Q. Greetings from New Zealand. May I please ask you what is the plural of “thesis” and whether this word is of Latin or Greek origin? Many thanks.
Q. My boyfriend and I are having a battle royal over the use of apostrophes in plural names. In his PhD dissertation he repeatedly refers to a family by the name of Wallace. When he refers to them in the plural, he insists that the correct form is “the Wallace’s,” which seems entirely incorrect to me. I hold that it should be “the Wallaces,” just like “the McDonalds” or “the McPartlands” or “the DeVitos.” He is backing up his position with the example “the G.I.s,” which he insists should be pluralized as “the G.I.’s.” Please help. This is ruining our dinner conversation!
Q. I’ve polled all the editors in the building on this, plus checked your manual. Other than rewriting the sentence entirely so it wouldn’t matter if we had “is” or “are,” no one is quite sure how to handle it. I hope you can help, wish this were a chat room. :) Is a term like “award(s)” plural or singular? To me, since the reader will “read” it as plural, it should be plural, but that’s the advertising copy editor in me. As for grammatical correctness, I don’t really know if it’s a plural word or not, since technically the “s” is only inferred, right?
Q. I am wondering if you could clarify the proper usage associated with names of sports teams and other such organizations where the name does not clearly end in a plural form. I offer as examples the NBA’s Miami Heat and Orlando Magic or the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. I think the names ought to be considered plural—for example, “The Tampa Bay Lightning have won five of their last six games against the Washington Capitals.” On page D1 of the Washington Post from November 15, 2003, in contrast, a story began with the following sentence: “The Miami Heat seemed to do everything it could to hand Friday night’s game to Washington.” . . . Perhaps the best solution is just to use the city name in such cases.
Q. Since the late 1980s, when I got my first copy of CMOS, I have understood that verbs associated with a noun used to group plural items should correspond with the singular, grouping noun. For example, “A growing number of reports has revealed . . .” Microsoft Word, however, keeps indicating a grammatical error when I follow this rule and was placated when I changed “has” to “have” in the above example. Can you please clarify who is right? Is it I or the copyeditors consulted by Bill Gates?
Q. Why do people (well-educated, high-profile people) constantly use “e-mails” when referring to more than one e-mail? The fact that the communication has been sent electronically shouldn’t affect proper usage. Isn’t it wrong to use the term “e-mails” instead of “e-mail”? We never say “mails” for multiple pieces of mail; we say “mail.” I’ve been told that I’m just too picky, but I believe that “e-mail” covers both singular and plural, same as deer, moose, fish, etc. This is getting as annoying as “that is so fun.” Our language is going downhill. Why must we lower our usage standards to meet the lowest common denominator?
Q. When I was working on my graduate degree in English, I was told by a professor that the rule had changed for plurals of numbers (written as numbers) and letters (3s rather than 3’s or As rather than A’s). For the past 15 years I have been teaching it that way. Another colleague just recently saw that rule change somewhere online. Our new textbooks, however, do not teach it that way. We are currently working on a new handbook and would like to know if the rule has been changed or not. Thanks.
Q. When using the plural of “ad,” i.e., “ad’s,” is it incorrect to use the apostrophe? The three-letter string “ads” just looks so wrong when typesetting it. Would appreciate your guidance.
Q. What is the correct ending (singular or plural) to this sentence? This moving, musical journey inspires “drummers” of all ages to follow the beat in their heart. Is it hearts? Is it beats and hearts? Is it just beat and heart? This is driving me insane! Please help!
Q. I am making a plaque which reads “Happy Holidays.” Underneath is a picture of a sled. Underneath that is “The Simmons.” Their last name is Simmons (with an s). How should it read on the plaque? The Simmons’, The Simmons’s, or just The Simmons? Thank you.