The Right Way to Write the Words Do’s and Don’ts
Do’s and don’ts are two English language words often used in combination like, “before” and “after”, or “now” and “then”. Do’s and don’ts are the instructions or tips about what to “do” or “not do” in any given situation. BUT, what we’re talking about, for the purposes of grammar, is the placement of the apostrophe in these words.
The Best Choice of Where to Put the Apostrophe in the Words Do’s and Don’ts
You may have already noticed my own consistency of apostrophe placement when writing these words. This apostrophe usage is considered correct when writing for the web, or print media like newspapers and magazines. It’s ‘Associated Press Style’, or ‘A.P. Style’ for short.
If you’re writing a novel, or academic paper, you’ll employ the ‘Chicago Manual of Style’, or ‘CMoS’ rules which place just the apostrophe in the word “don’ts” to show the contraction of the word “nots”. “Do’s” will be written as “dos” with no apostrophe—this is to show the plural of the word “do”.
Some editors favor the ‘Eats, Shoots, and Leaves’ style rules which embrace consistency in English language punctuation. “Do’s” and “don’ts” in this style would be written “do’s” and “don’t’s”. Though I can appreciate the importance of continuity in punctuation choices, this looks a bit odd to me.
So, where should you land when writing the words do’s and don’ts? Well, that’s up to you. I say you NEED to own a copy of each of the style guides.
Your writing punctuation choices will be based on who you’re writing for, what you’re writing about, and your personal writing style.