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We regularly use these "hi visibility jackets/vests":

picture of the item in question

We use them often enough to informally abbreviate it to simply "hi vis".

I am struggling as to how to pluralise such a term. In speech it sounds moderately okay to say "hi vises" but as you can see it looks terrible in writing. Any better suggestions?

Also would such a term be hyphenated?

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even if it looks terrible, shouldn't it be "hi vises"? But as you say it's informally called "hi vis" within your professional community (I assume), in written form, I feel it should be the whole term. just my opinion. – JoseK Feb 24 '11 at 12:15

A few suggestions:

  1. "Hi-vis jackets" / "Hi-vis vests". These have the most naturalness, at the cost of an extra word.

  2. "Hi-vis". In a sentence you'd write, for instance, "we got a new batch of a dozen hi-vis today". Could be somewhat awkward.

  3. Define a new abbreviation in whatever you're writing, like "HVJ" or "HVV", and write "HVJs" or "HVVs". Or even "HVs". All it takes is putting a "(HV)" after the first mention: "A hi-vis (HV) is indispensable. How many HVs does it take…" etc.

My own preference is for 1 over 3 over 2. In any case, whatever you choose, do include a hyphen: it comes from "high-visibility jacket" where "high-visibility" is a multiple-word adjective that needs a hyphen.

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It's extremely uncommon for new singular words ending in "s" to be pronounced with a "z" sound; a "proper" spelling (even though one can never say that the spelling of a new word that isn't a brand name or technical coinage is proper until it has achieved a certain critical mass of usage) would probably be the hyphenated hi-viz.

I would have pronounced "hi vis" as if it were the plural of "hi vi" if the term hadn't been explained, and I think that would be the first inclination of most readers.

The plural, if there is one, would probably be best spelled as hi-vizzes, but there's probably a better way around it -- like instructing people to wear their hi-viz gear rather than their hi-vizzes.

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I believe it should be hyphenated, hi-vis, making the plural hi-vises. I think from context it's clear that you don't mean a vise.

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Wouldn't it be more in keeping with usual English spelling to double the final 's' and get hi visses / hi-visses?

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Hadn't thought of that. It does indeed look less awful that way. – Chris Burt-Brown Feb 24 '11 at 15:45

As vises is an American English word (the plural of vise, which the equivalent of the British vice), I would use hi vis's.
If the word is preceded from an adjective, then I would write hi-vis for the singular and hi-vis's for the plural. Hi vis seems a greeting; that is the reason I would write hi-vis and hi-vis's, if I would really need to.

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@Rhodri: I am not encouraging anything. Considering the context, I am suggesting what I think it is better. For sure I would not suggest hi vises for the reason I reported. – kiamlaluno Feb 24 '11 at 13:47

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