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Is there a way to pluralize a quotation? E.g.,

He was greeted with a chorus of “Hello”s.


Her daring earned “Ooh”s & “Ahh”s from around the room.

With actual dictionary words (“Hello” in the first example), simple plurals might do, without quotes: “He was greeted with a chorus of hellos.”

With ad hoc onomatopoeic words like “ooh” & “ahh”, though, can I pluralize them without confusing the reader? Is italicizing part of the word acceptable: “Her daring earned oohs & ahhs from around the room”?

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...in terms of actual usage for one of OP's specific cases, note that Google Books says it has 13900 instances of "oohs and ahhs", but only 366 of the apostrophised version. – FumbleFingers Jun 19 '12 at 17:04
@FumbleFingers, neither example has apostrophes. Before my edit, the entire examples were in quotes so the specific word were in single quotes – not apostrophes! – J. C. Salomon Jun 19 '12 at 17:15
Perhaps I should have voted "Too Localised" then. I don't know where you got the idea of enclosing onomatopoeic words in quotes (single or double) before pluralising, but in my experience no-one ever does this. – FumbleFingers Jun 19 '12 at 17:21
The people in the room are saying “Hello”, or “Ooh” & “Ahh”; hence the quotes. – J. C. Salomon Jun 19 '12 at 17:24
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The form of “Her daring earned ‘Ooh’s & ‘Ahh’s from around the room” looks better to me than that of “Her daring earned oohs & ahhs from around the room”; but opinion aside, I don't know an authoritative answer – except, perhaps, the advice to reword to avoid plural forms. The example might become: “Her daring earned exclamations of "Ooh!" and "Ahh!" from around the room.”

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Thank you for suggesting that minimal rewording. – J. C. Salomon Jun 19 '12 at 16:25

“Her daring earned oohs and ahhs from around the room” would be most correct. Adding an apostrophe would denote possession; e.g., "Her daring earned ooh's and ahh's from around the room." The ooh and aah would not be plural in that case but would be subjects of the sentence showing possession. The ooh's what? The aah's what? Also I would do away with the extra quote within the quote. There is no need to set off the oohs and aahs with internal quotes. Internal quotes within a quote would be used in the case of a character speaking and quoting someone; e.g., "I was there, I tell you. I heard John say,'Don't you dare come one step closer, or I will do it.' It was so frightening to hear him threaten us in that way!" I would also do away with the capitalization of the oohs and aahs. Capitalization is reserved for nouns (people, places, titles--for some examples).

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Your recommendation makes sense, and your disagreement with the internal quotes is cogent, but you seem to have seen apostrophes in my question that aren’t there. – J. C. Salomon Jun 18 '12 at 1:57
I agree that apostrophe usage is probably not required here but some expressions use them to make the phrase easier to read. For example "do's and don'ts" as opposed to "dos and dont's" – Joe Fawcett Jun 18 '12 at 10:02
I’ve edited the question to make it clearer that those were quotation marks, not apostrophes. – J. C. Salomon Jun 19 '12 at 16:22

For plural forms of italicized or underlined words, phrases, abbreviations, and letters, the s or 's is almost always roman: "a row of x's," "7's sometimes look like 2's, "there are thee's and thou's in older literature," "too many New York Times." The apostrophe and s are not italicized or underlined. A title already in plural form may be left unchanged, e.g., two Chicago Tribunes. Foreign words in their plural form should be set entirely in italics, e.g., señores. The plural of a word or phrase in quotation marks may be formed by adding an apostrophe and an s, with the closing quotation marks following the s: How many more ok's can he use in a conversation? A plural ending should never follow closing quotation marks. A better option is to reword. -dictionary.com

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