I'm not a native English speaker, so I'm sorry if this is obvious but I can't find an explanation.

Why are "like"s usually referred to as like's on Facebook? (You can see many instances here.)

To use a "word as a word" I would put quotes (if convenient using the apostrophe character in electronic text) around the word and place the plural -s outside them, and it seems that is the norm except on Facebook, e.g. "like"s.

By the way it seems the same applies to the "Discours particle" use of like, as @simchona says in the comments.

  • I just saw the "ell" site, if you want to move the question there it's ok
    – user43813
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 18:42
  • I don't think it's talking about Facebook--it's talking about using "like" in a sentence, such as "I, like, can't eat soup"
    – user10893
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 18:43
  • @simchona No, if you search "like's"(including the quotes) in google the results seem to refer to the facebook ones. I first saw it in this post: english.stackexchange.com/questions/113320/… in the EdwinAsworth comment.
    – user43813
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 18:56
  • But that post doesn't refer to Facebook, and your sentence about style would not, contextually, refer to Facebook
    – user10893
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 19:02
  • @simchona You're right, reading it again it probably refers to what you said. This raises another question: why are discourse particle "like"s referred to as " like's "? - Anyway that is a further question, if you search as I said you can find many instances that for sure refer to the facebook ones
    – user43813
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 19:18

1 Answer 1


At http://englishplus.com/grammar/00000135.htm is found the following:

Apostrophes with Italicized or Underlined Items:

Letters, numbers, symbols, and words used as themselves are italicized or underlined. ...

When these items are made plural, the plural is shown by adding apostrophe s to the underlined or italicized item. The apostrophe and s are not italicized or underlined. ...

I find the thee's and thou's in older writing hard to follow. (Words as words)

Lynne Truss also cites this usage in Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

(Unlike the first source above, Truss mentions the fact that there a few pure plurals allowed by some authorities to include apostrophes.)

Notice that these are talking about general, not Facebook-specific, English usages.

PS: My choice of like in the other thread is probably best regarded as arbitrary. Here is a parallel example: 'There are too many hamburger's in your essay.'

  • Wow I never heard of this before, is this commonly known by english people, and if so does it come instinctively or it is just taught very hard at school?
    – user43813
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 0:02
  • And are these the exact rules everyone follows or are they just the theoretical correct style? In particular the use of quotes is not cited in that page, I assumed that it was universal, was I wrong? And if so, if I put quotes instead of italicizing/underlining the word would you just think it is bad style or you would not even understand that I meant to use a "word as a word"?
    – user43813
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 0:02
  • And, do someone really use underlining? In my language I don't think I ever saw it used for this purpose.
    – user43813
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 0:03
  • I'm not sure if I should make these questions in a separate "question", they complete this one in a sense.
    – user43813
    Commented May 7, 2013 at 0:04
  • I think most English speakers have never even considered the 'word as a word' usage, never mind permitted styles to indicate examples. One often sees signs with misplaced apostrophes (ex's may be allowed, but carrot's and turnip's certainly aren't). Commented May 7, 2013 at 7:21

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