POLL: How do you pluralize “index”?

Indexes or indices? Which is the better way to pluralize “index”? This topic came up in an exchange with Theresa Hamacher, president of NICSA. She said:

When Bob Pozen and I used “indexes” in the manuscript of our book, The Fund Industry: How Your Money is Managed — and our copy editor changed them all to “indices” — I ended up going back to “indexes,” partly because of personal preference, partly because I believed “indexes” is more common in our industry. But I wondered whether was an industry standard. . .

In favor of indices

Indices is the correct way to pluralize index in Latin, according to multiple sources on the Internet.

Grammarist says that indices is the most popular plural form of index outside North America. So, should North Americans go along? I agree with Grammarist: “…while it’s true that indices is the correct plural of index in Latin, index is an English word when English-speakers use it, so we can pluralize it in the manner of our own language.”

In favor of indexes

Reader comprehension is my number one priority. I think the average American will recognize indexes as the plural of index. I’m not so sure what they’ll make of indices.

Garner’s Modern American Usage says it’s pretentious to use indices. “For ordinary purpose, indexes is the preferable plural…,” says author Bryan Garner. However, he notes that indices is preferred by some writers in technical fields. If performance measurement is a technical field, then perhaps performance professionals can make a case for indices.

Indexes won in terms of number of appearances on Google. The term appears about 112 million times vs. about 88 million for indices.

Please answer the poll in the right-hand margin

What’s YOUR preference–indices or indexes? Please answer the poll in the right-hand margin of this blog. I will report on the results in my newsletter.

Poll: How do you spell euro + zone?

Europe’s problems have dominated economic and market news recently.

They’ve also inspired this month’s poll because I see different ways of spelling and punctuating the combination of euro + zone.

First, let me point out that you should not capitalize the initial letter of “euro” unless it’s in a context where you’d also capitalize “dollar.” For example, in an article title or the first word of a sentence. Although many writers capitalize “euro,” it’s a currency, not a place.

Euro + zone as a noun

I commonly see the region spelled “euro zone” as two separate words, with no hyphen, in U.S. publications. However, I found “eurozone” in Wikipedia, The Financial Times, and Investopedia.

Euro + zone as an adjective

There are two schools of thought about whether to hyphenate compound adjectives, as I discussed in “Should you hyphenate ‘fixed income’?

The Wall Street Journal hyphenates euro-zone when the paper’s reporters uses the term as an adjective. You see an example in the image below. Please note, in the image the term “euro-zone” appeared as the first word of a sentence. That’s the only reason it is capitalized.

Sources that used “eurozone” for the noun, also used it for the adjective. Perhaps eurozone is more popular in Europe because the term is more commonly used there. Words tend to lose their hyphens over time.

What’s the best practice?

I’m curious how you spell euro +zone.

Please answer the poll in the right-hand column of my blog. I’ll report on the results in my next newsletter.

Here are your choices for how to spell the term as a noun, as in “problems in the euro zone,” and as an adjective, as in “euro-zone steel consumption”:

  • eurozone, as noun and adjective
  • euro zone,as noun, and euro-zone as adjective
  • euro-zone as noun and adjective
  • I don’t know

Whatever you do, I hope you’re consistent. Consistency helps your readers understand you better.

Usage tips for portfolio performance commentary writers

It’s almost time for quarter-end investment performance reporting. I have some tips for you.

1. Use the past tense.

Why? Because portfolio performance commentary discusses historical performance.

2. Describe benchmarks’ key characteristics, when appropriate.

The general public doesn’t know the difference between the S&P 500 and the S&P 400. They may think one is a subset of the other, like the Fortune 50 and the Fortune 1000. So specify “the mid-cap S&P 400.”

3. Be consistent in how you spell and punctuate terms.

For example, choose between “indexes” and “indices.” Decide whether you’ll use “small cap” exclusively without a hyphen or hyphenate it as “small-cap” when you use it as an adjective.

