zero, zero in, zeroing in

Nouns ending with a consonant preceding the o are made plural by adding either an s or an es—although zero can be spelled either way: zeros or zeroes.

  • A zero may mean nothing, but in salary negotiations several zeros (or zeroes) to the left of the decimal point mean a great deal.

Note that an e is added to the verb zero to form the present tense (zeroes) or past tense (zeroed), but an e is not needed to form the present participle (zeroing).

  • Brenda always zeroes right in on the problem.

The verb zero in has a casual tone and is not recommended in formal writing; consider using synonyms such as “focus on” and “concentrate on” instead.

  • To build a stronger team, the football coach is zeroing in on (or focusing on) his players’ weaknesses.

For clarity, hyphenate zero when it is used in a compound modifier, as in zero-tolerance policy.

  • Is a zero-deficit budget realistic at this time?

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