April 18th, 2009
A colleague of mine who I’d asked to review something I’d written for a bid proposal yesterday pointed out that I’d spelled appendices wrongly. I’d written appendixes.
Now ten/fifteen years ago I would never have done such a thing. When I was working as an editor I would have corrected other people’s appendixes to appendices. But yesterday I wrote appendixes with only the briefest of thoughts as to which version I should choose.
So, when I was taken to task over it, I wondered why I’d made the choice I made.
And I think the answer is that these days I’m trying to be less prissy about my use of English. So I don’t worry about the “thou shalt” linguistic edicts, like “thou shalt not use ‘which’ to introduce a restrictive relative clause” or “thou shalt not begin a sentence with a conjunction” (see my previous sentence for proof of my willingness to break that dumb rule).
My criteria for judging whether what I’ve written is acceptable or not are (in decreasing order of importance):
- Is it clear what I mean?
- Is it easy to read?
- Does it sound like a phrase a human being might actually utter?
Anyway, I thought I should do a little research to find out if I was way off the mark in using “appendixes”. And the results certainly suggest that most people think appendices is the correct form and a lot of people think it’s the only correct form. As is so common with questions of grammar, the use of appendixes even seems to get some people quite angry. I find this hard to fathom since – even if you think it’s wrong – it’s perfectly clear that when someone writes appendixes they mean the plural of appendix. So why get all hot under the collar about it?
A good discussion of the matter can be found … hang on a minute, use of the passive voice, that’s forbidden isn’t it? Let me start that again …
You can find a good discussion of the matter at the WordReference.com Language Forums:
Richard Bowen used Google to put together some statistics on how often the two words are used in the UK and the rest of the world. He found that, globally, there’s about a 3:1 ratio in favour of appendices; slightly less if you exclude UK Web pages, but for the UK pages alone the ratio is about 18:1.
So maybe I’ll go back to using appendices. However (yep, that’s another rule broken), I’m comforted to find out that all reputable dictionaries give appendixes as a valid spelling. And I liked the following contribution from mplsray on the WordReference forum:
I’d like to point out that The Century Dictionary of 1895 gives for the plural "appendixes or appendices," so appendixes has been a standard form for a very long time. And, although this might represent his opinion alone and not necessarily that of others of his time, Noah Webster in his 1828 dictionary did not consider appendices to be a naturalized English word, giving the only English plural as appendixes.