The Grammarphobia Blog

“Dos” and “don’ts”

Q: I’m writing a sales letter and wish to use the plurals of “do” and “don’t,” but the phrase “you’ll learn the dos and don’ts” looks queer. What’s the correct way to punctuate these plurals?

A: When you treat words like “do” and “don’t” as things, they become nouns and are pluralized the same as any other nouns. So, the correct plurals are “dos” and “don’ts.”

My grammar book Woe Is I included a poem to help illustrate these odd plurals:

Words to the Whys

Ups and downs and ins and outs,
Forevers and nevers and whys.
Befores and afters, dos and don’ts,
Farewells and hellos and good-byes.
Life is a string of perhapses,
A medley of whens and so whats.
We rise on our yeses and maybes,
Then fall on our noes and our buts.

I hope this helps!

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