Don’t let these plural forms trip you up

Some rules in English defy explanation. Here are some vexing spellings you should always double-check.

Tricky plural spellings

The rules of English spelling can bewilder even the most seasoned communicator.

Writers and editors see it daily. I recently had to check the spelling of “subterfuge” because the word was dancing before my eyes. Could that really be the spelling? (It was.)

One of the particularly challenging parts of English spelling and grammar is finding correct plural forms. These can trip writers up, because they’re difficult to spell and difficult to pronounce.

Below are 29 tricky plurals:

1. antennae

2. asterisks

3. attorneys general

4. axes (plural of axis)

5. bases (plural of basis)

6. courts-martial

7. culs-de-sac

8. diagnoses

9. dos and don’ts

10. emphases

11. hippopotami

12. jacks-in-the-box

13. jack-o-lanterns

14. memos

15. mongooses

16. mothers-in-law

17. mottoes (plural of motto)

18. neuroses

19. oases (plural of oasis)

20. octopuses

21. parentheses

22. passersby

23. plateau

24. runners-up

25. sheaves (plural of sheaf)

26. staves (plural of staff)

27. syllabi

28. theses (plural of thesis)

29. yeses and nos

Which tricky plural forms would you add to this list?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more from her at

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