The Template

Every week, I maintain THE TEMPLATE, an award-winningWinner of the 2015 Plank Center Award (public relations org.) for commitment to mentorship. blog that's been viewed more than 1.5 million times by people all over the world. In every column, I provide step-by-step instruction to help you become a stronger communicator. Like I always say, "Write well, open doors!"

The #1 Mistake People Make with Plural Words

Pick a news article, any news article, and you will find examples of plural words done correctly.

I went to Google News and clicked on the first story I found. It’s from The Washington Post and discusses Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. The headline: “So Hillary Clinton wants debate moderators to ask about abortion, all of a sudden?”

Notice how the word is “moderators” and not “moderator’s.”

That’s because when you make a singular word plural, you add an “s” but no apostrophe. Exception: a word like “alumnus” becomes “alumni.”

I don’t know when the apostrophe situation began, but I see the error all the time. Someone will write  on Facebook, “So excited for all the concert’s this summer!”

Nope. Incorrect. It’s “concerts.” Always has been.

We use apostrophes to show possession. For an example, check out the opening line of the news article:

“Hillary Clinton complained during Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate in New York that none of the moderators’ questions in any of the nine primary debates have focused on abortion.”

Here, the questions belong to the moderators. They are possessive and require an apostrophe. If there was only one debate moderator, it would be moderator’s questions.

But again, in the article’s headline, moderators is a plural word with no possession. So it remains moderators with no apostrophe in sight.

Website Content Example — “About Us” section

To drive home the point about plural word’s…

…did you catch the typo?…it’s “drive home the point about plural words“…

here’s a mock “About Us” section for the Acme Corporation website (fictitious), which sells used sports equipment in the Dallas-Forth Worth area.

A great “About Us” section has three parts.

Part 1: Opening line that grabs the reader’s attention

Part 2: 4-5 sentences that go into detail on your services

Part 3: Closing line that explains why you love the work you do

The “About Us” description (roughly a paragraph in length) is similar to my template for a strong LinkedIn profile summary.

Here’s what the “About Us” could look like for Acme Corporation.

(Part 1) Basketballs, soccer balls, lacrosse sticks — even complete disc golf sets. You need it, we got it.

(Part 2) At Acme Corporation, we have the largest selection of used sports equipment in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Since 1987, we have provided high-quality gear so people can stay active and play the games they love. We have seven locations across DFW including our 22,000 square foot superstore in North Dallas. If you’re looking for  a unique item, visit our online product directory or give us a call. We are the region’s premier athletic source.

(Part 3) At Acme, we believe sports are central to a healthy lifestyle. Get out and play!

Plural word breakdown

Plural words included that don’t contain apostrophes:

  • basketballs (not basketball’s)
  • soccer balls (not ball’s)
  • lacrosse sticks (not stick’s)
  • disc golf sets (not set’s)
  • games (not game’s)
  • locations (not location’s)
  • sports (not sport’s)

Phrase that does require an apostrophe:

  • region’s premier athletic source (because region is possessive)

“About Us” breakdown

You might think, “That’s not a very long ‘About Us’ section.” You’re right — it’s not. People are busy and only need the quick summary on an “About Us” page. You can absolutely go into greater detail on an “Our History” page and provide a link at the bottom of an “About Us” description.

Again, in the “About Us” section, tell people who you are (Part 1), what you do (Part 2) and why you love what you do/why your work makes others better (Part 3).

And please, keep the apostrophes out of plural word’s.

Whoops. Words.


Any other questions on plural words?

Share below!

Featured photo: Karyn Christner (Flickr)


comments powered by Disqus