Submitted by yd on October 30, 2009

Table of Content vs Table of Contents

Apart from the fact that convention is clearly “Table of Contents”, is there a grammatical reasoning for “Table of Content” vs “Table of Contents”?

I guess it comes down to whether the noun “content” is one that can be counted, i.e. several contents, or not.

My instinct is that in fact, content is not an enumerable noun, i.e. it should be Table of Content. But does that mean that MS Word, LaTeX and all other Desktop Publishers out there are just wrong?

YD

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The sense of "content" used in "online content" or "content producers" is not enumerable. But the phrase "table of contents" uses it in the older sense of "things contained", as in "the contents of his pockets," equivalent to "the things contained in his pockets." "Table of contents" = "table of things contained in this book."

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There is NO case in which content"s" is correct. We don't fill a glass with waters, we donlt fill a balloon with airs. In a book, there are letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, . . . Etcetera (not etcetera"s"). Together they form the ONE thing between the front and back covers: content.

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If you are enumerating chapters, it would idiomatically be "Table of Contents." However, if you are attempting to enumerate ideas, it would be "Table of Content."

In other words, both are correct depending on your view of what is a book. To me, "Table of Content" sounds more natural as what is a book if not the sum of its ideas. A book is not the sum of its chapters; that would be to relegate the worth of a book to its size rather than its content.

So, if you judge a book by its size, use "Table of Contents". But, if you judge a book by it ideas and concepts, the use "Table of Content."

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Content, as a noun, is usually used in its plural form to define something contained. In that case, it would be Table of Contents, as in, table of what is contained. It has nothing to do with waters and airs.... Your English is very indicative of your credibility Robd4.

See here:
Definition of CONTENT
1a : something contained —usually used in plural <the jar's contents> <the drawer's contents>
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/content

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Try googling table of content without inverted commas, and nearly every entry is for table of contents. Use inverted commas to narrow the search, and it comes up with about 3 million to 186 million for the contents version. In Google Books it's 42,000 to just under 25 million. That's less than 2% for the singular version in general search, and less than 0.2 percent in Google Books. Table of Contents is what we are all used to seeing in books, and I don't suppose publishers think they are 'relegating the worth of a book to its size rather than its content.' As glee says, it's much the more natural choice.

What do people have against the standard idiomatic English that everyone understands, that they want to replace it with some unnatural sounding phrase for the sake of some perceived 'grammatical correctness', whose validity is pretty doubtful anyway? What is so wrong with natural English?

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Let thine ear be the guide. Table of Contents, new, old or in between rolls off the tongue more easily than does Table of Content. Grammatical conventions evolve and are NOT cast in concrete. This one has clearly evolved away from Table of Content, enumeration options notwithstanding. g

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I'm very content to use Table of Contents.

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My house may only be one place, but it's still "the premises", not "the premise".

"Content" as a mass noun is a very recent phenomenon.

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If referring to more than one table of content, then it follows that "table" should be pluralized to read "tables of content", as may be found in a series of publications addressing the same subject.

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It is 'Table of Content'!!!

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table of content bro.

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@Thredder - the content of your comment made me equally content, unlike some of the contents of this thread. It certainly seems to be a contentious issue, although I have to say I find that some of the comments are a bit high in nonsense content.

@the Table of Content fans - The content of a book is its subject matter and the actual writing (eg 'it's all style and no content'); the various chapters are its contents (things that are contained in something). Look at your cereal packet, it talks about the contents, not the content. The Table of Contents is simply a list of chapters, not a guide to the content of the book; that's the job of the blurb. Just check a dictionary.

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@Warsaw Will:
Sometimes 'majority' means all the idiots are on the same side. ;-)

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There are many contents. So it should be "Table of Contents". Always it should be in plural form.
See here also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_contents

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It is not simply whether we are speaking of being enumerable vs. the contained. The crucial distinction, as my friend Amber points out, is in the type of quantity of the contained. Are we speaking of things discreet or continuous in quantity? Of distinct quantities (numbers) in something else, we say "contents." For example, 'The contents of my purse are a pen, wallet, etc.' Of continuous quantities (geometric entities), we speak of "content," as in 'The content of my glass is milk' (in a cylindrical shape).

With books, we speak of the 'content' as constituting a whole in a way analogous to a circle, rather than the number one. It would be strange to speak of its 'contents' unless we were going to then identify specific topics and themes or sections and so on, which would then each be discreetly distinguished things. This is how we speak of the 'content' of a book when we break it down into headings and place these in a 'table' (a setting of distinct items, placed apart from one another for the sake of clarifying the organization). To have a 'table' of 'content' would be awkward, because it would imply you are placing the continuous totality of what is contained within the book in a confined space within it. That would be crazy and doesn't make any sense. Thus, "table of contents" is proper.

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I think the key factor is that "content" is preceded by "table". A table is an array of data which would force content to take the plural form. While you're correct that all the information in the book would be "content", a table of it makes it "contents".

It's similar to how a bunch of people is called a crowd. But if you're referring to different types of crowds you'd say "types of crowds".

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this thread seems to be a bit contentious...

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I agree with glee. With glee I agree with glee. Add "table of contents" to those other eccentricities like "a pair of pants," which is singular, and "a head of hair [not hairs]", which is always plural. I suspect the table was added later on to what may originally have been simply "Contents," which we still might see on other containers besides books.

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I can't see why it shouldn't be "table of contents".
The contents are plural things, right? Bits, pieces, ingredients, constituents, call them what you will.
I think what's causing some confusion here is that the individual contents, when combined, make up the whole, which is your content.
But the table shows the individual bits and pieces, i.e. *plural* contents.

Of course "table of contents" sounds way more natural too.

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It's "Table of Content"...(my teacher told me):D

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If we consult with the all-powerful Google wizard, then "Table of Contents" wins, hands down, at a rate of 55 to 1. Sorry, "Table of Content," you just didn't have enough of the right stuff to win....

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Moses came down from Mt Sinai...with him is a pair of flat stone that contains ......... "THE TEN COMMANDMENT".....hehehehehe

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@Aeomer - sorry to be a bit obtuse, but could you explain?

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yeah...I agree yobro, I think it's Table of content

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