4. Limit your references to the time period.

Once you establish that you’re writing about the second quarter, don’t repeat that information frequently. However, if you shift between discussing the second quarter and the month of June, name the periods often enough that your reader follows your transitions.

5. Don’t go crazy replacing “returned,” as in “the fund returned 3%.”

There are plenty of other ways to convey the information in the sentence. However, I believe too much variety is counterproductive in a paragraph that consists mainly of returns. Instead, the variety distracts from the reader’s ability to compare returns. If you’re citing many index returns, perhaps you should insert a table.

Do you have grammar, punctuation, or other usage tips for people writing about investment performance? Please leave them as comments below.

Where’s the typo?

Can you find the typo in the following paragraph? If no one finds it, I’ll post the answer next week.

A strong fourth-quarter rally capped an impressive 2010 for U.S. stocks. The Morningstar US Market Index returned 16.8% in 2010, largely due to an 11.5% gain in the fourth quarter. A second round of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserved fueled a fourth-quarter rally in U.S. equities.

This kind of typo is why I suggest that you “Forget your spell checker!

How do you spell it? “Out-performance” vs. “outperformance”

The Firefox browser’s spellchecker keeps tagging “outperformance” as a typo. I feel very annoyed when this happens because I believe it’s wrong.

The case for “outperformance”

Here’s the evidence in favor of marrying “out” and “performance” so they’re one word:

  1. “Generally do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word that starts with a consonant,” says The Associated Press Stylebook. Note: I’m using the 2007 version of the AP Stylebook.
  2. Words into Type agrees, saying “The modern tendency is to eliminate the hyphen between a prefix and a root unless the root is a proper noun or adjective, such as un-American.”
  3. Google brings up about 1.2 million examples for “+fund +outperformance” vs.fewer than 700,000 for “+fund +out-performance.”

The case for “out-performance” with a hyphen

I mustered one piece of  evidence in favor of hyphenating “out-performance.” Google yields more than 931 million search results for “out-performance” vs. only 1.01 million for “outperformance.” It’s strange that the first four results use the spelling “outperformance,”as you see in the screen shot on the left.

Results of my spelling poll

When I polled my newsletter and blog readers about the proper spelling, “outperformance” won in a landslide, with 92% of the vote. Here are the results:

  • Outperformance: 92%
  • Out-performance: 0
  • Out performance: 8%
Note: I updated this piece on December 1, 2013, to share the results of my poll, instead of directing readers to a poll that’s no longer active. This post originated as a request for readers to respond to a poll.

Forget your spell checker!

You can’t rely on automated spell checkers. They won’t catch all of your typos.

I remember a beautiful institutional investment pitch book shared by a senior portfolio manager. I’ll call him George Miller. The front cover billed him as “George Miller, Portfolio Manger.”

Yes, that’s “manger” not “manager.”

You can use the proofreading methods in “Six ways to stop sending emails with errors” to complement your spell checker.

Your spell checker doesn’t work so you must proofread

Can you identify the error?

The picture shows the subject line of an email that I’ve edited to hide the identity of the guilty typist. It includes the kind of error that a spell checker won’t catch. Even Microsoft Word’s grammar checker didn’t catch the typo when I tested the complete sentence.

Proofreading is essential, if you want to avoid embarrassing yourself in your financial blog or other written communications. Tips for effective proofreading are included in my blogging class.

If you think typos don’t matter, read some of the comments this typo drew from my social media friends.

  • Oooh…That makes me not want to open that e-mail at all.
  • That kind of mistake makes me nuts.
  • Ouch!

In case you couldn’t identify the error

The subject line should have read “See who’s speaking this fall….”

Gosh, I hope I didn’t let any typos slip through in this post.

Note: This post was updated on May 18, 2015 to remove an outdated link.

“Investable” or “investible”–which spelling is correct?

How should you spell the word that may appear in descriptions of an asset management firm’s minimum requirements for clients– “investable” or “investible”?

