I know many engineers can't write well, but I think most people can't write well. I find frequent solecisms in every newspaper except the most elite, and those are written by people with degrees in journalism. Newcasters can't conjugate "to lie" or use the past perfect properly. I speculate that engineers probably have above-average grammar and spelling. I admit that the spelling and grammar in IEEE papers is abominable, but that's probably because many authors don't speak English well and the IEEE does not bother to edit.
I would think that since spelling and grammar is based on memorization and algorithms, engineers would do better in these areas. Many of the rules are arbitrary, but that's true of many things in engineering as well.
I don't know why the apostrophe in plurals is so prevalent. Using one in initialisms like "FPGAs" is much less of a sin than what I often see. Just today I saw a sign advertising "Manicure's and Pedicure's".
To be really fair, a lot of non-engineers can't write either....
There are examples of bad grammer and spelling all over the internet. Speaking of which, having a spell checker on EETimes would be extremely useful. Maybe you need to send T-shirts similar to the one in your article to the powers that be.
@#Jimelectr: Darn it, Max, now you've gone and burst my bubble!
I'm sorry (said Max, humbly)
I would totally recommend Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss -- this is a thin, interesting, amusing, and fun guide to punctuation (like where she says things like "don't use commas like a stupid person").
As part of this book, Lynne notes that the apostrophy is one of the most overloaded punctuation marks (think "overloaded operators" in a programming language).
One thing it's used for is to indicate missing letters, like Fish 'n' Chips instead of Fish and Chips, or like me writing about My little bro' instead of My little brother.
Plurals is a huge topic. The simplest form is to add an 's', so the singular dog becomes the pulural dogs, and the singular boy becomes the plural boys. The problem with English is that we have many words from different roots/languages, so words like children is inherently plural (there's no need to say childrens).
But like I say, plurals is a huge topic. Take the word Octopus, for example. The standard English plural is Octopuses, but since this word came to us from the Greek it is technically more correct to say Octopodes (we would never say Octopi, because this would be formed from the rules for Latin plurals).
By comparison, the word Hippopotamus (originally Greek for River Horse) came to us from both the Greek and the Latin, to it is appropriate to use either Hippopotamuses or Hippopotami.
Returning to your question, to th ebes tof my knowledge you never use an apostrophy to indicate a plural, irrespective of whether its a real word or a TLA or whatever. You do, however, use it to indicate a posessive, for example the dog's ball, meaning a single ball belonging to a single dog, versus the dogs balls, meaning multiple balls belonging to a single dog, versus the dogs' ball, meaning a single ball belonging to a multiple dogs, versus the dogs' balls, meaning multiple balls belonging to a multiple dogs.
In the case of letters like 'a' -- if you wish to create a plural -- this is a pain. If you write as then it looks like the word as. In such a case, instead I might be tempted to use quites around both sides of the letter like the nonsense word "aaaaaa" involves six 'a's in a row; but I'd be more tempted to reword it into something like the nonsense word "aaaaaa" involves six copies of the letter 'a' in a row or the nonsense word "aaaaaa" involves six 'a' letters in a row.
Returning to FPGA, you might say something like We have six FPGAs on this board (meaning plural FPGAs), as opposed to All of the FPGA's outputs should be triven to a logic 0 (meaning the outputs belonging to the FPGA).
I hope this helps a bit -- one of my background hobby projects is to write a book on grammar and punctuation targeted toward engineers (that is, we only cover the interesting stuff that anyone really cares about, not the boring stuff that is of interest only to dweebs and drongos) -- do you think you'd be interested in such a book?
Darn it, Max, now you've gone and burst my bubble! And after I just paid you a compliment on your "unknown male model" photo! I thought for sure "FPGA's" was correct, but wouldn't you know it, a Microsemi ad on this very page says, "See what a difference Microsemi FPGAs can make to....", adding weight to your argument! Isn't the rule that plurals of acronyms (like the TLAs [three-letter acronyms or even better, Tektronix Logic Analyzers!] I'm so fond of) have an apostrophe between themselves and the "s"? Or is that rule just for single letters, such as "a's" or "A's"? Now you've got me all in a grammatical tizzy! TIA (Thanks In Advance in this case, not TransImpedance Amplifier or Time Interval Analyzer, as geekily cool as those two TLAs are) for sorting out this conundrum. See, I'm trying to follow my newly learned rule...
@Kevin: ...It perpetuates the notion that engineers can't write...
To be fair, a lot of them can't -- you should see some of the stuff that comes my way -- article submissions that confuse its and it's and your and you're and use apostrophes to indicate plurals like "...take the FPGA's and..."
I love engineers (I R 1), but writing often is not the number #1 item in their skill set (bless their little cotton socks)
At a concert I passed a guy with a black T-shirt with nothing on the front but a definite integral. I didn't understand it until a minute later after I'd evaluated it. I won't post it because it's in poor taste and this is a classy website.
I've also seen one with Maxwell's equations. (Picture below.)
I'm not sure I like the one pictured in the article. It perpetuates the notion that engineers can't write. I'm pretty sure that people who are smarter in math are, on average, smarter in everything.