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What is the plural of "no"?
July 13, 2007 7:38 PM   Subscribe

What is the plural of "no"? Example: You have to hear a hundred "nos" for every yes. What is the proper way to write "nos"?
posted by dzot to Writing & Language (71 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
My dictionary says that both "nos" and "noes" is acceptable, but I think I would prefer the second.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:41 PM on July 13, 2007


You did look it up, didn't you?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:42 PM on July 13, 2007


No's.

Here's a relevant article, if you're interested.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:44 PM on July 13, 2007


The Gregg Reference Manual, a common business desk reference says nos and noes are both correct, but nos is preferable. Of course, there are many different style sheets and contexts that may prefer one over the other.
posted by Listener at 7:44 PM on July 13, 2007


My OED prefers "noes" but accepts that it also may be "nos"

Excerpt from the quotations:

1960 Ess. in Crit. 10, The last general stylistic feature of the passage..was the use of negative forms. There are 6 ‘noes’ or ‘nots’ in the first 4 sentences. a1983 ‘R. WEST’ This Real Night (1984) I. ii 55 We could hear..the crisp yesses and noes with which she began each of her answers. 1999 N.Y. Rev. Bks. 15 July 16/3 At Khartoum I fought very much against the famous three nos [sc. no recognition, no negotiation, and no peace with Israel].
posted by vacapinta at 7:47 PM on July 13, 2007


Wow, you guys are fast.

I'm gonna go with the corpse on this one. I think nos and noes are very hard on the eyes. Dictionaries be damned.
posted by dzot at 7:48 PM on July 13, 2007


If you're going with strict personal preference (based on a controversial blog post) why did you ask what the "proper" way was in the question?
posted by vacapinta at 7:52 PM on July 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


Apostrophe's are not for plural's.
posted by fvox13 at 8:05 PM on July 13, 2007


i fink spelin rite is ard on the brane too langwidge be dammed
posted by wackybrit at 8:08 PM on July 13, 2007


Anyway, jokes aside, my first gut reaction to the question is "noes". At least, that's how I'd write it. It depends what you're doing though.. if you're talking about a vote, for example, you'd be more likely to go with "ayes" and "nays" even if "Yes" and "No" were the actual choices.
posted by wackybrit at 8:09 PM on July 13, 2007


Ugh, that Grauniad article linked to is horrible.

If you want to use plural apostrophes (I wouldn't recommend it), use them like this:

-- You have to hear a hundred 'no's for every 'yes'

-- dot the 'i's and cross the 't's

Orthographically a single apostrophe designates a missing letter or letters.
posted by unSane at 8:11 PM on July 13, 2007 [2 favorites]


fvox13, I think saying something like "Germany in the 1930's was&hellip" is well accepted, but I'd have to do some research to be sure.
posted by Firas at 8:11 PM on July 13, 2007


That just made me angry. I agree with fvox13, and anyone else who says Aaostrophes are not for plurals!

I'm going to listen to some CD's mixed by some DJ's to calm me down now.
posted by fiTs at 8:11 PM on July 13, 2007


Just coz it may be a distraction to my example, '&hellip' was my lame attempt at ellipses: "Germany in the 1930's was…"
posted by Firas at 8:13 PM on July 13, 2007


Apostrophe's are for plural's sometime's, if ones a grocer.

Also, really: why did you ask a question, get an authoritative answer, and decide to ignore it? You tempt the flagging as chatfilter.
posted by Tuwa at 8:16 PM on July 13, 2007


I would give a thousand nos to the use of an apostrophe. I don't care what the article says.

I could also give a thousand "no"s to signify that "no" is a quote. Even though I know that apostrophes to denote plurals is sometimes officially seen as permissible, I just can't bring myself to do it.

But, to each their own.

(OK, Languagehat, I used "their" instead of "his or her." Are you proud? And I send up the 'Hat Signal to get your input in the "plural of no" debate, perfectly willing to accept that you may disagree with me.)

posted by The Deej at 8:16 PM on July 13, 2007


It's nos. Just like that--the word being used outside of its grammatical context is italicized (or underlined). Good god please not no's. Please. You'll make Bob even angrier.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:17 PM on July 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's a book that deals with punctuation annoyances: Eats, shoots & leaves.

