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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 WritersDig@fwpubs.com 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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