I want to display some attributes with a cardinal number. The following is an example with a software testing framework, but this question applies to more general cases:

1 Error    4 Success    5 Failure

I can implement a function so that the attributes agree in number with the value like:

1 Error    4 Successes    5 Failures

But I want to keep things simple as possible, and not want to bother doing so if that is not a problem.

Will it look like a mistake or un-professional if I do not implement number agreement and go with the first option above, or can there be an understanding among the users that it is okay with always having the singular forms? There is also an option of going with all plural like:

1 Errors    4 Successes    5 Failures

but that looks more like a mistake.


3 Answers 3


Switch them around, and stick to plural:

Whilst "1 Errors" looks rather clumsy, "Errors: 1" is ok.

Errors 0

Errors 1

Errors 2


(Drawback is that the list of numbers is harder for the eye to scan in a table)


I would take a step back and look at what you need to accomplish for this product. Some factors that should come into play for this particular question:

  1. Which "tone" is the product speaking? Do you want it to be very technical, or to feel more friendly and talkative?
  2. How much space do you have available?
  3. How much development time is reasonable to spend on this, alternativly which level is "good enough"?

Depending on the answers to the above questions, I see a couple solutions.

  1. "13 errors found", "1 error found" (correct and polished, expensive)
  2. "Number of errors: 1" (friendly, uses lots of space)
  3. "1 error(s)" (technical tone, cheap)
  4. "1 errors" (slightly incorrect, cheap)



If your audience is anything like software developers, they will report the bug over and over and over and over and over again if you don't implement number agreement. Save everybody lots of trouble and implement it from the start. It's not that much work.

  • Thanks for collecting the examples. However, the first, second, third, and fifth of your examples are cases where this happens in the middle of a sentence, and are obviously wrong. The fourth example is in an isolated context, but has a plural for 1, and that is the case I mentioned as bad. I was wondering if a plural number with a singular noun sounded bad in an isolated context.
    – sawa
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 16:11
  • 1
    "It's not that much work." If your site is English only. The combination of natural language and localization is pretty annoying. Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 21:33

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