Pluralizing Yes and No

by Craig Shrives

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What Is the Plural of "Yes and No"?

Writers are often unsure how to pluralize yes and no. Their confusion is understandable because there are several options. The word "yes" can be pluralized "yeses" or "yesses," and "no" can be pluralized as "nos" and "noes." These are not US or UK conventions. They are simply variant spellings.

Also, despite what some might tell you, "yes's" and "no's" are also acceptable versions. However, many of your readers might not have accepted this convention yet, so use this version with caution.

Read more about using apostrophes for awkward plurals.

Different Ways to Pluralize "Yes and No"

Here are five different ways to pluralize yes and no ordered from most recommended to least recommended:

(1) Yeses and Nos

Justification. "Yeses" is, by far, the most common plural for "yes," and "nos" is, by far, the most common plural of "no."

Assessment. This is the most popular version. It is the version we recommend.

(2) YESes and NOs

Justification. If you're writing a title or if the document is relatively informal, then this is a good option because the words "yes" and "no" are easily identifiable.

Assessment. This is a popular version. It will not annoy your readers.

(3) Yes's and No's

Justification. Despite what some might tell you, using an apostrophe to show an awkward plural is acceptable. It is a technique condoned by all the leading grammar references. Using an apostrophe is often the simplest and clearest way to show an awkward plural. It is permissible.

Assessment. Using an apostrophe for an awkward plural is not a popular convention. This version is likely to annoy some of your readers.

Beware!

Using an apostrophe to show a normal plural is a serious writing error.
  • Pearl's melt in vinegar.

(4) Yesses and Noes

Justification. "Yesses" is growing in popularity, but it is still a long way behind "yeses." It is often preferred over "yeses" because its pronunciation is more obvious than "yeses." Conversely, "noes" (a good fit for pluralizing a word ending "o") was more popular than "nos," but many consider it too unwieldy (it looks like a misspelling of "nose"). Over the last century, "nos" has overtaken "noes" by some margin.

Assessment. This version is technically correct, but it employs the two least popular variants. This version is not recommended.

(5) Yes's and Nos

Justification. If you are brave enough to use an apostrophe for your plural, got for it. But, do not mix the conventions.

Assessment. This is unacceptable.

Summary

  • "Yesses," "yeses," and "yes's" are all acceptable plurals. "Yeses" is the most popular. [evidence]
  • "Nos," "noes," and "no's" are all acceptable plurals. "Nos" is the most popular. [evidence]

It's True! No, Really. It's True.

Using an apostrophe to show an awkward plural is acceptable.
  • There are two a's in accommodation.
Read more about using apostrophes for awkward plurals.
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See Also

Capital letters in advertisements Using capital letters with proper and common nouns Capital letters with the four seasons Capital letters with moons, stars and planets Capital letters start sentences What is title case? Test on using capital letters

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