Dos or do’s

Do is a verb meaning to complete or perform an action. A to-do list is something that outlines all of the things one needs to accomplish in a certain amount of time.

Another phrase is the dos of something or the things that are good or correct to perform within a certain area. Do’s is a sometimes accepted spelling variation. The preferrence between the two spellings depends largely on the type of publication one is writing for.

Dos or do’s are accepted plural spellings of the word do when it means an event or party. This is informal slang and used mostly in British English.

Note here that ‘dos is American slang for the word hairdo.


While these fashionable men have educated you on the dos of dressing for the day of love, here are some fashion don’ts you must avoid. [The Hindu]

Getting people and firms to spend more, bringing more people into the labor force and improving productivity are Mr. Cox’s three do’s for achieving this. [The Wall Street Journal]

That comes through Laverne Cox’s character, Sophia, who plays a stylish fairy prison godmother, sprucing up many of the women with fresh new ‘dos while providing them with much needed confidence. [Mashable]

The insider went on: “The other option, of course, is to have two dos – a small, private family affair and then a big beachside bash for everyone to have a few drinks and a bit of a party. [Entertainment Wise]

6 thoughts on “Dos or do’s”

  1. I do see that there is a subsequent piece musing over do’s and don’ts, where somehow or another the mindful mavens of English have redeemed one pathologically irregular verb-turned-into-a-noun into the equally irregular plural form, so perhaps comment isn’t warranted here.

    Yet, it is.

    Taken by itself, do (N) might most properly be the singular, and possibly only the singular form. (This concept is closely parallel with arguments surrounding the providence of America’s schizophrenia regarding quaint ain’t.) Sound it out: “My do and don’t list”.

    Nothing wrong with that at all. Easily understood. The problem comes when we invert “My do and don’t list” to “a list of do’s and don’ts”. Pluralizing establishes do/don’t as hard nouns, which then must behave in nominally noun-ish fashion. Keeping the pair singular leaves them more ambiguous, yet the intent remains clear.

    “My do and don’t list” ≡ “A list of items which I have divided into actions which should be done, and actions which should not be effected”

    All that stuff in the expanded form is rhetorically interpolated because a do/don’t list has become commonplace in day-to-day writing and spoken communication.

    Yet, the mere act of arguing for a change to the singular (and ambiguous as to whether a noun, or transitive verb) form … belies the vernacular. People will have do’s and don’ts lists. My blôody spell-checker doesn’t even balk at these hopelessly erratic frankenwords. So, we muddle along.


    • that’s true.
      In fact “do” is a verb, and in English there is no “number” for verbs (e.g “chopping”.: “He’s chopping a tree” & “They’re chopping a tree” – cause I can’t think of anyone who would try to write/say “They’re choppings a tree”…)

  2. PS: I also really don’t like “dos”. Dos for Californians in general, and much of the nation which rubs noses colloquially with the Hispanic community means TWO. Cervesa, Señor?Si, dos!

    It almost always rattles through my mental prosody as a burr. No!

    (While we’re at it, what about the equally hopeless “yes’s and no’s”? Is it ever correct to spell ’em “yesses and noes”? And why pray is it that the auto-respell djinn insists on respelling “yesses ≡ messes”, but it doesn’t give a mosquito’s tail feather’s insistence over noes?


    • I used to accept apostrophes to denote plurals, but do so no longer. I now view that usage as a bit too twentieth century. And I don’t mean late, either.


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