11 hours ago, cbae wrote
Very true. Since the mid '90s, it's definitely been easier to get access to the Chicago Manual of Style or equivalent than it's been to remember what Mrs. Pritchett taught us.
The Chicago Manual of Style is a "Manual of Style" (clue is in the name).
And there are no shortage of English style guides that recommend pluralizing numbers with apostrophes:
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary
often forms plurals of letters, figures, and words referred to as words
⟨You should dot your i's and cross your t's.⟩
⟨His l's and his 7's looked alike.⟩
⟨She has trouble pronouncing her the's.⟩
Also American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd College Edition:
42's and 53's
x's, y's, and z's
in the 1700's
an article with too many also's
Or Practical English Usage, 2nd Edition:
Apostrophes are used in the plurals of letters, and often of numbers and abbreviations.
- He writes b's instead of d's.
- It was in the early 1960's. (OR ... 1960s.)
- I know two MP's personally. (OR ... MPs.)
My point is not that you must pluralize your numbers with an apostrophe. I only seek to dispel your mistaken impression that it is somehow forbidden.
There is no rule here. And it doesn't matter how many different authorities/style guides are cited - usage in this area has never been fixed. The use of apostrophes for pluralization of numbers has always been less common than not doing so, but it's been around for hundreds of years, and is still in wide usage today.
That's not because English writing peoples are stupid and don't know how to write English. It's because your so called "rule", does not exist, and has never existed within the English language.
English is what English people say and write. And whilst a large number of English speaking people write apostrophes after their 1's, their 2's and their 3's, the only people who will ever tell them that it is not "correct" for them to do so, are those who think that language lives in a box, or is defined by bearded men in ivory towers who define rules for others to follow; i.e. people who do not understand language.
English is not constrained by rules. It is defined by usage. That is why lol is now an English word now, and why thou (which used to be one) is no longer. It is why tomorrow is no longer spelt (or is that spelled)? to-morrow, and why the plural of antenna is both antennae and antennas. It is why o'er is no longer a valid contraction of over, but why txt is now a valid contraction of text (noting, of course, that t'xt isn't a valid such contraction).
English evolves on the streets of the English speaking world. Not in ivory towers. Those who watch it and study it can marvel at its structure, it's beauty and its form. And those who try to constrain it with invented rules out of some vision of how the language ought to work will always be frustrated.
If you spend your time looking at language and seeing rules being broken everywhere, you need to ask whether that is because everyone around you is stupid, or else that your rules are.