The Grammarphobia Blog

Correspondence course

Q: I’ve always thought “correspondence” was a plural noun, but if I’m referring to various forms thereof, am I to use “correspondences”? Example: “I’ve received various correspondences from different employers.” I’m sending a letter and need to get it right.

A: “Correspondence” is a singular noun for the letters and emails and so on that are exchanged by parties who communicate with one another. In ordinary English, it’s not used in the plural (“correspondences”). But “correspondents,” meaning people who correspond, is plural.

I wouldn’t say “various correspondence” or “various correspondences.” I’d simply use “correspondence,” as in, “I’ve received correspondence from different employers.”

If you want to emphasize the variety of the various pieces of correspondence, you could say “various forms” or “various replies” or “various letters” or whatever.

The plural term “correspondences” does appear in scientific, mathematical, and philosophical terminology, but in ordinary usage it’s simply “correspondence.”

Another word that stumps a lot of people is “incidence,” which is singular. It is not the plural form of the word “incident,” which is “incidents.”

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