Rantings of a sub-editor

February 16, 2011

A question of form

Filed under: Uncategorized — substuff @ 4:55 pm
Tags: ,

I have just received this email. Frustratingly, I don’t know the answer either. Anyone?

Hi Cathy,

Received this from my friend ‘The Headkicker’ James [oh that one, yes, he and his apostrophe have cropped up before] today. I don’t know the answer…

I have a new grammar conundrum for your friend’s blog that needs answering: On a form you often see a word with an (s) after it if the answer could be single or plural – e.g. Enter middle name(s) here: etc.

What happens when you have a word that doesn’t pluralise so conveniently such as property/properties? Is it acceptable to have property(s)? We all know what it is asking but is it grammatically correct? Is there even a rule of grammar that covers this sort of thing? Am I putting too much thought into the new house name change application form I am creating? Probably.

What do you reckon Relfy?

I hope are well and you don’t have VD*,


* I do not. This is a reference to a text message I received on Valentine’s Day asking whether I’d received any “VD cards”.


  1. Propery(ies)…

    Comment by Freelance Unbound — February 16, 2011 @ 5:05 pm | Reply

  2. I wouldn’t try to force the rules of grammar on to anything as inelegant as a form; “we all know what it is asking” applies. If, however, I were forced to come down either way, I’d probably draft the question in the plural: Properties… It doesn’t look as unwieldy as Property(ies) [which is as good a solution as any], and covers all bases, poor bastards with no properties, those with one and jammy barons with many.

    Comment by Eric Murphy — February 16, 2011 @ 7:44 pm | Reply

  3. I’m erring towards “property/properties”. Anything else is just ugly. But then I can’t hack the singular “they”, either. I have a low threshold.

    Comment by substuff — February 16, 2011 @ 7:55 pm | Reply

  4. Read this post last nights and it’s still troubling me. If you find the answer, please do let me know.

    Comment by Claire Maxwell — February 17, 2011 @ 6:08 pm | Reply

  5. I know this was a long time ago, but I’ve had many conversations on this exact subject. I normally go for the more German solution, which here would be “property(-ies)”, with the hyphen indicating that the parenthesised letters are not simply to be added, but that the ending changes. It certainly looks more elegant than without the hyphen.

    Comment by George Cook — January 11, 2012 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

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