumsy, but I realise that ‘Basis of Design’ is commonly used and understood in the company/industry.)



  1. Yes, I vote for a rewording here because of the possibility of misinterpretation (and the inadvertant insertion of a sports metaphor).

  2. Hi

    My first thought was the use of Bases as in “baseez”. However depending on the context and or other surrounding text this may be confusing to many readers because of the word “bases” as multiple “support platforms”.

    The change to “Basis of Design documents” does not change the conundrum and place the reference to “documents” the plurality still remains with “Basis”.

    The problem exists because of the ability of the word “basis” and its flexibility of use within the English language.

    A simpler solution would be, as you state, to reword the phrase. However I would reword it to remove the word “basis” altogether and use something like “Foundation”. (Foundation of Design/Foundations of Design). Unfortunately this too has flexible use within the English language, but I believe it is easier to pluralise and would be more readily understood contextually.

    Kind regards


  3. Thanks for your thoughts, Peter. Unfortunately, this ‘Basis of Design’ term is used a LOT in the company/industry, so it’s something I can’t change.


  4. Rhonda, I agree. We see this term very often and it is one of those industry-specific terms that we do not change.

  5. […] on from my Writing Tip on the plural of ‘Basis of Design’, I’ll share a couple more questions about plurals that I’ve been asked […]

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