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What is the correct way to pluralize an acronym?

What's the plural form of "SMS" (if X), like:

I'm concerned, I sent him over a million X but got no response.

I usually use text message to get rid of that situation.

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    Microsoft Word 2007 accepts SMSs but not SMSes. Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 11:42

3 Answers 3

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The common way to pluralize acronyms is to add a lowercase S, so it would be SMSs. But SMS (short message service) is not usually used like that. SMS is the service you use to send text messages. SMS can also be used to talk about a feature-set ("It's got unlimited SMS."), or a technology ("This tablet supports SMS."). Both text (sometimes abbreviated txt) and text message are used.

I'm concerned. I sent him over a million texts, but got no response.

or

I'm concerned. I sent him over a million text messages, but got no response.

Google Ngram seems to support this: enter image description here

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    Yeah, I think at least in writing, you just have to say "text messages" or "texts".
    – alcas
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 3:40
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    That's just proper English since SMS is pronounced ess em ess. "Sent a SMS", aside from sounding horrible, returns no results. This is searching published books, not the web, so proper English is required. Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 8:14
  • Although you're correct that SMS refers to the service, not the message, its usage stems from shorthand for "SMS message", in the same way "text message" is shortened to "text" Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 10:56
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    careful: that ngram for "sent a text" vs "sent a text message" includes all of the results of the latter in the former. Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 13:52
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 Yeah I caught that, but couldn't think of a way to solve it using ngrams' limited search tool. It still demonstrates that "sent an SMS" is hardly used, which was the point. Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 17:36
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"SMS" refers to the technology or means of sending the messages, not the messages themselves. A plural of SMS would mean more than one technology or means of sending messages. You want "SMS messages" or simply "texts".

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    -1 Wrong. Try googling "an SMS". The majority of hits are "an SMS x" (x = "system", "message" etc) but there are plenty of "an SMS" tout court. It really isn't helpful to answer the question "how do I form the plural of X" by denying that "X" exists.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 14:26
  • I'm not denying that it exists. I'm saying it simply doesn't have the usage that the OP is requesting. There simply doesn't exist a plural of "SMS" that refers to the messages themselves. You could make one, and people would probably be able to figure out what you meant, but that's not the criterion. Commented Dec 12, 2011 at 19:32
  • And I'm saying that you're wrong. If I google "SMSs", two of the responses I get on the first page ("Howto Send/Read SMSs using a GSM modem, AT+ commands and..." and "Remove limit on daily SMSs: NGO to govt") are clearly counterexamples.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 12:39
  • As I said, you could make one and people would probably be able to figure out what you mean. Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 18:10
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If you're talking, it depends on how you pronounce the abbreviation. If, as I imagine, it's /ɛsɛmɛs/ -- just the names of the the letters strung together -- the plural will be pronounced /ɛsɛmɛsəz/. Everything hinges on the last sound. But if you speak English, you already know this.

If you're writing, however, you're on your own on how to spell it. English spelling is not ready for things like this, as everybody who texts knows already. And it probably never will be.

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