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Given the sentence:

The password must be at least 8 characters long, contain at least one lower-case and one upper-case case letter(s) and a digit.

Should the word "letter(s)" be in singular or plural? Why?

EDIT: To avoid discussion on the password policies, please consider another example:

Today I've seen one yellow, one blue and one green bird(s).

marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt May 11 '15 at 14:46

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  • 1
    You say it's one. One is singular. One letter. Not one letters. – RegDwigнt May 11 '15 at 13:48
  • Yes, but both letters are required so 1+1=2 -> plural? – Vilmantas Baranauskas May 11 '15 at 13:50
  • 1
    @VilmantasBaranauskas: You want math? Try this: 1 lc letter + 1 uc letter = (1 lc + 1 uc) letter – Tushar Raj May 11 '15 at 13:52
  • This is one of those awkward cases where grammatical number doesn't necessarily track with intuition. By saying "one lower-case and one upper-case letter", you are saying "one lower-case letter and one upper-case letter". If your phrase was "two lower-case and two upper-case", then you would use "letters". – Sawbones May 11 '15 at 13:54
  • Its singular: "contain at least (one lower-case) and (one upper-case case) letter and a digit." --> "contain at least (one lower-case letter) and (one upper-case case letter) and a digit." The word letter is merely a common factor stated separately to avoid repetition. – Kris May 11 '15 at 14:03

To avoid sounding awkward and perhaps being ambiguous, I would recommend rephrasing your requirement.

The password must be at least 8 characters long and contain: at least one lowercase letter, at least one uppercase letter, and at least one digit.

To add my own input, this sort of password requirement will also tend to require at least one symbol and it should also list the acceptable symbols.

  • No need to repeat the word letter, it can be factored out. In any case, rephrasing is not the answer. – Kris May 11 '15 at 14:04

When the particular password contains one upper and one lower case letter, the word use would be letter (singular form). If that particular passwords contains more then either one upper or lower case letter, it will become letters (plural form).

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