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Sinn Féin has confirmed that one of their MLA's has removed a clamp from the front wheel of his car, using what appears to be bolt cutters, in Belfast.

This is from the BBC website.

I know the merits of 's for plural acronyms is covered at Plurals of acronyms, letters, numbers — use an apostrophe or not?

but my question is simply: is this a BBC mistake or is it becoming standard. I'd expected the BBC to be very precise on such matters.

EDIT: It was corrected on BBC website the next day.

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, oerkelens, Nigel J, Mari-Lou A, David Feb 4 '18 at 16:17

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  • @EdwinAshworth I tried to make this focussed on the BBC to avoid it being a duplicate, but if it is judged so, I won't complain too much! – k1eran Feb 4 '18 at 0:10
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    You can download the BBC News style guide here: bbc.co.uk/academy/journalism/news-style-guide/article/… It says "Neither are apostrophes generally needed for plurals (eg: MPs, MBEs), but they are for the pluralisation of letters of the alphabet (eg: Our task now is to dot the i's and cross the t's)." Based on that, it seems to be a mistake. But I think this is not so much a question about the English language when answering it gets to the point of looking through the BBC style guide to see what style choices this particular organization has made. – sumelic Feb 4 '18 at 0:18
  • @sumelic I just found this page bbc.co.uk/news/contact-us/editorial to report mistakes so I submitted a report with a link to this question. I'm interested to see how (or perhaps I should say if) they respond. – k1eran Feb 4 '18 at 0:23
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    As @tchrist has said, 'Questions about [individual] style guides are off-topic here.' It is inappropriate to ask 'Is the BBC not following its own guidelines here?' on ELU. 'Is this construction used by the BBC acceptable?' is a different matter. And the plurals of acronyms etc have been addressed here before. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 4 '18 at 14:53

It is an error, but not in my view very serious.

The BBC style guide says explicitly


(Member of the Legislative Assembly) is the abbreviation to use for a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly; plural: MLAs.

and takes a similar approach to other examples.

  • This depends on your style guide. I use CMOS. I use only 's' for the plural of acronyms ending in a capital or expressions ending in digits. For a single letter I use an apostrophe to mind my p's and q's. – Ross Murray Feb 4 '18 at 5:19
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    But it's an in-house error not an English language error. They've not followed their own style guide. Nobody else needs to follow it. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 4 '18 at 14:49

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