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I'm writing a technical report and must use the plural form of LASER. Seeing as it is an acronym, how does one add the 's'?

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3 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The acronym LASER describes a process, not equipment. Modern usage is lasing for the process, and laser has become an ordinary noun. So for multiple devices operating on the LASER principle: "lasers" or "LASERs". Preferably the first, without all caps.

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Thank you this is perfect –  MaxMackie Apr 12 '11 at 0:17
    
Laser sounds way cooler than light amplification by stimulated emission radiation. –  Nick Bedford Apr 12 '11 at 2:21
    
@nick: You missed an "of". But yes, that's the full name of the process or principle. And it raises the question of what making the acronym plural would mean... amplifications? radiations? I guess emissions would work, but that still doesn't convey multiple devices. No, Max definitely means laser and not LASER. –  Ben Voigt Apr 12 '11 at 2:26
    
@Ben: as you said yourself, the acronym only describes the physical process, so there is no plural form of the acronym itself. You amplify the light, whether you do it with one piece of equipment or with a thousand it doesn't matter! –  nico Jun 9 '11 at 4:50
    
@nico: Exactly right, that's why I said in my answer it's better not to capitalize. –  Ben Voigt Jun 9 '11 at 5:01
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"Laser" has long since entered the lexicon as a regular word instead of an acronym. True, it originally was an acronym for L ight A mplification by the S timulated E mission of R adiation, but that has gone the way of the horse and buggy since at least the 1970s.

The plural of "laser" is "lasers".

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  1. LASER is now almost universally spelled as a “normal” word and not as an acronym, as laser.
  2. Both acronyms and ordinary words are pluralized by adding s or es. The plural of LASER would be LASERs. The plural of laser is lasers.
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As I commented on the accepted answer, I don't really think there is a point in pluralising the acronym, as it refers to the physical process, rather than the machine. –  nico Jun 9 '11 at 7:59
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Whether you like it or not, the acronym laser (whether capitalized as LASER or not) is used to refer to the equipment, and when referring to more than one machine, it follows the normal rules for English pluralization. –  nohat Jun 9 '11 at 8:55
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I never saw LASER used for the machine. I always saw LASER used as an acronym of Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiations and laser used for the machine. –  nico Jun 9 '11 at 12:17
    
@nohat: The word that means the equipment is not and has never been an acronym. Rather it has the suffix -er, meaning "someone or something that does". Just as a lamplighter is someone who lights lamps, a laser is a device that does/causes LASER. –  Ben Voigt Jun 14 '11 at 18:24
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It doesn't appear the spelling LASER ever much currency at all: ngrams.googlelabs.com/… –  nohat Jun 14 '11 at 22:29
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