The usage of apostrophes for plurals drives me nuts. The book refers to it as the "grocer's apostrophe" (eg, apple's, orange's). There a store I once passed by, and it had a huge sign that said "Smoker's welcome."

I would vote for "nos" and maybe "noes," but definitely not "no's". I guess the problem people have, especially with words ending in vowels, is that it does look weird without an apostrophe to set off the "S." Another example would be, say, "bees." It almost looks like another word instead of a plural for "bee."

You always see the phrase "do's and don'ts" but technically it should be "dos and don'ts" right?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:23 PM on July 13, 2007


I use quotes to make it easier on the eyes:
You have to hear a hundred "no"s for every "yes".
dot the "i"s and cross the "t"s
"do"s and "don't"s

Quotes are appropriate for all of those examples.
Apostrophes? Ugh. No way.
posted by Melinika at 8:36 PM on July 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


OK, I just want to clarify here: you were given several correct answers backed by reputable sources, but in the end you just wanted one random hack on the internet to agree with your incorrect choice? I feel like you're misunderstanding the whole concept of asking a question.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 9:15 PM on July 13, 2007


Melinika: I'm not sure that quotes are appropriate. They are used to denote a direct quote from a source, whereas apostrophes basically serve to tell the reader to not parse their contents in the same context as the words of the surrounding sentence (at least, from what I've seen).

I'd vote for no apostrophe at all, but if it rubs you the wrong way, unSane's answer also works.
posted by invitapriore at 9:17 PM on July 13, 2007


This is similar to the UK vs US grammar question, but the only time I see single quotation marks is on the internet. In (American) newspapers, magazines, or books, it's always double, direct quote or not.

The only exception I can think of is newspaper headlines.

And I don't think using quotation marks to set off plurals works either. I'm pretty sure it would still be "nos" rather than "no"s.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:25 PM on July 13, 2007


I was always under the impression that the only time that apostrophes are permissible for pluralizing was when you're pluralizing a letter, or a symbol of some kind---such as the number of t's and a's in this sentence.

However, I have to admit that I prefer saying that this paragraph has only two 'z's in in than two z's.

I blame my mathematical background. We're probably one of the few disciplines that requires semi-regular pluralizing of symbols.
posted by vernondalhart at 9:50 PM on July 13, 2007


This is similar to the UK vs US grammar question, but the only time I see single quotation marks is on the internet. In (American) newspapers, magazines, or books, it's always double, direct quote or not.

I'm not sure, by your first sentence, if you're trying to ask a question, but if you are.. yes, American English tends to prescribe a " ' ' " ordering of quotation marks, whereas British English is ' " " ' (for main quotes and inside quotes respectively in each case).
posted by wackybrit at 9:55 PM on July 13, 2007


One wouldn't write yes's, so one shouldn't write no's. The article that the corpse linked to is wrong.

Marking it as the correct answer is, to me, a glowing neon billboard that reads "do not bother to answer any more of my questions".
posted by solid-one-love at 10:08 PM on July 13, 2007


David Crystal is not a hack. But he's making a very different argument in that piece, from a very different position: i.e. he's writing about descriptive rather than prescriptive linguistics.

The proper way (prescriptive) is 'nos' or 'noes'. But you appear to have changed your question to a descriptive one. In which case, you might consider spelling the plural of 'no' as 'twizzlebonk', since that looks pretty cool.
posted by holgate at 10:19 PM on July 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would write: a thousand "no" answers for every "yes."
Avoid pluralizing "no" altogether.
posted by ctmf at 10:26 PM on July 13, 2007


This is pissing me off. If you are writing for work and you care about your job, if you are writing for school and you care about your grades, if you are writing on the Internet and you care about the opinions of intelligent and educated people, please DO NOT do what you just said you would do. There are times to damn grammar and punctuation rules, but this is not one of them. There is no better way than misuse of the apostrophe to telegraph uneducated illiteracy, and the idea that you would do it intentionally makes me quake.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:35 PM on July 13, 2007 [3 favorites]


So it seems like the nays have it.
posted by jewishbuddha at 12:45 AM on July 14, 2007 [3 favorites]


Since we're at the point of pure personal preference, I'll weigh in with "noes."

