1. John Carlo
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    John Carlo Active Member

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    How to punctuate letters that don't belong with words

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by John Carlo, Nov 22, 2009.

    Here's my example,

    "There are no i's in team"

    Should the "I" be capitalized or put in quotations; is the apostrophe followed by the "s" correct - and so forth?
     
  2. garmar69
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    garmar69 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure if I've ever seen any rules, but I can show you how I'd write that sentence.

    There is no "i" in team.

    Don't know if that's correct. I do know that the way you used i's is denoting possession (or a contraction) instead of quantity.
     
  3. Forgotten_Memories
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    Forgotten_Memories Active Member

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    You never follow a number or letter without an apostrophe before the 'S'.

    I think it would be:

    "There are no Is in team!"

    maybe make 'Is' italic?
     
  4. Mister Micawber
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    Mister Micawber Member

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    Garmer's seems the most painless option: There is no "i" in team.

    Apostrophes are indeed possessive markers, not plural markers, but they are grudgingly permitted in some formations that would be all but unintelligible otherwise, to wit: Mind your p's and q's.

    And this case would certainly qualify.
     
  5. Mora Manush
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    Mora Manush New Member

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    Hi, i'm new so hope you wouldn't mind me posting.

    i's can only be written when you mean a number of the letter "i", eg. illiterate has two i's. But since that is closely the case, "There are no i's in team" (if you mean more than one "i") or, better yet, "There is no i in team" (i quoted, italicized or left alone) would suffice.

    Then again, humans are prone to making mistakes...
     
  6. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    For obvious reasons, you wouldn't do this very often and there are plenty of alternative ways around it (as others have already mentioned). But if you're writing about ways to use alphabetical letters or something like that, it could come up. The apostrophe is often used to create the plural of a letter (or number or acronym), especially so to avoid creating an unintended word (e.g., the word "is" would result from leaving it out in the example you give). Usually, also the single letter would be capitalized and maybe even italicized or underlined to highlight its meaning and to be sure that the intention is clear. You should not use quotation marks to emphasize the word (really anywhere, althouh I know people do this sometimes). Italics (or underline) is always better for that purpose and especially so if you've got an apostrophe in the mix.

    So: "There are no I's in team (if that's clear enough in context)." Or "There are no I's in team" (if the emphasis helps clearify meaning).

    I finished grading the papers and gave out four A's, 2 B's, 3 C's, five D's, and no F's.

    It would not be incorrect to omit the apostrophes in the previous sentence. But if there's any confusion (like out of context, in a sentence like this--Joan showed me her As)--an apostrophe would be helpful (and perfectly acceptable--see Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style, among other style books).
     
  7. tbeverley
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    tbeverley Senior Member

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    The way to write it: There are no I's in team.

    When you're referring to a letter, it's in quotes: I saw the letter "a" in the newspaper.

    When you're referring to a word, it's in quotes: The word "apocryphal" comes to mind.

    Similar to the "I" question, when you write of a year, it's with an apostraphe: It was during the 1920's.

    Three E's and an F walk into a bar. They bump into a G who's reading about a bunch of P's in the news. E looks him over and decides him to be out of date, circa 1930, or some sort of roughian left over from the 1920's. You know, the gangsters who smuggled liquor. "Slippery" is the word that comes to mind. So, E, he goes over to G and says to him, "What's that tommy gun doing on the barstool?" And that was it: G picks up the tommy gun and makes alphabet soup of the whole place. The only thing left was the newspaper, with a bullet hole in every "q."
     
  8. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I think I'd agree with your quotes around "a," and even "apocryphal" in the examples you give (as seen in a newspaper--it's like a quote). But when it comes to adding pluralization to a letter as well, my vote would be for italics instead of quotation marks in order to give the word its significance. (Rather than I saw hundreds of "a"'s in the newspaper, I'd say I saw hundreds of a's in the newspaper); and I don't think you'd have to emphasize it at all, depending on context--i.e., if it's already clear that you're speaking of the letter A (uppercase, in particular). "I saw hundreds of A's in the newspaper" would be perfectly clear, I think. Lower case could be more of a problem, in that it'll blend in with the rest of the sentence without emphasis of some kind.

    With respect to dates, it's really a matter of style and there are preferences that vary a bit and are accepted differently by various publishers. Some--maybe even most today (AMA and CMoS, e.g.)--prefer to omit the apostrophe before the plural "s"--i.e., 1920s (just like you can either use or omit apostrophes in acronyms, like CPAs, if it doesn't confuse things). Newspapers use different style books and maybe they prefer the apostrophe. I think part of the reason for omitting the apostrophe in dates (especially in scholarly writing and some fiction publishers) is to avoid cluttering up the type with unnecessary apostrophes, because when you shorten up 1920's to just "twenties," e.g., (omitting the "19" part), the technically correct way to do that in numerals is to show the omission of "19" with an apostrophe--so '20s is a cleaner and less confusing type style than '20's.

    In a manuscript, I wouldn't worry about it much other than for the sake of consistency. But if a writer needs to know for some reason, check the style manual your publisher (or school or professor) uses.
     
  9. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I’m not certain, but I think there are no A’s, B’s, or C’s in the English language.
     

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