If I ask an English speaker to spell out TOC, I would expect it to be "Table of Contents" with an 's'.

But I not much but sometimes do see "Table of Content" without an 's' in some books. Is this simply a matter or choice? or are there any other reason or special meaning for using the singular form?

  • 1
    "Table of Contents" is certainly what I'm familiar with. But "Table of Content" is not technically incorrect, and some authors/editors may like it, either because it's "different" or because they feel it fits their tome better.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 9 '14 at 14:47
  • I wonder if you have seen "Table of Content" in a book published by a major UK or US or Canadian or Australian publisher.
    – GEdgar
    Mar 19 '15 at 19:36

In present-day U.S. publishing, people often use the term content to refer collectively to the editorial and design elements in a periodical or book. And yet, as DJ Far observes, the front-matter listing of the book or periodical's editorial content is usually called the "Table of Contents."

The Ngram chart for "table of contents" (red line) versus "table of content" (blue line) for the years 1650 through 2000 shows that there really isn't much of a contest here:

And yet a match of "contents of the book" (red line) and "content of the book" (blue line) for the years from 1700 through 2000 shows a much closer split in usage over the past century:

It's an interesting phenomenon, but I have no explanation for why it has emerged.


Table of Contents is the correct form. Leaving off the 's' is simply a typo or a mistake. The contents of something refer to what the thing contains, like the contents of a jar, or a book. You wouldn't say the 'content of a jar'. When used as singular, the meaning is more abstract, eg. 'the content of one's character', rather like it's value.


The difference is not strictly singular vs. plural, but count noun (e.g., "one car, two cars...") vs. non-count noun (e.g., "traffic"). If you think of the book as being full of chapters or ideas (one chapter, two chapters), then "contents" fits better; if it's full of knowledge or entertainment (one does not say "two knowledges"!), "content" is the word. Certainly, "Table of Contents" is more common.

-a former ESOL teacher

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