Happy Apostrophe Season!

It’s that time of year again, when you’re forcing your family into matching maroon plaid shirts and jeans and trying to figure out where in your town there’s a decent enough backdrop for a picture where everyone is hopefully maybe looking normal-ish so you can send it to all your loved ones…

IT’S HOLIDAY CARD SEASON! 

Holiday cards are both the delight of my December and the bane of my existence. Why?

Apostrophes. 

More and more, it seems, the rules of pluralization and, especially, plural possessives are forgotten and people throw apostrophes around on holiday cards like snowballs after the first real snow of the season (I assume…it doesn’t actually snow here. Maybe I should use a different simile…anyway…).

And yes. This post may make me seem like a “Grammar Grinch” but you know what? Benedict Cumberbatch is the Grinch now, and I’m happy to be in his company.

grinch
Plus, I really love Dr. Seuss. Who doesn’t?

Since the holidays are a time when many people need to use plurals + plural possessives, particularly in proper names, I’m writing this little guide (featuring some of my favorite pop culture “characters” if you will) to help you make sure your cards, letters, gift tags, home decor signs, etc. are all properly apostrophe-d (apostrophized? I don’t think there’s a real verb here...)

The Last Names

 

This one is a two-fer, because you might be needing to know how to pluralize your last name for signing your card and/or you might need to pluralize the last name of someone you’re sending a card to. In any case, in these “greeting” type situations, you do not use an apostrophe. 

Let’s look at some incorrect examples:

The Cullen’s or The Cullens’ 

There’s nothing for the Cullens to possess here, so an apostrophe is not needed. Just tack an “s” onto the end, since there are more than one (whether you’re sending it Edward and Bella only, or to the whole Cullen clan).

If a last name ends in a -y, you keep it a -y. It would be incorrect to send something to The Kennedies. You also can’t just tack an “s” on if the name already ends in an -s (or x/z/ch/sh). So, if the family’s last name was Perkins, The Perkinss would be wrong.

Now, let’s look at some correct examples of pluralizing last names, including those that follow special rules, like last names that end in -s, -x, -z, -ch, -sh and last names that end in a -y.

  • The Halperts
  • The Mosbys
  • The Spencers
  • The Winchesters
  • The Grinches 
  • The Learys

etc.

But what if it’s My Party or The Last Names’ Party? 

It’s a wonderful time of year for parties! And if you + your significant other are throwing one, then yes, there is a reason to use an apostrophe.

IF THERE’S MORE THAN ONE PERSON…

Like above, if it is a couple or a family hosting, you want to pluralize the name first and then add the apostrophe after the pluralization (-s or -es). Such as:

  • The Haverfords’ Cocktail Party
  • The Gusters’ White Elephant Gift Exchange

IF IT IS JUST ONE INDIVIDUAL/HOST…

This is one of the few times when you’ll actually want to use an ‘s. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Rachel Green’s Friendsgiving
  • Monica Gellar’s Hanukkah Cookie Exchange

What if it’s just someone’s first name? 

Then, you would use an ‘s, like:

  • Annie’s Tree Lighting & Caroling
  • Jeff’s First Christmas Party
  • Abed’s New Year’s Eve Movie Marathon

Apostrophes and Plurals Give Me a Headache! What can I do?!?

If the idea of wanting to keep all this straight around the holidays is just TOO MUCH for you to think about (and you care about staying grammatically correct, of course!), then just stick with full names without the pluralization. If you want to send to a group, use “Family” or “Household.” Here are a few more examples:

  • Pierce Hawthorne and Troy Barnes
  • Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt
  • Chandler Bing and Joey Tribiani
  • The Bennett Family
  • The Traeger Household
  • The Scott Residence

I hope you find all of this helpful as we head into the holiday season! If you have questions, drop ’em in the comments or send me a tweet at @ThatColette and I will try to answer them for you!

Happy Holidays! (Note – No apostrophe in that either. 😉 )