Apostrophes in forming plurals

In English, there are three primary ways of forming plurals:

  1. Adding s, as in dogs and cats.
  2. Adding es, as in peaches.
  3. Adding an apostrophe and s, used in forming the plurals of letters, as in t‘s.

Of course, there are some irregular words that do not comply with any of the above rules, such as goose and its plural geese, and moose and its plural moose.

Ann's WigsWhat seems to be the most common error involving the formation of plurals is the use of an apostrophe and s for forming the plurals of regular words. The apostrophe is only correct when forming the plurals of letters and dates. For any other words, it is incorrect. Thus, writing the plural of apple as apple’s–instead of apples–is considered poor English and should be avoided. Of course, keep in mind that apostrophes do serve a couple of other purposes, one of which is to show possession. In such a case, using an apostrophe to write the apple’s peel would be completely correct.

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Commas & semicolons with however (and other conjunctive adverbs)

When combining two sentences into one compound sentence, a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet) are used.

Example 1: The festival was to be held today, but it was canceled because of the rainy weather. (comma and coordinating conjunction)


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Commas in direct address

I often receive e-mails that begin with the following greeting: “Hi Rachel.” Although this is certainly a friendly way to begin a letter, it violates one of the many comma rules: Always use a comma when directly addressing someone/something, regardless of whether the direct address is at the beginning or end of the sentence. If the direct address is in the middle of a sentence, use a pair of commas to set off the direct address.


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This is a hyphen: –

This is a dash: —

A common mistake is referring to a hyphen as a dash, or using a hyphen within a sentence when there should be a dash. The one difference between the two that is obvious right away is that a dash is about twice as long as a hyphen. But there is also a difference in how each functions as punctuation.

A hyphen is most commonly used for compound nouns or adjectives, like mother-in-law (noun) and old-fashioned (adjective).

A dash is often used as an interjection within a sentence. When used this way, dashes sometimes appear in pairs similarly to how commas are used in pairs to set apart nonessential descriptive phrases (appositives). When dashes are used this way, they are like interjections within a sentence.

Dashes can also be used like parentheses, or as colons before listing a series of items.

Example 1: The rain made for a cool—albeit dreary—day for outdoor activities.

Example 2: We went shopping for several items for making sandwiches—bread, peanut butter, jam, and honey.

To make the distinction between hyphens and dashes more confusing is the fact that there are two types of dashes: the em dash and the en dash

The one we usually refer to as just a dash is the em dash.

There is also the en dash (–), which is used to indicate a range, like 1–10. It is wider than a hyphen but narrower than an em dash.

Dashes vs. Hyphens


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Hyphenating self in compound words

Where's the hyphen?When the word self is used in compound nouns or adjectives like self-storage, self-sufficient, or self-respect, a hyphen is always used between self and the second half of the word.

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