For the love of baby Jesus, do not use an apostrophe to designate things other than contractions or posessives. Not only does it look ugly, it makes you look like an uneducated moron. (and I mean that in the most polite way possible at 4am after a night of drinking)

Did people stop watching Sesame Street after I grew out of it? Did Schoolhouse Rock stop coming on? If this were a vBulletin board, I'd throw in a :rolleyes:.
posted by wierdo at 2:15 AM on July 14, 2007


Just another data point in this - in British & Australian English, the single quote ' is not always an apostrophe. Eg. She asked, "Who wrote the words to 'The Star-Spangled Banner'?" (Ref: p149 Public Relations Writing: Form and Style)
posted by b33j at 2:56 AM on July 14, 2007


Apostrophe's are not for plural's.

If only it were that simple, fvox13.

To pluralize a word itself (any word), the apostrophe is not only correct, it is necessary.

For example, I could write, "There were two word's in that sentence," and I wouldn't be lying, but to claim there were "two words" would be totally wrong. It's probably better to avoid the whole problem, though, and put something like, "I wrote word twice."

It's a rule, people! (It also applies to numerals and acronyms.)

For most school-aged children this is a very confusing distinction, so it's very rarely taught. Things not learned in childhood carry over into adulthood. Hence all the -- ahem -- incorrect answers in this thread.
posted by Reggie Digest at 4:24 AM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


That said, 'no' (pl. noes) and 'yes' (pl. yeses) are special cases, in that they are not only negative and affirmative responses, but are also nouns whose definitions are "a negative/affirmative response."

Which is to say, you'd write, "345 noes and 765 yeses," unless you had sense enough to use yeas and nays.
posted by Reggie Digest at 4:35 AM on July 14, 2007


Just get the Chicago Manual of Style and a Dictionary and save the time that all these people with personal opinions on spelling are wasting. Including yourself.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 5:21 AM on July 14, 2007


The Chicago Manual on Plurals:
5.14 "Because exceptions abound, a good dictionary is essential for checking the correct plural form of a noun."

5.17 "Some nouns ending in o take an s . . . . But others take an es . . . . There is no firm rule for determining whether the plural is formed with s or es.

The manual only accepts apostrophes for plurals when used in conjunction with lower case letters (t's) and abbreviations with two or more interior periods (M.A.'s). However dates and numerals do not take apostrophes (1990s).

The key, I believe, is that apostrophes are only needed when they are necessary for avoiding confusion. Notice that no one will take noes to be anything but the plural form of the word no. So, the apostrophe is not needed.
posted by oddman at 5:53 AM on July 14, 2007


"For general matters of spelling, Chicago recommends using Webster's Third New International Dictionary and its chief abridgment Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

If more than one spelling is given, or more than one form of the plural..., Chicago normally opts for the first form listed, thus aiding consistency."
posted by lucia__is__dada at 6:17 AM on July 14, 2007


Oh, how I love a good grammar fight.

I'm 100% in favor of using correct grammar in nearly every context, and I cringe when I see haphazard apostrophe usage, but grammatically-correct sentences are sometimes too "powerful." It's all about context. For example: "F* you and the horse in on which you rode" loses something in its propriety, no? In the song "Pretty Noose," by Soundgarden, there's the line: "And I don't like what you got me hangin' from." If said in a grammatically-correct way, it would be: "And I don't like that from which you have me hanging." It just doesn't work...

But I digress.

I know this isn't a direct answer to your question, but when I'm confused about things like this, and if the correct answer is seemingly impossible for me to find, I just restructure the sentence. Several people have suggested the same, so I guess I vote with them.

I may write (and in another example of how context is a factor, I'm omitting certain quotation marks to avoid confusion):
You have to hear a hundred "No" answers for every "Yes."

Or maybe:
For every person who says "Yes," you'll hear a hundred who say "No."

