I need a Nazi! A grammar Nazi.... ;)

As far back as I can remember, I’ve used an apostrophe when I’ve talked about items I’m abbreviating in the plural form (ie. DNA’s, PC’s, CD’s, etc.) but it occured to me that it may not be right. This was how I learned it, I think, so any other way seems to look really weird. But that runs into the problem if I’m talking about an abbreviation and I have to assign a possessive to it (ie. “the PM’s proposal on beastiality was rejected as not having enough horse love”)

Which is the correct way to write about a plural number of abbreviated items and which is the correct way to write about a singular abbreviation’s possessive form?

It’s = “it is.” Its = “belongs to.” A more helpful nazi will be along soon I’m sure! :cool:

I’m not much of a grammar Nazi, but if I were talking about Callaghan, Thatcher, Major and Blair I would refer to them all as “former PMs,” while if I were talking about something that belonged to the resident of 10 Downing Street, I’d say it was “the PM’s.” In that context, I only use the apostrophe to show possession.

It’s not grammar, it’s style. Older style guides uses the apostrophe for plurals formed from abbreviations (2 PC’s), but more modern style guides eliminate it (2 PCs). Part was to avoid the issue you mention. You used to form the possessive by adding 's and have people figure things out. Now you use an apostrophe to indicate possessive and a simple lower case s to indicate plural.

And, too, consider “its”. This word is part of the same series that includes “his” and “hers”. Makes it easier to remember.

The longstanding tradition has been to form the plural of letters, numbers, symbols, and abbreviations referencing themselves with the apostrophe, as an exception to the rule that plurals are formed with just -s and possessives with -‘s or -s’. The more modern custom is to omit the apostrophe except in those rare cases where ambiguidy would result (A’s vs As, I’s vs Is). Neither is “more correct” in any abstract sense; the only reason for obligating the use of one or the other is stylistic consistency, as in use of the MLS or Chicago Style Guides.

  • Polycarp, Ubersturmbahnfurher von Englischensprache :stuck_out_tongue:

Makes sense.

That’s “Obersturmbannführer”. Or “Obersturmbannfuehrer” if you haven’t any umlauts available.

Yes, it’s more practical to say PCs for plural, and PC’s for possessive, and this has replaced the old practice of using an apostrophe for plurals too.

One reason is that our societies have begun to use a lot of abbreviations as if they were nouns in their own right. Most people have forgotten what many of the abbreviations stand for. For example, they say “ATM machine”. Ask a random selection of people what ATM or CD are short for. Will they remember?People are even forgetting what PC is short for. Do any normal people know what DNA stands for? *

People treat them as nouns and adding “s” to a noun is intuitive, so the new practice is clear and works well.

However, it is very important that the “s” be a small one, and not a capital. Recently I read an article about IT issues, in which the journalist kept referring to PCS. I knew he meant PCs, but the repeated error made the article difficult to read.

** Yes, dear, I know you do, but you are a Doper. I said normal people.*

It’s a matter of style, but I am an Apostrophe Nazi and my way is correct. To whit:

Stop using apostrophes at the end of abbreviations if the abbreviations are capital letters.

DVDs. PMs. PCs. Etc.

Then when you need to use the possessive, just add an apostrophe. Simples!

As an aside - “dos and don’ts” is correct in my world, but I think that throws some people into a tizzy.

YogSosoth, I have nothing substantive to add as Polycarp beat me to it, but I would like to point out that you misspelled bestiality. My asshole license requires it.

You can write it either DVD’s or DVDs. However, with the prevalence these days of morons using apostrophes to mean “Look out, here comes an ‘S’!”, I drop them altogether. Also, it helps avoid confusion in some cases:

1990’s AL MVP was Rickey Henderson. (one single year, possessive)
The 1990s saw the KC Royals sink into oblivion. (multiple years, not possessive)
The 1990s’ best player was Frank Thomas. (multiple years, possessive)

My favorite (and I think justified) use of the apostrophe in a plural form is The Go-Go’s. You might think they did it just so people wouldn’t call them The Go-Goss but I like to think it’s really just a contraction of the plural for go-go: go-goes.

So if all of those former PMs had jointly created the proposal, how would you refer to it – “The PMs’s proposal”?

Foolish Etruscan. Obviously it would be the PMs’ proposal, just as it would be, if written out in full, the prime ministers’ proposal.

The PMs’ proposal.

He won’t. :smiley:

I agree, though this looks like a proposal from Pre-Menstrual syndrome, which I must decline to accept.

“The Rt. Hon. Steven Harper met today with his opposite numbers from the Bahamas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Lucia. The CBC commentator said ‘The PMs’ communique was a masterpiece of saying nothing of substance but saying it very well’.” :slight_smile:

Only on the Dope…! :smiley:

The New York Times still uses apostrophes for number plurals, e.g., “the 1960’s”, and I think for abbreviations as well, but they’re just being stubborn. No apostrophe is much more common now.

That is, it’s more common in theory. In actual, non-edited text, I notice it’s more common to just use an apostrophe before a final s in any word. I think I see “its” spelled as “it’s” more often than not, and it’s even getting common to see straight plurals to be spelled with an apostrophe, especially if they end in a vowel … like, apostrophe’s.