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You are not 'an alumni."

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Frank Schultz
April 15, 2012

Ron Nief, emeritus director of public affairs at Beloit College, is perhaps best known for his co-authorship of the college's annual Mindset List. He is also a steely-eyed wordsmith, which is why I asked him to write this blog for me.

Back when Ron was head of public relations for the college, he would send out a note each spring, reminding writers that “alumni” is a plural word. I asked Ron to reprise that effort, and here is what he sent me:

Before we know it, invitations to graduation will be in the mail and students will become graduates...or alumni. Actually, given the misuse of the Latin endings, they may be wondering exactly what they are. Graduates and their families—and news reporters more and more—seem to be getting it wrong. So here is a guide to the proper description for these new members of the Alumni Association.

Collectively, all these graduates, male and female, taken together, will become alumni.

The individual male will be an alumnus. A group of male graduates will be alumni. (This is because the “i” ending is both the plural masculine and the plural neuter ending.)

The individual female will become an alumna. A group of female graduates will be alumnae. (The plural feminine ending is “ae” and pronounced as ee.)

So, one person cannot be “an alumni” and a group of graduates cannot be “alumnuses.”

Parents remain just plain proud.

Thanks, Ron



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