Or:
You'll have to hear a hundred people say "No" before you hear one say "Yes."
posted by NYScott at 6:54 AM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


I really liked the David Crystal article. He reminds me a little of my grandfather (an English prof) who once gruffly told me that the rule NYScott refers to as awkward was garbage foisted on us by improperly educated English teachers who had translated it from the Latin and applied it to English.

And, while I agree with dzot that no's is more visually clear than nos or noes, I feel the need to point out that the article does not actually argue in support of that spelling. After pointing out the three original exceptions made by 19th century printers (none of which include "no's"), he discusses the case of nouns ending in "o":

In terms of modern orthographic practice, potato's is of course wrong. It is not a standard English spelling, and if people want to be perceived to be educated they need to learn it.

The point of the article is not to argue for or against particular non-standard uses, but to argue against the judgemental scorn heaped on the heads of those who use these non-standard spellings:

But if they have not learned it, then something has gone wrong with this aspect of their education. The system has let them down, and they have, in effect, been left with a literacy handicap.

I would just like to add that using apostrophes to pluralize abbreviations has always seemed to me to fit perfectly with the contraction rule, because one creates a contraction by adding an "s": it is Disc Jockeys not Disc Js, so DJ's contracts the "ockey".
posted by carmen at 7:38 AM on July 14, 2007


Also, really: why did you ask a question, get an authoritative answer, and decide to ignore it? You tempt the flagging as chatfilter.

Amen. Jesus Christ, this kind of thing pisses me off.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate
, the standard reference in the U.S., says "noes or nos" (the order implies that the first is preferred but both are OK). The version with the apostrophe is mindbogglingly illiterate. (Just to preempt ignorant snarks: I am a descriptivist when it comes to spoken usage and written versions of it, but this is a question about proper punctuation, and there is no descriptivism when it comes to that—the only context in which the question even makes sense is that of dictionaries and style manuals. And when I say "style manuals," I mean things like Chicago, not idiots like Lynne Truss.)

Reggie Digest: Please do not attempt to answer questions you have no clue about.

OK, Languagehat, I used "their" instead of "his or her." Are you proud?

Yes! Good for you!

posted by languagehat at 7:40 AM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


Mindboggingly illiterate hack, here. Dzot: I stand by answer-- just like I think the plural of "do" is "do's" -- but I should've added a caution. If this is for professional writing, stick to the style guide your company / editor / boss says you should use.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:30 AM on July 14, 2007


It's a rule, people!

Um.

There's no official English Language Academy which dictates grammatical rules and promulgates new uses and definitions, though there are various academic bodies that have created guidelines for things like citations and punctuation for their specific users; in an American university you might be using APA for one class and Chicago for another.

People can, and will, say whatever they want, and over time, it either becomes accepted or it doesn't - our language is ruled mostly by convention, not fiat. There are certain contexts when using a word like "lite" is more acceptable (a box of frozen turkey lasagna) and less acceptable (a thesis on something other than frozen food labeling conventions). But is it always acceptable or never acceptable? No - it's a gradient, and acceptability depends on who your audience is at the time.

The "Oxford American Dictionaries" tool on the OSX Dashboard and the American Heritage Dictionary Fourth Edition (which I bought with the help of this thread and which is awesome) both say "noes." But do I suggest that this is the only answer? No, only the most accepted among the luminous linguistirati consulted in their compilation. Dictionaries and style guides are records, not recipes, and if in 500 years things have changed, people will look back in amazement at those weirdos who used a superfluous e in the plural of no.
posted by mdonley at 8:37 AM on July 14, 2007


I know there are some style guides (NYT I think being the big one) that would probably suggest No's, like they'd suggest A's, B's, etc. However, since many prescriptivists simply cannot distinguish between this and the useless grocer's apostrophe (raisin's as plural of raisin for example) this is a dangerous choice.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:20 AM on July 14, 2007


To pluralize a word itself (any word), the apostrophe is not only correct, it is necessary.
That is so mind-bogglingly wrong that I simply cannot believe I read it. That may be the rule for the guy punching-in the data for the crawler on the Walgreens sign on the corner ( candy bar's - 50¢ ), but that's only because he hasn't completed his GED yet.

And "noes" is the correct plural of "no".
posted by Thorzdad at 9:25 AM on July 14, 2007


Argh, I clicked through on this because something was marked as best answer, and then I read the "best answer" and it's totally wrong.

The apostrophe never marks a plural in standard written English. Full stop. It's used all the time in colloquial English and that usage is slowly becoming codified; the NYT's use of apostrophe in acronyms being a very visible example. But if you're asking a question about pedantic correctness, the apostrophe has no place in a plural.

And no, Reggie Smith, you don't write the sentence
There were two word's in that sentence.
If you have to write something that tortured with only punctuation marking the weird self reference, you'd write
There were two "word"s in that sentence.
posted by Nelson at 9:32 AM on July 14, 2007


You're all wrong.

It's yesses and nose.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:35 AM on July 14, 2007


I stand by answer

No comment.

The apostrophe never marks a plural in standard written English.

This is not technically true, but it's a useful oversimplification.

Seriously, dzot, could you un-mark that ridiculous non-answer? It's seriously annoying everyone who knows anything about the subject.
posted by languagehat at 9:35 AM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


There were two words in that sentence.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:59 AM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is also a good resource on the topic.

Here is a discussion on a related issue.

My vote goes with "nos" or sometimes the meme use of "noes".

Must leave now...apostrophe abuse offends my delicate sensibilities.
posted by fuse theorem at 10:13 AM on July 14, 2007


This is also a good resource on the topic.

That is not "a good resource on the topic," it is the website for the "Apostrophe Protection Society," a crackpot organization that is exactly as good a resource as any random blog you happen upon. The only good resources on this topic are dictionaries and (professional) style manuals. Proper style is not a ninja battle won by the person with the most indignation.
posted by languagehat at 10:39 AM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]


To pluralize a word itself (any word), the apostrophe is not only correct, it is necessary.

yes, true, for uneducated idiots.

it is Disc Jockeys not Disc Js, so DJ's contracts the "ockey".

wrong. that is not a contraction, (where is the apostrophe that contracts the isc? should it not be D'J's by your reasoning then?) it's an acronym. but then, see above re: uneducated idiots. it should be DJs, or deejays.

apostrophe-s is possessive so stop the abuse of using it to pluralize.
posted by violetk at 10:47 AM on July 14, 2007


Seriously, dzot, could you un-mark that ridiculous non-answer? It's seriously annoying everyone who knows anything about the subject.
posted by languagehat


Seconded. Thirded. Whatevered.

I can only agree with the rare use of pluralizing symbols and individual letters, but I would find a different way to phrase it, if at all possible.
posted by The Deej at 11:28 AM on July 14, 2007


There's a book that deals with punctuation annoyances: Eats, shoots & leaves. ... You always see the phrase "do's and don'ts" but technically it should be "dos and don'ts" right?

From Eats, Shoots & Leaves, p. 45:
8 It also indicates plurals of words:
What are the do's and don't's?
Are there too many but's and and's at the beginning of sentences these days?
posted by Many bubbles at 11:41 AM on July 14, 2007


Yeah, as many have said, you've marked the wrong answer as the right answer.

The Guardian is flat-out wrong: 1990s, MAs, and nos are punctuated as I've done, not as the Guardian does.

Unmark the wrong answer, and mark one of the many correct ones, please.
posted by oaf at 12:19 PM on July 14, 2007


From Eats, Shoots & Leaves, p. 45

As I said earlier: when I say "style manuals," I mean things like Chicago, not idiots like Lynne Truss. Truss is not an expert in any sense whatever; she is a comedian who was asked to write a funny book on punctuation and (understandably) was happy to take the money. Anyone who relies on her deserves the mockery they get.
posted by languagehat at 12:30 PM on July 14, 2007


That is not "a good resource on the topic," it is the website for the "Apostrophe Protection Society," a crackpot organization that is exactly as good a resource as any random blog you happen upon.
Dear languagehat, did you take anything more than a cursory look at the site? Was there something about it that you found particularly erroneous or offensive? Because if not, whatever. Just because it has a somewhat frivolous name doesn't mean it can't be taken seriously.

