Tech Writing- Indicating optional plural for word ending in 'y'. (e.g. Category).

Hello,

To indicate an optional plural, I would write:

Select the checkbox(es) next to the item(s)

But, how about for a word such as "category".

Do I write:

Select the checkbox(es) next to the category(s)

(or)
Select the checkbox(es) next to the categor(ies)

While I suppose this sentence could be rewritten, all I"m looking for is the specific issue of (s) vs (ies).

Thank(s) :)
LVL 4
Stephen KairysTechnical Writer - ConsultantAsked:
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David BigelowConnect With a Mentor Staff Operations SpecialistCommented:
Select the checkbox of each applicable category. Or, select one or more of the following categories.
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PerarduaadastraCommented:
How about:

Select one or more categories
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Stephen KairysTechnical Writer - ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Hi,

That could work. But, I realize that I redacted this sentence a bit too much. What I should've written was:

Select the checkbox(es) next to the category(s)

(or)

Select the checkbox(es) next to the categor(ies)

Let's assume I need to keep the (s) or (ies) and don't want to change the syntax of the sentence. All I care about here is (s) vs. (ies)

Apologies for any confusion.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Think of it this way:

Select the checkbox next to the category below (so is singular)

Select the checkboxes next to the categories below (so is plural).

I hope this helps you think through the usage.
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PerarduaadastraCommented:
Or this:

Select category checkbox(es)
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Stephen KairysTechnical Writer - ConsultantAuthor Commented:
@John,

OK, I think I'm missing something. I still need to combine the two sentences into a hybrid. Or are you saying to ditch the first sentence and just go with the plural?

Thanks.
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JohnConnect With a Mentor Business Consultant (Owner)Commented:
I would be careful about adding a plural (categories) to a singular prefix (checkbox).

You need to look at your complete sentence and then amplify (add words) to allow you to mix plural and singular. You can do this but you need a few more words so readers will know what you mean.
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Stephen KairysTechnical Writer - ConsultantAuthor Commented:
@John,

Maybe:

Select the checkbox(es) next to the categor(ies)

That way, both "sides of the equation" are hybid singular/plural.

Thanks.
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Yes. that could work.
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Stephen KairysTechnical Writer - ConsultantAuthor Commented:
So, implicitly, sounds like you're saying:
categor(ies) is better than category(s)

Favor: when you respond, please say more than "Yes" or "No" so I can credit a full answer as the Best Solution. :) Thanks.
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JohnConnect With a Mentor Business Consultant (Owner)Commented:
For the example you showed above, yes. Categories works better in this example.

So for clarity:  Select checkboxes next to the categories.
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
So for clarity: Select checkboxes next to the categories.
I'm late to the party here, John, but I think the point is to find a single phrase that can handle optional plurals. Sure, "Select checkboxes next to the categories" is great for the plural form, and "Select checkbox next to the category" is great for the singular form, but the trick is to combine both into a single phrase using the parenthetical "s" or "es" method. It works fine for phrases like:

Enter Name(s)
Enter Address(es)

But there's a real quandry with words ending in "y", many of which are common to the user guides/manuals that Steve works on, such as Category, Directory, Entry, Policy, etc. I've seen suggestions of:

Category(-ies)
Category(ies)
Categor(-ies)
Categor(ies)
Category(s)

But none of them thrills me. I'm stumped on this one, but will continue to research it — it's a very interesting question. I wonder if any style guides have a rule for it — guides like the AP Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style, IEEE Style, Microsoft Manual of Style, etc. Regards, Joe
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Stephen KairysTechnical Writer - ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Ah, style guides. Let me ask a friend of mine who's a journalist.  Bearing in mind, his answer might depend on which style guide he uses.

Thanks. Btw, the only options from the above list that I'd consider are the last two. :)
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
I have an email in to someone who has the AP Stylebook, which is pretty much the journalist's bible, but not necessarily the best for tech doc. Will let you know if/when I hear back. I'll also take a spin through the Microsoft Manual of Style.
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Stephen KairysTechnical Writer - ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Thanks, Joe. Between the four of us (you, myself, and our contacts), we should be able to come up with something. :)
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
Sure, "Select checkboxes next to the categories" is great for the plural form, and "Select checkbox next to the category" is great for the singular form, but the trick is to combine both into a single phrase using the parenthetical "s" or "es"

I have learned from writing in Word with the Grammar checker ON that plurals go with plurals and singular with singular.

Mixing in one sentence has to be done very carefully. Stephen:  Post a sentence here if desired and then we can see.
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEConnect With a Mentor DeveloperCommented:
Steve,
The Microsoft Manual of Style 4th Edition (Copyright 2012 by Microsoft Corporation) says this about the use of (s)/(es) (copied here under "Fair Use", as it is a minuscule part of a 463-page book):

Microsoft Manual of Style (s) (es)
There are no entries for (ies) or (-ies), but the (s)/(es) entry does provide guidance on how to handle (y)/(ies), i.e., use the plural form or "one or more" language — if you are so inclined to follow its style. Regards, Joe

Update: The journalist wrote back: "I don't see anything in AP that addresses this."
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Stephen KairysTechnical Writer - ConsultantAuthor Commented:
@John- Thanks. Will get back to you after I've given it more thought.

@Joe - We (at my client) are not beholden to the Microsoft Manual of Style, but thank you for that snippet. Very cool. Interesting to see how they want things

In any event, I did a quick search on our document set for "(s)", and, as I've been using it, I see no harm in employing that syntax for this new document. So, the question really boils down to (s) or (ies).

I'll update you all if my journalist buddy comes up with something.
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Stephen KairysConnect With a Mentor Technical Writer - ConsultantAuthor Commented:
OK, my friend said that "category" that

categor(ies)

is preferable to

category(s)

Reason being that there is no such word as "categorys".
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
Yes, but there's also no such word as "categor". :)  Either way — the plural "categorys" or the singular "categor" — gets you a non-word!
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Stephen KairysTechnical Writer - ConsultantAuthor Commented:
Thanks! I'll respond further tomorrow. Done for the day. :)
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
That's why this is such a sticky wicket, and there are plenty of other examples, such as:

Enter name(s) of previous wife(s)

or should that be:

Enter name(s) of previous wife(ves)

or:

Enter name(s) of previous wife(wives)

How about this one:

Enter manufacturer(s) of your keyboard(s) and mouse(s)

or is that:

Enter manufacturer(s) of your keyboard(s) and mouse(mice)

The point is, many irregular plurals can lead to this dilemma. Regards, Joe
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David BigelowStaff Operations SpecialistCommented:
I honestly get annoyed with all the attempts on forms to make things singular and plural. It breaks up the beautiful flow of language and makes it robotic. If it's a checkbox, more than one can be chosen. If it's a radio circle , only one can be chosen.
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Stephen KairysTechnical Writer - ConsultantAuthor Commented:
@David - I went with your rewording. Probably a better solution then my getting tangled up in (s)/(ies). :)

@John/@Joe - Good input on both of your parts, so I tagged you with Assists.

I tagged myself per the answer given to me by someone well-versed in English.

This one was a stimulating discussion! Thanks, everyone, been a pleasure.
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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVEDeveloperCommented:
> rewording

One of my favorite ways to do an end-around on grammatical sticky wickets. :)
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)Commented:
You are very welcome and I was happy to help
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David BigelowStaff Operations SpecialistCommented:
Glad to help!
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