In an email exchange with Grammarphile over at Red Pen today, a question came up with regard to my spelling of “Do’s” in my sidebar.
“You cannot imagine the dithering that went on in deciding how to write out ‘do’s/dos,'” I confessed. My instinct, like hers, is to simply add an -s to make “do” plural. However, the result then would be “dos,” which could be mistaken for the computer operating system or the Spanish word for the numeral two.
Advice varies. The folks at Oxford University Press include “do” among its exceptions to the rule against using an apostrophe in plurals. They also suggest “ex’s” and “yes’s” as alternatives to “exes” and “yeses.” Yet in these two cases, I would choose the standard pluralization—i.e., no apostrophe—as I don’t see them getting confused with another word.
The more I work with language, the more I learn how malleable it can be—often there is no right answer. Just be consistent.
Oxford University Press, “Is there an apostrophe in the plural of pizza?,” Oxford University Press, http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutspelling/pizza?view=uk (accessed July 15, 2008).