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.
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!