Friday, August 27, 2010

Hyphens: Beware the Mother of All Plurals

Rasha says:
I am doing research for a school project about family life in Asia, and I came across this headline in The Indian Express:
Mother in laws behind Indian divorces in Malaysia
I know there's a mistake in there somewhere, but I can't put my finger on it.

There are actually two mistakes in that headline: (1) Mother-in-law should always be hyphenated, and (2) the plural is mothers-in-law.

Quick rule:
  • To pluralize hyphenated compound nouns, add 's' or 'es' to the base noun. The playoff game was between the two runners-up. The President met with his chiefs-of-staff. The courthouse was filled with attorneys-at-law. 
  • If there is no base noun, pluralize the last word. The agents acted as go-betweens during the war.

Correction: Mothers-in-law behind Indian divorces in Malaysia


  1. It simply proves that this concept of taking is merely a ritual and doesn't guarantees the success of a marriage. There is no concept of divorce in Hindu or Sikh religions.

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