Handy tip: Two troublesome plurals

Our reflections on an editing job where we encountered two tricky plural words we had to look up. Would you have spelt them correctly?

I was recently editing a blog for a client, when I found myself having to look up not one but two spellings for the plural form of words. In truth, I knew the spellings, but if I ever have the slightest doubt I will always double check a spelling for certainty.

I was glad I did. For although both my spellings were correct, the usage of one of the words was not perfect. 

The first word, or actually phrase was foreign, but is adopted in English: faux pas. And although pronounced differently, the plural is spelt the same as the singular.

The second word I looked up because Microsoft Word indicated it as a spelling mistake. I suspected this was for Word’s preference for American spelling and it did not like my changing “behaviors” to “behaviours”. 

While my instinct was correct, I did learn that the plural “behaviours” is actually a niche psychological term. In normal usage, the singular “behaviour” will  suffice for describing one or more types of behaviour. So there you go, in both these cases we would not deviate from the singular spelling in normal use.

But it got me thinking. How often do we get tripped up by unusual plural forms of words. Last year, a client questioned my use of “personas” as the plural of “persona”. Should it not be “personae”? In this case, either is acceptable with personae being the traditional plural whilst persona has become accepted through common usage. Kudos to the client for raising an interesting point though.

Taking care whilst editing work

I think the point illustrates well the care we take when editing work at On Point Copywriting.  Both our attention to detail and not taking for granted that we know all the answers without checking when there is some doubt. 

Have you come across any particularly pesky plurals when writing? Do share them in the comments if you wish.

Avatar photo

Kaine Shutler