Your guide to holiday card grammar

Every day, we’re becoming more and more connected, with new methods of communication allowing us to learn faster, work smarter and stay connected globally. But with communication speed increasing, accuracy is decreasing. (You don’t need to look much further than your text messages or even your work emails to see evidence of this trend.)

Casual communication is great – it helps families, friends and coworkers bond and build relationships. But don’t confuse informality with laxness! Formal rules of grammar still apply, 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 tips for making sure your holiday cards are in top shape – grammatically speaking.

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.

The definitive guide to pluralizing your last name

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.

The definitive guide to making 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.

Holiday grammar guide

Please RSVPRSVP“RSVP” is short for répondez s’il vous plait, which means “please respond” in French.
“Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah”“merry Christmas” and “happy Hanukkah”Adjectives describing nouns shouldn’t be captalized 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

Put these rules to work (you can even print out this page if it helps) and you’ll be well on your way to creating a professional, grammatically sound card to send to family, friends and clients. Happy holidays!

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