‘Tis the season for bookish gifts, literary awards, and pluralization troubles. Greeting cards and holiday imagery are usually littered with seasonal sentiments and last name conundrums – so today we will get to the bottom of common mistakes made with plural (and non-plural) titles as well as other errors. The following are not all specific examples of things I’ve seen, but they are all inspired by things I’ve seen on greeting cards and holiday expressions.
When used in a sentence, the “merry” before Christmas is usually incorrectly capitalized:
We wish you a Merry Christmas!
We wish you a merry Christmas!
The same goes for New Year’s Day and Eve:
Have a safe and Happy New Year!
Have a safe and happy New Year!
Of course, the argument can be made for capitalizing all the words on a holiday greeting because of personal preference. To this I say: do your thing, chicken wing. It’s your personal greeting, after all (I myself prefer to capitalize all first letters Oprah style).
These, however, do not lend you the privilege or excuse of stylistic liberty. Pluralization may just be one of the many challenging parts of language, or at least the English language. What to do if the word ends in “s”? What about “es”? Why is life so hard? Breathe – here are some fun holiday themed explanations for using apostrophes correctly.
Seasons Greetings or Seasons’ Greeting’s
The greetings belong to the season. Since season is a singular noun that doesn’t end with an s, to show possession an apostrophe followed by an s is the correct way to start this sentiment. No apostrophe is needed for greetings since its s just indicates there is more than one greeting – not that it’s possessive.
New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve and happy New Year
New Years’ Day or happy New Year’s
Again with the possessive. The Day and Eve belong to the New Year, a singular noun not ending in s, so to show possession an apostrophe followed by an s is correct.
New Years is incorrect, and especially when you end it with an apostrophe. Remember, the day belongs to the New Year (not the New Years).
Quite possibly the most butchered item on a Christmas or general greeting card. If you only learn one more thing in your entire life, learn how to write your name in all forms.
I’m talking about you, Hoffman. Greetings from the Hoffman’s makes me wonder if you ran out of characters to put on your card; the Hoffman’s what? Greetings from the Hoffmans tells me you, your spouse, and your children send me greetings; there’s no need for the apostrophe because you aren’t indicating possession of an object.
And you, Jones. Please remember that since your name ends in s, an es is required to show plurality. Happy holidays from the Joneses.
And no need to change your name, Mr. and Mrs. Avery (or you, Hoffman family). For irregular nouns, like man, child, and bunny, adding an s or es to make them plural does not work. However, this does not apply to proper nouns. Your name is your name; even the English language gives you a pass on its spelling. Happy New Year from the Averies is acceptable if your last name is Averie. Otherwise, Happy New Year from the Averys, Hoffmans, Childs, are all correct.
Of course, if you’re inviting guests over for a party, don’t throw away your knowledge of possession as if it’s your aunt’s fruitcake. You’re invited to the Smith’s holiday bash and The Avery’s annual Christmas party are two examples of correctly written possessive statements (the Jones’ home and the Jones’s home are both correct).
I hope this doesn’t stop you from sending greeting cards, but instead pushes you to proofread and double check your work – it will be especially important as you pour over your cards’ designs after a few spicy eggnogs. And if there’s an error you seem to encounter every year, share it below in the comments, and feel free to not-so subtly share my post and punctuation examples with that person or organization. Happy holidays!