Dealing with singular plural phrasing

archived, code comments edit

This is an age old problem and one that’s probably been solved countless times before, but I’m going to write about it anyways.

Say you’re writing code like this:

<p>You have the following themes:</p>
<ul>
@foreach(var theme in Model) {
  <li>@theme.Id</li>
}
</ul>

The natural inclination for the lazy developer is to leave enough alone and stop there. It’s good enough, right? Right?

Sure, when the value of Model.Count is zero or larger than one. But when it is exactly one, the phrase is incorrect English as it should be singular “You have the following theme”.

I must fight my natural inclination here! On the NuGet team, we have a rallying cry intended to inspire us to strive for better, “Apple Polish!”. We tend to blurt it out at random in meetings. I’m thinking of purchasing each member of the team a WWSJD bracelet (What Would Steve Jobs Do?).

To handle this case, I wrote a simple extension method:

public static string CardinalityLabel(this int count, string singular,
    string plural)
{
    return count == 1 ? singular : plural;
}

Notice that I didn’t try automatic pluralization. That’s just a pain.

With this method, I can change the markup to say:

<p>You have the following 
  @Model.Count.CardinalityLabel("theme", "themes"):</p>

I’m still just not sure about the name of that method though. What should it be?

Do you have such a method? Or are you fine with the awkward phrasing once in a while?

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