Thursday, November 21, 2013

a Christmas grammar intervention

We're approaching the most wonderful time of the year, people. There are a lot of things I love about the Christmas season, and I'm not going to talk about any of them right now. Instead, I am going to focus on one extremely important, often overlooked detail of the holiday season.

Grammar.

IT'S TIME FOR AN INTERVENTION. On your Christmas cards.

It's time, people. Time for us to step up our Christmas card game. I've seen a thousand bloggers talking about Christmas cards this week-- sharing their favorite card vendors, their tips on how to get the perfect family picture, their detailed guides on coordinating wardrobes. I trust that you don't need my help with any of that. But let us not overlook one very important feature of our Christmas cards: what we actually write on them.

I saw some people discussing this on Facebook. I saw confusion. I saw people trying to reach out for help. I saw misinformation being spread. I've seen some heinous grammar offenses on cards I've received over the years. I can't let this go on. I'm here to help.



Luckily there is basically only one HUGE issue when it comes to Christmas card grammar: pluralization of names. And apostrophes.

For this important issue, one I have ranted about many time before, I will refer you to the exact same grammar rule of thumb as always. And this time I even made a graphic!



Yes, it would be entirely appropriate to print this, frame it, tattoo it on your arm, make a decal and stick it on your wall-- WHATEVER IT TAKES TO REMEMBER IT.

When it comes to Christmas cards, I know what happens. You want to say "Merry Christmas from the _____!" (pluralized version of your last name) You're going to be tempted to throw in an apostrophe in your last name. DON'T.

Just because it's Christmas-- you don't need an apostrophe. Just because it's your last name-- you don't need an apostrophe. But apostrophes are festive, Erika! I want to sprinkle them everywhere! They are cheery!

I DON'T CARE. DON'T DO IT.

Let's start with an easy example- a last name that doesn't end in any tricky, apostrophe-tempting letters. We'll say Smith. (Note: I'm just trying to pick generic, common (in America) last names-- I'm not picking on anyone in particular.)

Assuming your card is from more than one person in your Smith-last-named family, it's pretty straightforward: Merry Christmas from the Smiths!

Your last name is Smith. There's more than one of you. Stick an s on the end. YOU ARE DONE. Congrats on having a really easy last name.

Correct: Merry Christmas from the Greens! Happy Holidays from the Clintons!

WRONG: Merry Christmas from the Black's! Happy Holidays from the Garcia's!

You see what's wrong there? THE APOSTROPHE.

Apostrophes denote possession. Merry Christmas from the Black's what? Their dog? Their house? Their chair? And why does he or she call him/herself "the Black"?????!!!

If you are lucky enough to have an 'easy' last name like those in the examples above, please just don't overthink it: add an -s and be done with it. CHECK YOUR APOSTROPHES AT THE DOOR.

But there are those of us blessed with trickier last names. Like last names that already end in -s. Or -es. Or -ch, -sh, -x, or -z. Surely we need an apostrophe??

NO. WE DON'T.

I'm one of you, people. I have one of those dreaded last names. My last name ends in -es. Like Jones (only it's not). So I feel your pain. I know the struggle. It would feel great to add an apostrophe. It would look so much cleaner. 

It would be wrong, so we aren't gonna do it.

Just like any other (non-name) word that ends in -s, to pluralize it you are going to have to add an -es. 

One mess, two messes.

One church, three churches.

One Jones, five Joneses.

One Rodriguez, four Rodriguezes.

Correct: Merry Christmas from the Joneses! Happy Holidays from the Hopkinses!

WRONG (but tempting): Merry Christmas from the Jones's! Happy Holidays from the Hopkins's!

I know. I know. It looks crazy. But it is correct.



See, all you're doing in the "Happy Holidays from the ____" example is making your last name plural. So our rule applies.

If you're like me and you have a name that ends in a stupid -es and you don't want it to look even stupider by adding ANOTHER -es (Joneses)...THERE IS A SOLUTION!

It doesn't involve apostrophes. Those can't help you here.

Change your wording.

Happy Holidays from the Jones Family!

Merry Christmas from Matt & Erika!

These are happy ways to work around stuffy grammar rules that make your last name an extra mile long. Change your wording. But never, ever add an apostrophe. Because it's not creative-- it's just wrong. And then people will get your card in the mail and they will be tempted to whip out their red pens and 'fix' it before they can adorn their mantel with it...or worse yet, they'll just hide it away. Their eyes will be unable to handle your blatant disregarding of the rules and they will hide your cute card. Don't put people in that position. Just follow the rules and you'll do fine.

I had some other exciting card-related grammar issues I was going to discuss, but I'm out of time...my day job is calling! I wanted to go ahead and get this posted, though, because I know time is of the essence right now while everyone is designing their cards and if I can save even one card from a hideous grammar error...well, I'll count it as a win. If you have any other card-related (or completely unrelated-- I love ALL grammar conundrums!) grammar questions, feel free to put in a request and I will research and tackle it in a future post! I mean, it took like 5 minutes to make that 'essential Christmas card grammar' graphic, so I'd like to get at least one more use out of it. So fire away-- and just one more time for good measure:



PS. Don't believe me? Even MIT (aka a school for geniuses) feels strongly about this issue! 

46 comments:

  1. And the surly grammarians of the world said, "AMEN!" Preach it, Erika. If I still taught first year comp, this would be part of my required reading.

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    1. P.S. If your next intervention could be on the proper use of the series comma, you will officially be my hero.

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    2. Woooo-- such a controversial and divisive topic??! DARE I TAKE A STAND!?!!

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    3. I will always place a comma in between every word in a series. For example: I went to the store and purchased bread, milk, and icecream.

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    4. It's only controversial and divisive if you're on the wrong side of the argument. ;) To the commenter above me: Well done!!!!!

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    5. yea yea yea . . . . no joke I see grammar errors on printed Christmas cards and have to really think Christian thoughts like, "look how the xxxx's are spreading love and joy".
      or
      "notice the love,sentiment, time and effort behind the words"

      Please, your readers (grammar geeks unite) would love a post on comma's(<-- joke, bad cringe worthy joke)

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  2. Bah! I love you! Saving Christmas one card at a time!

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  3. This is good to know! I just ordered some and wasn't sure, but THANKFULLY I didn't break any grammar rules, wahoooo!!! (PS I am not very qualified in the grammar area, so please forgive me for all my typos) :)

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    1. I was thinking the same thing; please excuse all my errors! ;-) Great, and FUNNY post! Thanks!

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  4. Can you please also write a post about how to write a Christmas/year in review letter without bragging? The world needs your help!

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  5. I was looking back at our Christmas cards a few days ago and I made this dreaded mistake in the past. It made me cringe! Maybe I can send out a Christmas card correction this year!

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  6. PREACH! Also, I'm gonna share this post on facebook, mmkay?

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  7. Oh my gosh, my blog header is totally incorrect....hahaha! I will be changing that!!! Please still read my blog, I like being your blog friend!! :D!!!!!! (LOL!)

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  8. I'm like the worst person in the world and I don't send Christmas cards (I know - I'm horrible!), but this was great! I'm totally going to open the mail with my red pen in hand this season :)

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  9. I've been meaning to brush off the cobwebbs on this one... possession apostrophes for names that end in s...just stick an apostrophe on the end?

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    Replies
    1. Excellent question-- controversial answers, though!! Haha. I would love to tackle this issue someday-- until we have a chance to fully flesh it out, though, as a rule of thumb: NO. Don't just stick an apostrophe. Go with apostrophe+s. Matt Jones's house. Bess's dog. But we can discuss further later!! :)

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    2. Technically, both are correct. Many people just have a preference for how one looks. :)

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  10. I have skipped all these problems by simply having a different last name from my husband :) We never refer to ourselves as the "Jones family" (not either of our real last names, by the way) because we are not just the "Jones family," so we just always use our first names thus saving ourselves from any grammatical errors. (Speaking of grammatical conundrums, where should the comma have gone in that above line? Example One: the way I did it. Example Two: "Jones family", blah blah blah. It's confusing.)

