I am trying to rewrite two sentences like the following into a single sentence using a parenthetical plural:

1: The rule will add an assertion.
2: The rule will add assertions.

Combining them, the sentence I want would have the form of:

The rule will add an() assertion(s).

I don't know what to put in first parenthesis. Am I allowed to leave it blank? Or should I write 'any' in the first parenthesis? or how else should I write it?

  • 4
    I counsel against attempting this. – tchrist Dec 16 '14 at 16:47

The rule will add one or more assertions. You could put or more in parentheses if you like. I can't think of any other way of writing this that doesn't sound inelegant or, worse, downright nonsensical when read aloud.


To me, the solution appears quite simple. We cannot have an inflexible rule; the rule has to respond to the peculiarity of a situation. In the given situation, the sentences could be combined using a parenthetical plural in the following manner:

Write the 1st sentence as-it-is. Then, in a parenthetical enclosure, put the 2nd sentence and substitute "or" for all but the last word in the 2nd sentence common with the 1st sentence. Now, just combine the 1st sentence and the parenthetical enclosure into a single sentence and it is all done.

Thus combined, the sentences cited by the OP would appear as follows:

The rule will add an assertion (or add assertions).

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