Your guide to holiday card grammar

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Casual communication is great – it helps families, friends and coworkers bond and build relationships. But don’t confuse informality with laziness! Formal rules of grammar still apply (especially to holiday card messages), and it’s important to follow them during the holidays when your cards, invitations and thank-you notes will be seen by customers and vendors alike.

Here are a few Christmas card grammar tips for making sure your holiday cards are in top shape. Put these rules to work on your seasonal designs and you’ll be well on your way to creating a professional, grammatically-sound card to send to everyone on your mailing list.

  1. Pluralize your last name correctly.
  2. Know when to use apostrophes.
  3. Brush up on your grammar and punctuation skills.

1. Pluralize your last name correctly.

Many people struggle with pluralizing their last name. Some add extra letters or an errant apostrophe.

But never fear – the rules are actually pretty straightforward.

How to pluralize your last name:

LAST LETTER(S) OF LAST NAMEWHAT SHOULD YOU ADD TO MAKE IT PLURAL?DOES IT NEED AN APOSTROPHE?
a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h (see exceptions below), i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, t, u, v, w, y-sNo
s, x, z, ch, sh-esNo

2. Know when to use apostrophes (and when not to).

Apostrophes are used for one reason: to denote possession (Sarah’s car, the kids’ toys, the Johnsons’ annual party). Never use an apostrophe to pluralize a name.

How and when to make your last name possessive:

Why would I do this?If you’re describing something that belongs to your whole family (e.g. your house).
How do I do this?Pluralize your last name (using the rules above), then add an apostrophe at the end.
Wait, the apostrophe goes after the whole name, even the pluralization?Yes
Give me two examples.“Party this Sunday at the Joneses’ House.” and “Don’t forget to move the Carlsons’ car.”

3. Brush up on your grammar skills.

No need to dust off your old textbooks just yet – this quick chart makes the rules of grammar, capitalization and punctuation simple to follow.

Christmas and holiday card grammar:

WrongRightWhy
Please RSVPRSVP“RSVP” is short for répondez s’il vous plait, which means “please respond” in French. Saying ‘please’ is repetitive in this use.
“Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah”“merry Christmas” and “happy Hanukkah”Adjectives describing nouns shouldn’t be capitalized unless they start sentences.
Tis the season‘Tis the season“’Tis” is a contraction of “it is” and needs an apostrophe, just like “it’s.”
Hi JohnHi, JohnWhen addressing a note, use a comma after “hi” but not after “dear.”
Dear, JohnDear JohnSame as above.
“New Years Day” and “seasons greetings”“New Year’s Day” and “season’s greetings”In these phrases, “new Year’s” and “season’s” are possessive and need apostrophes.