My gut tells me “investable” with “a” because the definition depends on how much you are able to invest.

The case for “investable” over “investible”

  1. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary includes “investable,” but not the alternative spelling.
  2. Garner’s Modern American Usage calls “-ible”  “dead as a combining form in English,” while “-able” is a living suffix that may be added to virtually any verb without an established suffix.”  It includes “investable” among “some of the hundreds of adjectives preferably spelled -able.”

The case for “investible” over “investable”

  1. Google turns up about 393,000 references to”investible” vs. only 320,000 to “investable.”
  2. Fowler’s Modern English Usage says “The –ible form is the natural one for words derived from Latin verbs ending –ere or –ire, making adjectives in –ibilis.” I don’t know about “making adjectives in –ibilis,” but lo and behold, my dictionary says the word “invest” comes from the Latin investire. However, my copy of Fowler’s dates back to the 1960s.
  3. The Financial Times Lexicon goes with “investible.” Could this be a British thing?

The SEC is a draw

A search of the SEC website yielded an equal number of results for both spellings. I wonder if they use both as key words for search purposes.


Note: I updated this blog post in 2015 to delete an outdated reference to an inactive poll.


If you enjoy my #CFA2010 tweets…

…you may also enjoy my free monthly e-newsletter with practical tips for your client communications. You’ll also find at least one investment or wealth management article. 

I often report on presentations to the Boston Security Analysts Society, so you know you’ll see topics of interest to CFA charterholders.

Topics in the May 2010 issue included

  • Watch out for inflation, says veteran value investor, Jean-Marie Eveillard
    Treasurys vs. Treasuries–Which is the right spelling? 
  • How to guest-blog on personal finance or investing 
  • Poll: How do you sign your business emails? 
  • Last month’s reader poll about ghostbloggers 
  • Morgan Creek Capital’s Yusko on investing

Receive a free 32-page e-book with client communications tips when you sign up for my free monthly newsletter.  

Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Treasurys vs. Treasuries — Which is the right spelling?

What’s the right way to spell the plural of Treasury, as in U.S. Treasury bond?

Should it be “Treasurys,” following the rule that the members of the Murphy family become Murphys? Or should it follow the normal rules of creating plurals for words that end in the letter y?

I panicked when I saw “Treasurys” in The Wall Street Journal. Eek! Have I been spelling the word wrong for 20-odd years?

However, I quickly discovered that opinions are split. When I Googled the terms, there were 2.2 million results for Treasuries vs. only 1.5 million for Treasurys. 

The evidence for Treasuries
Here’s the rule that would typically apply. “…if a word ends in a -y that isn’t preceded by a vowel, the plural is formed by omitting the -y and substituting -ies…,” according to Garner’s Modern American Usage. Garner makes an exception for proper names ending in y. He agrees that Murphy becomes Murphys.

Does Treasury qualify as a proper name? Proper names are usually personal names–such as Murphy–or geographic names–such as Washington, D.C. Following this reasoning, Treasuries makes sense.

My friend, financial editor Harriett Magee, found that sources including the Barron’s Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms agreed with Treasuries. Plus, her spell-checker flagged Treasurys as a mistake. 

If you prefer Treasurys…
You’ve got some high-powered company if you stick with Treasurys. When The Wall Street Journal spells it that way, that legitimizes it in my eyes.

If you can’t bear not knowing what’s 100% correct, then use the workaround that Harriett Magee suggests. Refer to Treasury bonds, Treasury notes, and so on. It’s bit wordy, but correct. 

Follow this advice, no matter what you decide
It’s important to use your words consistently in your corporate communications. Pick one spelling and stick with it. 

Consider creating a corporate style guide that lists preferred spellings. It’s a lot easier to have an authoritative source for your company than to try to keep the rules in your head.

My thanks go to David Glen, senior vice president at Boston Private Bank, for raising this question.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.