The person behind the site is a former newspaper editor and would seemingly have some authority on the subject. I still recommend the site as a relatively simple and fun guidance tool.
posted by fuse theorem at 12:35 PM on July 14, 2007


I don't think you see what I did there... I was only pointing out what I thought was an amusing juxtaposition.
posted by Many bubbles at 1:01 PM on July 14, 2007


it is Disc Jockeys not Disc Js, so DJ's contracts the "ockey".

wrong.


You've rather missed the point of the "seemed to me" part of the sentence. But you've nicely illustrated the type of attitude that the linguist David Crystal was objecting to in his article.
posted by carmen at 1:07 PM on July 14, 2007


As I said earlier: when I say "style manuals," I mean things like Chicago, not idiots like Lynne Truss.

Chicago says you can do either "yesses and noes" or "yes's and no's" (7.14), so that doesn't really settle things.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:05 PM on July 14, 2007


Me: To pluralize a word itself (any word), the apostrophe is not only correct, it is necessary.

Thorzdad: That is so mind-bogglingly wrong that I simply cannot believe I read it. That may be the rule for the guy punching-in the data for the crawler on the Walgreens sign on the corner ( candy bar's - 50¢ ), but that's only because he hasn't completed his GED yet.

Okay, I don't believe you read it either. THE WORD ITSELF. Not the actual thing it signifies. The signifier. The arrangement of letters on the page. The word itself. (You see why this doesn't get taught? If you -- GED and all -- don't get it, imagine how fun it wouldn't be to try to explain this to a classroom full of fifth graders.)

And "noes" is the correct plural of "no".

Yes, as I mentioned in my second comment. Seriously, Thorzdad, before you go calling things "mind-bogglingly wrong," perhaps you should, I dunno, de-boggle your mind first?

(And yes, I meant "It's a rule" in the only way rules of language -- or law, or morality, or whatever -- can exist: tenuously. They're still rules though, while they last.)
posted by Reggie Digest at 3:07 PM on July 14, 2007


The person behind the site is a former newspaper editor and would seemingly have some authority on the subject.

Nope. Newspaper people have no special insight into the workings of language; all they know is what they've been told by people they considered fonts of wisdom, like grizzled old reporters and editors. Their "rules" of language are collections of prejudices and misunderstandings, just like most people's. You can clearly see the operation of prejudice and misunderstanding in "rule" 3: "Apostrophes are NEVER ever used to denote plurals!" Sorry, pal, that's your fantasy, and anyone who takes it as gospel is the blind being led by the blind.

I still recommend the site as a relatively simple and fun guidance tool.

Simple, yes. Fun, why not, if that's your idea of fun. Guidance? Not if you have any sense.

Chicago says you can do either "yesses and noes" or "yes's and no's" (7.14), so that doesn't really settle things.

Right, but when Chicago waffles, it's an authoritative waffle, and you're justified in going either way. Lynne Truss is just pulling things out of her ass.

THE WORD ITSELF. Not the actual thing it signifies. The signifier. The arrangement of letters on the page. The word itself.

You can repeat yourself all you like. You still don't know what you're talking about. To take your example, "There were two word's in that sentence" is illiterate. If you're talking about the word word, you have to revamp the sentence to something like "There were two instances of [the word] word in that sentence" (the bracketed addition isn't necessary but makes it clearer). Note that if you read your version aloud, it cannot carry the meaning you want it to carry. This is an indication that it is a bad sentence.
posted by languagehat at 3:31 PM on July 14, 2007


...you're justified in going either way.

Then why is it "mindbogglingly illiterate" to choose the version with the apostrophe?

To take your example, "There were two word's in that sentence" is illiterate.

