You probably know that you should avoid using apostrophes to signify that you’re writing about more than one person or thing. It’s incorrect, for example, to write “The Johnson’s are on vacation this week.” The correct version is “The Johnsons are on vacation this week.”
But there’s an exception: Plurals of numerals and single letters use apostrophes. Here are some examples:
- The 4’s in your reimbursement request look like 9’s.
- The computer turned all the x’s in the report into t’s.
- I found an envelope stuffed with 10’s and 20’s.
Using apostrophes correctly showcases you as an officer who takes writing seriously. Start today!
As a police or corrections officer, you’re going to be writing people’s names in almost every report–an easy skill for most officers until they encounter plurals. It’s easy to write down what Cynthia Santos said or did. But what if you interview the whole family? There’s already an “s” at the end of Santos.
And simpler names can also present difficulties. How do you form the plural of Smith, Clark, Patterson, and similar names?
Help is on the way…along with a memory device.
Let’s start with words (not names) that end with “s” and see how they’re done:
boss gas kiss virus witness iris
To form the plural, just add -es:
bosses gases kisses viruses witnesses irises
Now let’s do the plurals of names ending in “s.” They’re done the same way: Just add –es.
Santos Jones Reynolds Willis Thomas Lewis
Santoses Joneses Reynoldses Willises Thomases Lewises
What about ordinary names that don’t end in “s”? Well, how do you form the plural of an ordinary word? You just add “s,” of course. Names work the same way:
Smith Clark Patterson Riley Brown
Smiths Clarks Pattersons Rileys Browns
For good measure, here are two tips:
- If “Reynoldses” sounds odd to you (it does to me, even though it’s my family’s name!), just use the Reynolds family.
- NEVER use an apostrophe to mean more-than-one. Apostrophes are for “of” expressions: Mr. Riley’s car was found in an empty lot two blocks away. CORRECT