Do's and don'ts (How to write it.)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by SwissPete, Aug 3, 2008.

  1. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    How would you write it?

    Do's and don'ts
    Dos and donts
    Do's and don't's

    :confused:

    Thanks
     
  2. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    What do you think, logically, SwissPete?
     
  3. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Well, since the plural of DO should be DOS (without an apostrophe), I would tend to go with dos and don'ts.
     
  4. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    That's what I would use, as well.
     
  5. hklass New Member

    Illinois
    USA English
    Agreed...Dos and Don'ts
     
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The "rule" in this situation is to use an apostrophe if it helps avoid confusion.
    I am confused by dos, so I would always write do's.
    I am not confused by don'ts, so I happily write don'ts.

    So if in some bizarre universe I had to use this expression, I would write do's and don'ts.
     
  7. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    "Here is a list of the dos and don'ts of polite dining";
    "Here are the dos and don'ts of safe driving";
    The dos and don'ts of pet care are:..."

    I can't imagine in what context this would be confusing...
     
  8. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If I see dos I think "disc operating system".
     
  9. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Here's another vote for do's and don'ts.

    I would put the apostrophe in do's for the same reason that I would write dot the i's and cross the t's - because, momentarily, "dos" would lead me to misinterpret what was written (oh, you mean "dos" as in MS-DOS?)

    I only use the apostrophe for plurals if there's a possibility of confusion without it - which is why I wouldn't use it for don'ts.
     
  10. juandiego

    juandiego SE modera

    Granada. España
    Spanish from Spain
    There's a Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros song called "Long shadow" that goes:
    The devil may care –maybe god he won’t
    Better you make sure you check on
    the do’s and don’ts


    So, I thought it was an idiom.
     
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The difference could be, once again, the difference in punctuation styles between AE and BE.
     
  12. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    It is an idiom, juandiego. It's just said more often than it's written:)
     
  13. Tim~!

    Tim~! Senior Member

    Leicester, UK
    UK — English
    Ditto, for the reasons outlined by panjandrum.

    And why I also write it in the expression "Mind one's p's and q's."
     
  14. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    I agree absolutely that the title of the thread is written correctly.

    However, confusion can arise if the two words are separated (for whatever reason). After all, what is a dos? A short night on the tiles? And what are don’ts? Donuts with a missing bit?

    Normally they’re not separated, of course. But what about why is he list of dos longer than the don’ts?
     
  15. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Using "dos" in a standalone manner might lead to confusion (with "and don'ts" in there, I'm not sure how, but I'm willing to grant that). With all due respect to the argument that it's less confusing to use the apostrophe, however, I honestly don't see how using "dos and don'ts" in any kind of reasonable context could lead anyone to becoming confused.
     
  16. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Johndot, I'm a bit confused by the "however" in your post.

    I think you're saying that the apostrophe in do's is written correctly.

    And that it's particularly helpful if the words do's and don'ts are separated, as in: why is the list of do's longer than the [list of] don’ts?

    Have I understood you correctly?
     
  17. johndot Senior Member

    English - England
    Oops, sorry Loob (and everybody); what I meant to write was “I agree absolutely that the title of the thread is written correctly by SwissPete (post #3).”

    I can’t believe I did that.
     
  18. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Do is the only word I can think of off-hand that I would pluralize with an apostrophe, so do's and don'ts. (I've had this problem before trying to pluralize the word do ~ as in "I've been to some funny do__s in my time": do in my part of the world means 'celebration, party, get-together [etc.]'. Dos looks like: (a) something un-English, namely (b) Spanish two, and (c) Portuguese of the [pl.]; and (d) does are female deer ... as in Do a deer, a female deer, Re a drop of golden sun. I'll shut up now.)
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2008
  19. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    From another thread:
    What would the plural be, then?
     
  20. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    For me, hair-dos, because the "hair" gives a sufficient clue to the pronunciation (and therefore the meaning) of the "dos".

    But I wouldn't quibble with "hair-do's", because it does remove any possibility of confusion.
     
  21. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Thanks Loob - that's my answer too.
     
  22. aminervi Junior Member

    Providence, RI
    Italian
    Hello, does anyone have access to a good old book of grammar? I am not sure if this is a big exception, but I would say that the post by swisspete #3 is correct.
    This is why:

    English and US grammar uses the apostrophe in two situations:

    1) Saxon genitive, as in "Sarah's room".
    2) As an apocope --> the remnants of a letter that dropped, as in "don't do that" = "do not do that".


    Therefore "DOS AND DON'TS" seems the most logical option, unless for some reason the plural of "do" can be "does" -- but it seems unlikely [I still have not figured out the potatos/potatoes crux, for that matter], if we take "Hair-dos" as correct.

