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I'm not really sure if this would be better suited over on SE's user experience site, but here goes: Say I'm writing a blog post or, even better, a question on one of the various SE sites. My example blog post or question is about HTML, and I have three similar elements that I want to collectively refer to. If the element I'm talking about is a "section", which of the following should I use?

  1. Three sections.
  2. Three sections.
  3. Three section elements.

In the first example, the "s" is contained within the code highlighting. In the second example, the "s" is directly after the highlighting. In the final example I've dropped the "s" from the inline code altogether and instead pluralised the name of the group "section" belongs to.

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    I would prefer the 3rd since it is very clear - perhaps even use <section>
    – mplungjan
    Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 9:11
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    For future reference, it's a good idea to wait a day or so before accepting an answer. Otherwise, you discourage other people from answering, who might have better answers. Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 10:21
  • @BraddSzonye I see, sorry. Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 10:28
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    Not about English. Another site where you might get good advice is Graphic Design.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 12:17

3 Answers 3

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When using words that cannot follow the usual rules of English inflection and orthography, it's a good idea to avoid using them in contexts that would require it. This is a common problem with trademarks too, and the same solutions apply.

While you might informally refer to Kleenexes and Googling, you can avoid trademark hassles (and jokes) by writing Kleenex tissues or searching with Google instead. Likewise, to avoid possible errors arising from misspelled programming terms (and terrible typography), you can write <section> elements instead of sections.

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I would use Three <section> elements. The reason why I would reject the first one is because the tag itself is <section>, not <sections>. Additionally, the second option can be rather confusing with the mesh of commented and uncommented code. By commenting the tag itself, you are clearly making a distinction between the code and its properties.

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When it is formatted as neatly as in your question, 2 is a possible solution.

Unfortunately I can't replicate it in answers. :-(

Actually it looks like this is a list 'feature':

  1. See this's formatted ok!

Whereas that isn't.

(Yes, this is a SE specific answer. And I've mentioned it on an existing Meta question.)

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