X's, Xs or Xes?

“Three people sign a treaty with just a large X. In an article referencing the treaty, they are referred to as the three ... Xes, X’s or Xs?”

That’s a question an editor posed to fellow editors recently on social media. But here's a question: Why would an editor have to ask? Why would he anticipate that fellow editors could disagree?

Editors are supposed to know such things, right? It’s our job, isn’t it? We’re human repositories of knowledge about all the rules that govern language, are we not?

Of course not. And that’s not how editing works. It’s not even how language works. If you read between the lines, there’s good news here: It’s OK to not have all the answers about punctuation and grammar because editors don’t have all the answers.

How did Hollandbeck’s peers answer? By the time 34 people had chimed in, the results were: 3% preferred Xes, 50% preferred X’s, 47% preferred Xs.

Who’s right? Technically, they all are. But if there's one to avoid, it's probably Xes. Here's my column that explains.

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