    I hope this helps.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2008
  23. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi aminervi

    I'd say English uses the apostrophe in three situations, not two: and one of them is to clarify that a plural is being referred to and not a different (singular) word ending in "s":)
     
  24. aminervi Junior Member

    Providence, RI
    Italian
    Thanks Loob,

    then this case might be one of those in which a writer/speaker actually has two options, both correct, one of the two 'preferred'?
     
  25. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If you allow "preferred" to be an individual choice, I'm with you.

    For those with DOS deeply engrained in their brain, if you mean the plural of do, you must include an apostrophe.
    This is Loob's third situation.

    AE and BE, and various published style guides, may differ on this point. We shouldn't fall out over it :)
     
  26. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Yes:)

    This thread has touched on two phrases "do(')s and don'ts" and "hair-do(')s".

    It's possible to argue for and against the apostrophe in both of these. Personally, as I've said, I prefer do's and don'ts and hair-dos. But it's perfectly possible to argue the opposite case.

    Panj may be right that there's an AmE/BrE difference here....
     
  27. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    As usual, Her Loobescensce is correct.

    I would write "do's and don'ts" for the reason given by panjandrum and others, just as I would ask that we dispense with musty grammar tomes and mind our p's and q's.
     
  28. aminervi Junior Member

    Providence, RI
    Italian
    Thanks again, Loob, am glad I learned this one!

    I checked the Purdue university online lab [sorry, am not yet allowed to post links on this forum] and it confirms what you said (applicable both to AE and BE?):


    "The apostrophe has three uses:
    1) to form possessives of nouns
    2) to show the omission of letters
    3) to indicate certain plurals of lower case letters.





    Apostrophes are NOT used for possessive pronouns or for noun plurals, including acronyms."


    This site does not give examples, though, so my only doubt now is if "lower case LETTER" is also applicable to words... It might have gotten into usage because of the nice symmetry provided by the two apostrophes.
     
  29. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    For what it may be worth, while the grammarians slept, the lexicographers, mercifully, equivocated:

    American Heritage Dictionary

    n. pl. dos or do's


    1. A statement of what should be done: a list of the dos and don'ts of management.
     
  30. Mr.X Senior Senior Member

    Singapore
    Burmese & English (2nd Language)
    Some style guide recommand this way :

    Dos and Don'ts

    s in italic.
     
  31. hklass New Member

    Illinois
    USA English
    Looks good to me and the italic does make it seem different.
     
  32. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Italics can be a bit tricky to pull off when you're writing ~ you know, that thing you do with a 'pen'?
     
  33. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Very true, and even in print, it is very difficult to spot a single italic letter.
     
  34. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    :eek:That was like trying to read after a night out with Loob the lads, Panjo.
     
  35. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Forgive me if I've missed something but I haven't noticed that anyone has provided a sample of the phrase "dos and don'ts" in context whereby one could possibly misconstrue "dos" as DOS.

    I'm in agreement that the apostrophe could be used in the case of possible confusion but as Loob pointed out, she would probably say "hair-dos" because there can be no confusion with the use of "hair".

    Can someone point out a context where the phrase "dos and don'ts" could possibly be confusing?
     
  36. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    It's not the phrase that's confusing, Dimcl. (I'm getting a bit of deja vu back to He gave Charlie a drink;)). It's what your eye does/do's/dos when it's moving left to right across the page. If I had the sentence

    Before proceeding to bake your walnut cake, you should be aware of the dos and don'ts of culinary hygiene

    was planked down in front of me, this is how I might read it

    Before proceeding to bake your walnut cake, you should be aware of the doss and donts no don'ts so do's and don'ts of culinary hygiene.

    The stumble would only be momentary, but it would still be a stumble.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2008
  37. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    Not thinking of oats are you?
     
  38. SwissPete

    SwissPete Senior Member

    94044 USA
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    Thank you to everyone who contributed to this thread. This has been very educational.

    It seems that do's and don'ts is quite popular, although I would prefer dos and don'ts (which I intend to use when I feel contrary).
     
  39. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    As ewie said, it is not that it is in the end confusing.

    But for anyone who was brought up on DOS, I suggest that is the first thing to come to mind when reading a sentence containing dos and don'ts.
    I prefer to avoid causing my readers to hesitate, to be distracted from the message, so I wouldn't write dos. But I certainly wouldn't execute people who do.
     
  40. Porteño Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    My vote goes one hundred percent for the do's and don'ts, not that I think it likely that I would ever have to actually write it, unless it was a dialogue in a story.
     
  41. mplsray Senior Member

    I don't remember whether he addressed the question of the spelling of the expression in the text of the book itself, but a usage writer named Theodore Bernstein wrote a book called Dos, Don'ts & Maybes of English Usage (Random House Value Publishing, 1999).

    Addition: It turns out that I have written about this before in this forum. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, citing Bernstein's book as an authority, said, in its article "apostrophe":

    .
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2011

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