Do it right: do’s and don’ts vs. dos and donts

All too often, I see writers doing the don’ts where do’s and don’ts are concerned. In all fairness, though, various stylebooks disagree about what you should do with these two words.

Let’s start with do’s. If you have several rules and guidelines that are recommended, you have a list of do’s. The word is one of the rare exceptions in which an apostrophe is used to show that something is plural. While The Associated Press Stylebook and many dictionaries follow this spelling, be aware that The Chicago Manual of Style says to dispense with the apostrophe and stick with dos.

If you have a list of several rules and guidelines of what not to do, you have a list of don’ts. Here, the s is added to the contraction don’t to make it a plural noun. Don’t spell it donts.

Whichever style you use on do’s vs. dos, just be consistent with it throughout your manuscript.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.