Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

On a list of "How To" articles, should the title be "How Tos" or "How To's"?

I think "How Tos" is technically correct (no apostrophe for plurals) but it reads like "How Toss" or "How Toes".

"How To's", while incorrect (I think), seems more intuitively readable.

share|improve this question

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

They are both correct. The use of an apostrophe to form a plural of a mentioned term (which is what you would be doing here) is valid, though less commonly used than it used to be. (It's one of a few cases where apostrophes are, or have been, used to form plurals, on which you can read more here).

It is now most often seen in set phrases like "if's and but's" or "do's and don'ts" (note that the double apostrophe of don't's is normally avoided) because some people who no longer use the form do still with set phrases.

But meanwhile, the trend is increasingly against this form.

It does though have the advantage of clarity as you say, so it is arguably the superior if you have no formatting ability, or in handwriting.

If you can use formatting, then the likes of:

How To​s

Can be better than either; being even clearer that you are using "How To" as a name for a how-to guide (so it is a noun phrase rather than an adverb-preposition pair, and hence a sort of mention) and pluralising, without the rather old-fashioned use of the apostrophe in a plural.

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks Jon. Great background info (here and in the link) and good tip with the formatting. –  David HAust Feb 28 at 3:30

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.