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Zeros or zeroes?

11 Jan

DictionariesI have to admit that I had never given this one any consideration until it came up in something I was working on yesterday, and I had to look it up to check. So: zeros or zero?

Zeros is a plural noun, and oddly enough it’s the plural of zero. No e when you have lots of zeros.

Zeroes is a form of the verb to zero (in), meaning either to set a measuring device back to zero (I have never heard or read this myself, but M confirms that he uses it with measurement devices in his scientific job!), or to home in on something: “She zeroed in on the fact that he had hidden the muddy boots in the shed”.

So the noun has no e – “there are too many zeros in this post” and the verb does have an e – “my reader zeroes in on the fact that I had to look it up and contacts me to ask me why I don’t know everything off the top of my head”.

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing

 

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7 responses to “Zeros or zeroes?

  1. Lindsay McLoughlin

    January 11, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Great post! Interesting, also, that we can have one hero but lots of heroes!

    Like

     
    • Liz at Libro

      January 12, 2013 at 9:16 am

      Thank you – and yes, indeed – that’s why I had to look it up, because I thought it was zeros and then doubted myself!

      Like

       
  2. Juli Hol

    January 19, 2014 at 4:26 am

    Thank you for explaining it 🙂

    Like

     
    • Liz at Libro

      January 20, 2014 at 9:58 am

      You’re welcome – glad I could help make sense of this one!

      Like

       
  3. Meaghan ReBell

    April 1, 2014 at 12:25 am

    thank you!!!! i saw this “rule” a few years back, and just saw your post on it now…coincidentally, Merriam-Webster says there is no difference…i have boycotted MW ever since they added funner to the dictionary…the least they could have done was to put a disclaimer with it…something along the lines of: slang, not grammatically correct
    anyway, thank you

    Like

     
    • Liz at Libro

      April 1, 2014 at 8:07 am

      I can’t really comment about why or if they’re the same in American English, but it would be a shame to lose the distinction between them, I think.

      Best wishes,

      Liz

      Like

       

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