Plurals don’t take apostrophes — it’s not that hard

August 21, 2014


I was wandering in a Target store the other day and spotted some egregious apostrophe errors in the paid-for-and-no-doubt-very-expensive signage. Here’s one:


They had no apostrophes in ‘Books’ or ‘Paperbacks’ (which is correct as they are plural forms), but somehow had thought it was necessary to add apostrophes to CDs and DVDs, which are also plurals. The error was bad enough, but the inconsistency was just as annoying.

Further along in the store they had ‘Womens’ and ‘Mens’ as well as ‘Women’s Clothing’. ‘Women’s Clothing’ is correct — the clothing belonging to or for the women, but ‘Womens’ and ‘Mens’ is NEVER correct — you can’t pluralize (if that’s a word!) a plural. The plural of ‘woman’ is ‘women’ and of ‘man’ is ‘men’, so you can only ever have ‘Women’s’ and ‘Men’s’ when they are adjectives (or perhaps implied adjectives as in ‘Women’s Clothing’); otherwise it has to be ‘Women’ or ‘Men’. Never ‘Womens’ or ‘Mens’.

Basic rules:

  • Plural form — add an -s or an -ies as appropriate; NO apostrophe
  • Possessive form — add an ‘s (or just an apostrophe in the case of words already ending in s)

Yes, there are some minor exceptions to these basic rules, but for most cases, these rules apply.


  1. BTW, when it is acceptable to use possessive forms in technical writing? Here: is it “This feature is available in Microsoft’s ABCD tool” or must it be “Microsoft ABCD tool”?
    Thank you.

  2. Hi Exotic Hadron

    You normally wouldn’t add ‘tool’ to that sort of construction nor a possessive apostrophe. Instead, you would say ‘available in Microsoft ABCD’ (e.g. ‘Microsoft Word’, ‘Microsoft Excel’, ‘Adobe Acrobat’).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: