When offering the possibility that there could be more than one of something, how should that be written? Eg. You will be responsible for the cost of your room(s). Or should it be "room/s"?

  • You write “room(s)”. See the quotes in coleopterist’s answer to english.stackexchange.com/questions/93940/…
    – herisson
    Apr 26 '18 at 18:51
  • Related
    – Chris H
    Apr 26 '18 at 19:00
  • 1
    You will be responsible for the cost of your accommodations. That fits both singular and plural.
    – Lambie
    Apr 26 '18 at 23:32
  • "Should" implies one is right and the other wrong, but both forms are in common usage. (Having said that, I much prefer the parentheses option.) @Lambie - isn't "room(s)" just an example? Other words can't be so easily replaced with a term that fits both singular and plural.
    – nnnnnn
    Oct 6 '21 at 11:47
  • It would never be room/s.
    – Lambie
    Oct 6 '21 at 16:10

There are people who disagree with this but my interpretation is that brackets (or parentheses if you prefer) are for optional material, while a slash should be read as or (with a few exceptions in the form of established abbreviations). So the latter nonsensically reads "room or s", while "rooms(s)" means "room or rooms" and makes sense.

Here's a blog post on the subject which, without a link or more detailed attribution states:

The Chicago Manual of Style once answered a question similar to yours on its online blog. Here’s the reply:

“A term ending in ‘(s)’ is both plural and singular. If you must use such a device (and it can be a useful shorthand), you have to be prepared to adjust the surrounding context as necessary: for example, ‘the award(s) is (are) accounted for.’ A parenthetical plural verb must correspond to the parenthetical ending.”

This of course doesn't directly answer your question, but establishes the parenthetical plural as worthy of consideration, without mentioning the slashed plural.

  • 1
    The blog post you cite doesn't seem to link to the Chicago Manual of Style website but here's the link: chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Plurals/…
    – Stuart F
    Oct 5 '21 at 11:48
  • I agree about providing parenthetical correlations in verb-number to noun-number agreement, but I don't get what you mean about "optional"---Do you mean unnecessary?? More importantly, as you acknowledge, it does not directly answer the Question (though provides related stuff to one aspect of it).
    – 11qq00
    Oct 5 '21 at 15:13
  • @11qq00 No, I don't mean "unnecessary" by optional. I mean the sentence can be read grammatically and make sense with or without the contents of the brackets (as in my first sentence, but noting that the two bracketed parts probably make for poor style). My first paragraph does directly address the question, though it's a bit of an opinion; the quote is what's not a direct answer. I didn't, and still don't, think I need to point out that if "/s" means "or s" it doesn't make sense
    – Chris H
    Oct 5 '21 at 15:21
  • Ah, you mean that the underlying meaning of the example given ("cost of one's rooms" vs. "..(s)") doesn't change with versus without the parentheses. Although true, many examples of the same form do convey different meanings. As for not addressing "/s": whether or not the "or s" interpretation makes sense in context matters only if it in fact does (in which case its use as a "(s)"-substitute is sloppy); in the case that its meaning is clear, that still does not settle which of the two posed options is superior (and why).
    – 11qq00
    Oct 5 '21 at 19:45

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