(It's so difficult to google this.)

As in, "I will look at the document(s) later". I've seen both used, I used to use '/s', but have replaced it with '(s)'.

Which is (more) correct?

  • I like to use less-&greater- than brackets, "<s>", which is more similar to parentheses than separation with a forward-slash, and has added benefit of making easier to parse with more clear distinction in cases of more different pluralizations than required by simply adding an ‘s’ or ‘es’ (e.g. also eliminating something, like ‘-us’ to ‘-i’).
    – 11qq00
    Oct 5 '21 at 5:38
  • Non-standard but sometimes an option could be to use the creation an ambiguous number by substituting the normal plural "s" for a "z", as in “Please take a look at the documentz.” instead of "..this/that document" or "..these/those documents" when which more precise number-word (corresponding to either greater than or equal to 1) of distinct documention entity<ies> is unknown.
    – 11qq00
    Oct 5 '21 at 5:53
  • Another notation usable is square brackets combined with explicit allocation of the indeterminate letters: “document[⊻s]”, as in “documentation entit[y⊻ies]”. For cases of noun number-pairs that have a plural form that is simply the singular with some letter[⊻s] added (as in document,+s) it is a tad excessive (though still fewer characters & shorter_width than typed “document/documents”) and awkward since the representational difference of the singular form is an empty-set ({}) which not to be confused with nullity(∅) is difficult to represent without framing it as a curly-braced ‘set proper’.
    – 11qq00
    Oct 5 '21 at 6:48
  • 2
  • Lots of very strange and highly non-standard suggestions here. As the Chicago Manual of Style FAQ cited in the related question says, either use "(s)" if it's clear and simple, or else rewrite to use proper words not weird symbols.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 5 '21 at 11:51

Between the two options posed, "(s)" is more correct, because a "/" in other uses as grammatical shorthand roles commonly corresponds closely to “or” or “orand” (as in, e.g., "Bring all signed/dated documents"), otherwise as “with” or “and/plus” (as in, e.g., "frenchfries /ketchup"); whereas "[noun]/s" does not mean “[noun] {or/andor/and/with/plus} s”—not that, given context, there would be any (extended )confusion, but there is a more defendable option (such as separating the indeterminate pluralizing ‘s’ with parentheses). There is a minor downside to opting for "(s)" over "/s": an extra ASCII character and slightly longer width (though still far shorter than stating fully both options spelled out as in, i.e., "document/documents").


A compromise outside confines of plain-text is to combine both, "(/s)", but with the parentheses shrunk slightly; this would be only marginally longer than "/s" (but shorter than "(s)") and convey more explicit+accurate meaning than either of the other options by its respective self. "/s" is the absolute shortest (for the case of simple "add an s" pluralizations), and in many fontfaces "()" can stand-out more than intended outside of its primary use (as an aside, such as in this-here parenthetical comment), but the point remains that the forward-slash has many other uses that are similar enough to the "[singular]/s" use as to obscure syntactical precision whereas the 'other' uses for "(..)" are more disparate as not to alow any confusion. In general, relation of "A/B" means relation of [taking the same two inputs as ] "A\B" as in “A without B”↦“A with/and/../.. B” in which the more precise particular translation depends upon context (similar to 'or' in "A or B"), which makes sense considering the antonymous names of the symbols (forwardslash as contrasted to backslash). On the other hand, (..) directly after some word without any space-separation typically (when used properly) indicates some semantic diversion upon that word itself (in the case of "(s)", to indeterminitize its grammatical number).

  • 1
    Not that I disagree, but covered before on ELU, and needing substantiating references to be a good answer. // Oct 5 '21 at 11:48
  • Most things are covered to some degree before on ELU, which you diligently found in this case to bump the other one with an Edit. I disagree with need for "substantiating references" when plenty providing of good reasoning is sufficient. Also, the other related post does not have an answer that directly answers the question (which is effectively the same as the one of this Question), let alone a "references-substantiated" one. {@Edwin Ashworth}
    – 11qq00
    Oct 5 '21 at 15:14
  • Even Professor Emeritus John Lawler usually backs his statements with references to McCawley, papers etc. One person's 'good reasoning' can be totally different from another's (including at puplished author level), and here << A compromise outside confines of plain-text is to combine both, "(/s)" >> doesn't sit well with <<"(s)" is more correct, because a "/" in other uses as grammatical shorthand roles commonly corresponds closely to “or” or “orand” >>. And how is one to know that 22rr77's reasoning is good, or that they are not arrogating a pet though non-standard usage? //// In the ... Oct 5 '21 at 16:38
  • duplicate thread, it can be seen that CMoS (a recognised source of good and often-followed advice, though not mandates) grudgingly allows the parenthetical plural. Byron's answer at When a sentence uses a parenthetical plural, should the rest of the sentence ... links to two other style guides 'licensing' the parenthetical plural. Oct 5 '21 at 16:44
  • @Edwin Ashworth: The fact that the the original which this Question duplicated posed the exact same two forms ("/s" and "(s)") suggests that both are atleast somewhat standard, which suggests that there isn't a singular correct style proscript on the matter; ergo, using well-founded reasoning be beneficial. Citing sources is good practice too, sure; but anyone capable of posting a Question on SE is ,also, of going to a particular "authoritative" style guide (without bothering to inquire with further details or context to current humans). Nowhere did I 'arrogate'; full disclosures I gave.
    – 11qq00
    Oct 5 '21 at 19:31

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