To nail the right plural of most compound words (both hyphenated and solid compounds), check your dictionary.
You may see more than one choice. Sometimes different forms of the plural are used for different purposes.
Example: A book may have two indexes and a math expression two indices, as indicated in the Webster’s entry for index (Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Ed.,
7.6, p. 419).
If the plural is not listed, use this rule:
Attach the plural to the part of the word that changes in number
(e.g., passerby becomes passersby).
If neither part of the word is a noun, add “s” to the last word
(e.g., grown-up becomes grown-ups).
Some tricky plurals
- Attorney general becomes attorneys general
- Coup d’etat becomes coups d’etat
- Fatso becomes fatsoes
- Fee simple becomes fees simple
- Film noir becomes fees simple
- Film noir becomes film noirs
- Flyby becomes flybys
- Cul-de-sac becomes culs-de-sac
Check out this article by Erin Brenner for more on pluralizing compound words.
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