Grammar check – dos and don’ts or do’s and don’ts?

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How do you feel about adding that apostrophe to dos, even though it’s technically wrong and only there to make things look better?

I mean, if you add an apostrophe to do’s, to be consistent, you’d need to an extra apostrophe to don’ts so that it looks like:

do’s and don’t’s

That looks weird. And on this everyone seems to agree. But the grammar and style experts disagree about that extra apostrophe.

The AP Stylebook says do’s and don’ts. We happened to have a copy here, so I looked it up.

The Chicago Manual of Style recommends dos and don’ts (I don’t have a copy to check and you need an online subscription to access).

The rule across the board is whichever style you prefer, stick with it. If you need more info, here’s a post from vocabulary.com about the dos and don’ts on do’s and don’ts.

Which do you prefer? I prefer dos and don’ts. It seems more pure to me. And by the way, is it correct to say more pure or purer? I’ll tackle that on a different day!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

30 thoughts on “Grammar check – dos and don’ts or do’s and don’ts?

  1. I would personally use do’s and don’ts. Dos seems like it would trip people up thinking it’s a typo.
    I’m going to say purer, though that does sound weird. I thought the rule was one-syllable words get the -er, -est ending. Certainly people would say purest. I’m also confused by people sometimes following and sometimes not following the rule I learned in school of having city, state, rest of the sentence. Seems unnecessary to have the comma after the state, but I thought that was proper. Even a professional writer I follow doesn’t do that, I noticed, but another (non-professional) one does. So, head-scratching over here. I enjoy the grammar discussion, however, so thanks!

    1. Yes, the rules are not always clear, are they? As for me – I still feel like Dos is the way to go, but I admit people would think it’s a mistake. I guess it’s all about being consistent. Thanks for reading!

  2. I prefer apostrophes on both. It looks consistent no matter what the style manuals say. Also, “dos” is Spanish for the number two. Now we wouldn’t want that, would we! 🙂

  3. Apostrophes are meant to represent a missing letter (as in isn’t where the apostrophe stands in for the missing o of is not), or a possessive (except in its). They aren’t used with plurals. Since “dos” and don’ts” don’t have missing letters (well, okay, the O in don’t) and are in fact plurals, my grammar instinct says to omit apostrophe for these words.

    1. I’m all for avoiding grammar pitfalls, Jill! I do like more pure, but as it says in another comment, how can something that’s already pure be more pure? Thanks for reading!

  4. It is far more pleasurable to consider grammar questions than the current state of world affairs! I come down on the side of do’s because dos sounds like it has to do with computers, which immediately confuses my brain. I am entirely willing to cast aside the issue of the extra apostrophe in don’ts. Thus have I spoken 🙂

  5. Interesting. I’m grammar conscious (English is my second language and I learned the rules from the ground up). Technically, do’s (since there’s no possession) is a contraction for “do is” which is really weird. 🙂

  6. I prefer do’s (even Grammarly tells me it’s wrong) and don’ts. Re pure or purer? If something is pure, how can it be ‘purer?’ Reminds me of a Russian employee many years ago: “Giselle, that’s worser!”

    1. Hi John. I can still picture my 8th grade English teacher drumming apostrophe rules into our heads. That’s why I vote for dos and don’ts. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  7. This is such a great question! I’ve actually rewritten something to avoid having to use dos and don’ts in writing, since it looks weird to me either way. 🙂 But if I must, I think I’d go with dos and don’ts, even though they seem strange (and yes, dos look like #2 in Spanish). They’re not possessive, so extra apostrophes would bother me!

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