Do you feel that way only about the word "word's"? The mildly-controversial Words into Type has the example of "I used too many and's" (p. 478). I'm curious what you think of that.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:43 PM on July 14, 2007


I don't like it, but since you've found a source in an actual usage manual, I withdraw my overheated accusations of illiteracy. As for Chicago, they don't say you can do this with just any word; 7.14 says:
Words and hyphenated phrases that are not nouns but are used as nouns form the plural by adding s or es. To avoid an awkward appearance, an adjustment in spelling (or sometimes an apostrophe) may been needed.
Their only example of the latter is "maybe's"; they then say: "yesses and noes (or yes's and no's, especially if maybe's is also used." They're not exactly clear on when this is justified (this is an unfortunately not uncommon problem with Chicago), but it certainly doesn't apply to word.
posted by languagehat at 3:53 PM on July 14, 2007


Thank you for your withdrawal, languagehat. May your fez never need reblocking, your bearskin be flea-free... (I'll stop myself now.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:08 PM on July 14, 2007


You've rather missed the point of the "seemed to me" part of the sentence.

just because you have qualified it with "seems to me" still does not make it right.
posted by violetk at 4:34 PM on July 14, 2007


I didn't say it was right. I said it always seemed to me to make sense. Something can seem right and yet and be wrong, or it can be right for one reason and seem to be right for another. I mentioned it because the linked article noted that using an apostrophe to make contractions plural was one of the three original exceptions to 19th century publishing rules about apostrophes. It tickled me that this thing that had always seemed right to me had some origins in written conventions.

I seriously don't get the vitriol here.
posted by carmen at 5:04 PM on July 14, 2007


The Chicago entry is now vexing me. They clearly, as Lucia_is_dada pointed out, defer to authoritative dictionaries. Authoritative dictionaries clearly, as Languagehat points out, clearly indicate that noes or nos is the proper plural from of no. So, why the heck would Chicago waffle, ever so slightly, there at the end?

Perhaps, they just wish to grant their readers license to be consistent with maybe's. But, frankly, I just don't see why this is necessary.

In any case, I suppose that if your writing something that contains both maybe's and noes, you may use no's instead, for reasons of style. Nevertheless it seems that unless you have this, or a similar, overarching style concern, then noes, or the poor cousin nos, is the proper way to form the plural of no.
posted by oddman at 9:03 PM on July 14, 2007


So, why the heck would Chicago waffle, ever so slightly, there at the end?

Just to be a pain, I propose that no's is simply a contraction of noes - the apostrophe is denoting a missing letter.

Everyone gets to have their cake and eat it too. :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 11:35 PM on July 14, 2007


For what it's worth, from the Allyn and Bacon handbook:

"We avoid the confusion [of pronunciation] by adopting a different convention to form the plurals of letters, symbols, and so on."

The most relevant example is "The frequent in's and with's reduced the effectiveness of his presentation." With "in" and "with" italicized.

But with proper names, they keep the italicization but drop the apostrophes to avoid implying they're possessives ("Three Franks and two Maudes").

Of course, you often can't italicize online, so I'm not sure what the proper way to do it would be, I suppose with single quotes. But according to A&B anyway, apostrophes actually are acceptable in this case.

That also goes for plurals of numbers, acronyms, and punctuation symbols, but the apostrophe is optional.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 4:01 PM on July 15, 2007


I seriously don't get the vitriol here.

I think it's because the asker marked a wrong answer as correct based on an incorrect preconceived notion. No's is, at best, variant. It's certainly not the most correct way.

It's about as correct as saying the proper way to pluralize the German word Gruß is to write Gruesze. While it can be interpreted as a correct spelling, and does represent the correct sounds just as much as Grüße does, it's markedly abnormal.
posted by oaf at 6:03 PM on July 15, 2007


If I could add anything to the surfeit of correctness inspired by this thread it would be that the character ' is a prime, so if you y’all truly want to be on the winning team, an actual ’ will probably seal the deal.
posted by ads at 7:20 PM on July 15, 2007


Bear in mind that words gain associations, and "noes" is so steeped in the swamp of internet memehood that it will instantly bring up those associations for those in the no know.

Of course, if you aren't writing to that audience, and you can keep from feeling as though you're typing LOLcats.... *shrug*
posted by Many bubbles at 9:24 PM on July 15, 2007


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