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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?

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I thought it would become "dont's"? –  user51131 Sep 4 '13 at 1:42
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5 Answers 5

up vote 9 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.

nGram

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

DO's and DON'Ts

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"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
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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".
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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 at 22:16
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"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.

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Yes, good reasoning there... –  Thursagen Jun 5 '11 at 21:28
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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).

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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
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DOs & DON'Ts

that would be appropriate.

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+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
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