English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am making a list to my children telling them what are some of the things they should do and shouldn't. Under one side is "do", and the other is "don't".

Would I write "do's" and "don't's"?

Cause the two apostrophes look horrendous, and I'm not sure that is correct or not. How is it written?

share|improve this question
I thought it would become "dont's"? – user51131 Sep 4 '13 at 1:42
up vote 16 down vote accepted

The following nGram suggests that dos and donts, do's and don'ts, and do's and don't's are all used, but it appears that do's and don'ts takes the cake.


A quick search suggested that capitalizing all but the s is also fairly popular:

DO's and DON'Ts

share|improve this answer
"dos and don'ts" isn't far behind your top in ngram, and I believe would be more correct: 's in both cases would stand for possessive, not plural. – SF. Dec 17 '12 at 8:41
Agree that the 's shouldn't be there, it should be Dos but this looks weird. Capitalizing fixes the weirdness, but I don't like capitals either! – Josh M. Jul 7 '15 at 19:21
Actually this is missing the most correct spelling. And indeed, as @SF said, it's not far behind (and even overtook in the latest years) the top result. Full and correct ngram here: goo.gl/OXSRWh (re-click "search") – haylem Mar 23 at 10:29

DOs & DON'Ts

that would be appropriate.

share|improve this answer
+1 for neat way to avoid the greengrocer's apostrophe. – AAT Jun 9 '11 at 21:34
+1 for same reason – TrevorD Jun 11 '13 at 15:29
+1 to @AAT for introducing me to the greengrocer's apostrohpe! – Steve Eynon Dec 12 '14 at 12:02

Do's and Don't's

seems correct but because of the plethora of apostrophes in the latter word, I prefer

Do's and Don'ts.

You can see a nice discussion about this subject on this blog post (When apostrophes go bad: Do's and Don'ts).

share|improve this answer
Brilliant blog post; thank you for linking! – Lunivore Jun 5 '11 at 22:05
It's interesting that that blog post thinks you should put the apostrophe in dos simply because it's confusing. It's a plural, putting a grocer's apostrophe in is just ... well ... wrong. (And don't's is just absurd. I'm not even going to start). – Loquacity Jun 6 '11 at 1:40
@Loquacity: Would you consider the hyphens incorrect in "Bob's suit was re-pressed after his sofa was re-covered"? It is more important that good writing avoid confusion that it follow particular "rules" of construction, especially since the whole purpose of such "rules" is to suggest which constructs are likely to be the clearest and least confusing. As As, Is, Os, and Us form words when followed by s's, I would regard their non-apostrophe plural forms as being likely to cause confusion. A's, I's, O's, and U's pluralized using apostrophes seem much clearer. – supercat Oct 20 '12 at 16:15

"Things to DO and NOT DO".

"Do's and Don'ts" seems to be preferred, but let's be honest it's not an elegant construction either way.

share|improve this answer
Yes, good reasoning there... – Thursagen Jun 5 '11 at 21:28

Although "Do's" and "Don'ts" seem to be the popular usage, it would be correct to write "Dos" and "Don'ts" for a couple of reasons:

  • It is a plural form of the word you are trying to express, not possessive;
  • It is not a contraction either — the contraction "do's" would mean "do is";
  • "Don'ts" is the correct plural form of "don't" so "dos" would be the correct plural form of "do".
share|improve this answer
I would suggest that the syntactically-proper form would arguably be «‘do’s and ‘don't’s», but that ends up a visual mess. The mark between the "o" and "s" doesn't serve so much as an apostrophe, as a closing quote which survives after the other quote marks are elided. – supercat Apr 30 '14 at 22:16

protected by Community Oct 10 '13 at 19:04

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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