Grammar

How Do You Make Words Plural? Not With Apostrophes!

When you write about grammar, there are certain topics you feel you must address from time to time…like how to make words plural!

I’m not sure why people insist on adding an apostrophe when they want to make words plural. But it happens all the time these days.

Here’s an example: I read a story about Jenna Bush Hager being named the new co-host of the 4th hour of NBC’s Today show. Hager, who has been an NBC News correspondent since 2009 and a frequent fill-in host, will take the place of Kathie Lee Gifford who plans to leave the show in April.

In an article about Bush Hager’s new promotion, it mentions a book she co-authored with her twin sister, Barbara Pierce Bush.

I’m sure at some point, I knew that Jenna Bush Hager was a twin, but I was somewhat surprised to read it.

But I was absolutely aggravated to see that the title of the book the sisters Bush wrote was listed as Sister’s First.

At first, I thought a word was missing: “Sister’s First what?”

I was reminded of the old Golden Book, Baby’s First Book.

That’s not what they meant to write.

To make words plural, it’s sometimes a challenge.

If you have more than one goose, you actually have geese.

If you have more than one mouse, you really are dealing with mice.

More than one deer is still called deer.

But when you have more than one sister, what you have, even if they happen to be twins, are sisters.

There’s no apostrophe.

Apostrophes indicate possessive, not plural. That’s true about 99% of the time.

There’s one occasion in which you can use an apostrophe to make words plural. Sort of. The rule actually states that you use an apostrophe when you’re making individual letters plural. A perfect example would be this old phrase:

Mind your p’s and q’s.

But even this rule has a catch: you use the apostrophe for lowercase letters only, not uppercase.

But whether it’s lowercase or all caps, the plural of sister is still sisters.

No apostrophe, no matter how you cut it.

3 Comments

  1. I’m glad to hear that it was the mistake of the writer of the article, and not of the book’s authors, publisher, or printer; egregious, but not so much glaring (and expensive) a mistake as showing up on a bookstore display!

    The most common misuse of the apostrophe I see is when the writer is attempting to pluralize a word that ends with the letter Y. I chuckle at the irony of one writing about their “study’s.” 🙂

  2. In our family, Mother’s first – always. Dad’s last (even if not all dads last long enough to rank higher). Not having read her book, though, I can only assume what the title means. She may have meant it to be “Sister is First.” I doubt it, but it also could have been meant to be a play on words – a poor play, however.

    Sometimes, grammar can be entertaining! I do agree, though, that it can also be very frustrating to the reader, and the writer, as well.

    1. In this case, the book’s title was simply listed incorrectly in the article. The book is actually called “Sisters First” with NO apostrophe. The article writer added an apostrophe that shouldn’t have been there.

      It was an easy mistake to avoid: all they had to do was Google the book or look at its cover. By adding an apostrophe, they either tried to erroneously make the word “sisters” plural or made an assumption about the intent of the title that they shouldn’t have.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.