Dos and Don'ts

Q: When writing about a list of “dos and don’ts” do you punctuate it like I just did, or does “do’s” need an apostrophe. I know it’s plural, but it looks odd to spell it “dos.” –Heidi Thomas

A: Funny you ask, as this recently came up during an editorial meeting with our managing editor, Zachary “Dr. Awesome” Petit, asking the same question. At the onset this seems pretty tricky, but the answer is fairly simple.

“Dos and don’ts” is plural, so there are no additional apostrophes needed. It’s the same as pluralizing “cats” or “dogs” or “hairy-nosed wombats.” Apostrophes are only needed for contractions (don’t, can’t, won’t, etc.) and possessives (Heidi’s question, Brian’s big head, etc.).

Even though it may look weird to leave out the apostrophes, it’s grammatically incorrect to put them in. So keep them out.

And those are the dos and don’ts of “do and don’t.”

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

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0 thoughts on “Dos and Don'ts

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  2. Annlee Ellingson

    I actually settled on "do’s," following the advice that if adding an -s could result in an existing word that would confuse your reader, use an apostrophe. Am I the only one who reads "dos" as the Windows computer programming language? 🙂 -ae

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  4. Nancy

    HI Brian,

    I have a question for your blog:

    When noting someone’s age, I have always used the word "age," as in: "My son, age 12, refuses to clean his room." It has always grated on me when people say instead, "My son, AGED 12 years…" because to me, "aged" is for cheese and wine. Now, after countless years of having "aged" foisted upon me from all sides (including the New York Times), I am starting to doubt myself.

    I still can’t stand "aged," I think its usage in this context makes no sense, and I may never be able to bring myself to change my ways even if I find out it’s actually correct… but have I been wrong all these years?