    Also, whenever I type a comment to you I am hyper-aware of good grammar and spelling. And probably have failed on both accounts more than I care to admit!

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  11. I'm afraid to look at my previous Christmas cards yikes!!! I'm pretty sure I just used all of our first names though :) I'd like you to tackle the comma issue next because I know I'm all wrong on that. Haha! (On the retail therapy thing...I went to pick up pain meds yesterday and spent more on nail polish than on meds. The hubby asked me what all I bought because he had an idea I bought more than what I was going to get. I told him he should just expect my retail therapy right now and he said he did. Next thing I know he told me to go get my nails done! I'm feeling better already.ha!)

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  12. I cracked up reading this entire post...until I got to thinking "wait, do I do this?!" Not with our last name, of course, but I'm always confused when I have to write something that has to do with James (since his last name ends in an S). Gawd, Erika, now you've made me paranoid!!! :)

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  13. Oh my word THANK YOU!!!!! This drives me NUTS!

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  14. This is why you're my hero. Love from the Patricks. : )

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  15. I think I love you for this post. I'm glad I'm not the only one who outwardly cringes when I see grammatical errors like that!

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  16. Yes, yes, yes!!! This is the best blog post I have read all week. THANK YOU.
    I always put "Merry Christmas from The Larson Family" :)

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  17. Think I might need to print out a copy of this post and just send it to all my friends along with our Christmas card this year...

    Love,

    The Blogiver's

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  18. Love it! My last name ends in s so I always just say Merry Christmas from the ____ family! (makes it easier)

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  19. Now I'm going to red pen or white out all the wrong holiday cards I get this year...this will be F-U-N!!! You should have a survey after Christmas for the number of atrocious apostrophe cards we receive. That would also be F-U-N!

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  20. Thank you and amen. Also, I have definitely seen the following: "Happy Holiday's!" It makes me want to gouge my eyes out. "Happy Holiday's from the Jones'!" would really put me over the edge.

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  21. This post made me laugh! You do have a gift for writing. I always look forward to your posts :)

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  22. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I have shared it with everyone I know, and I hope they read it! I, too, am glad to know I am not the only one out there who gets twitches when she sees stuff like this!

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  23. Blasphemy! :-) I've always struggled with apostrophes so I like changing the wording to avoid the plural issue all together! Not that I've ever been able to get my act together enough to send a Christmas card... Southern hospitality fail.

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  24. Ha! I love this! That drives me insane, too. We have a "professional" business around here that has their name on the side of their vehicle: Huntsville Sign's. Ahhhhh! It makes me crazy every time I see it!

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  25. Ha, I totally did the apostrophe on our Christmas cards this year! I have one of those hard last names. I'm not going to feel too bad, because the apostrophe (though I agree, incorrect) seems to be a pretty common thing for tricky last names. I don't think any of my recipients will notice. ;-) I'll keep this in mind for next year though!

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  26. Um yes! I always avoid the topic like you suggested and add 'family' at the end. With a last name that ends in s, more specifically ees it gets complicated! I also never paid attention to those "rules" in school because my maiden name was not of the variety in question. Thanks for being there to help us less fortunate this time of year!

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  27. This must be shared with the masses!

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  28. This sort of stuff drives me crazy!! Also, something else that drives me insane is using the wrong homophone. It's not that hard!!

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  29. Love this! I'm a new follower of your blog - found you from the bloggers linkup at Kelly's Korner. I too am a Georgia girl, lover of all things UGA, and struggling with infertility! Nice to meet you!

    http://lifeoflt.blogspot.com

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  30. Thank you!!! I shy away from correcting people, but really, people need to know!

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  31. I have a fabulous idea. . . Can you address a weekly grammar issue on the blog? Cause it would totally help me out. I loved English while in school, but somewhere along the way I forgot each and every grammar rule known to man. Another issue. . . (those three dots are probably incorrect also but I default to it every time) how do I know when to use a stinking COMMA? I just guess. Can we still be friends?

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  32. I have always erred on the correct side here, but I never actually knew how to do it, so I just went with Oakes...now I know I'm right! Hallelujah!

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  33. You fully match our expectation and the selection of our data.Grammarly reviews

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