'Tis The Season for Good Grammar!

Nov 20, 2015 admin

This post was inspired by my colleague Christine Comey's recent blog post on AP style mistakes to avoid prior to Halloween. I’ve decided to continue the seasonal tradition and curate a grammar guide for holiday cards. Enjoy!

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is next week and the holiday season will soon be in full swing. The “most wonderful time of the year” is meant for spending time with family and friends…and let’s be honest, cozying up by the fire with a stack of holiday cards. Holiday cards (especially photo cards!) are a great way to connect with loved ones near and far, and are always fun to receive in the mail. Granted, I wholeheartedly understand that between snapping the perfect photo and penning grammatically correct notes, the whole process can be quite stressful. As the card writing mad dash commences, use this handy guide to help avoid the season’s most common grammar mistakes (and to avoid rush-reprint fees and whiteout nightmares).


The names of holidays are proper nouns and, thus, should be capitalized: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa. The words merry, happy, holidays are not. There is no need to capitalize them, unless they start a sentence. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day always start with capital letters and always take an apostrophe.

For example:
•    We wish you a merry Christmas!
•    Happy Hanukkah from our family to yours!
•    What are you doing on New Year’s Eve?

Family Names:
One of the most common (and cringe worthy) mistakes people make on their holiday cards is in the form of adding an apostrophe to make a last name plural (i.e. The Smith’s). A good rule of thumb is to never use an apostrophe when pluralizing your name. When a family name (a proper noun) is pluralized, we almost always add an "s." The only exception here is if your last name ends with the letter(s) s,x,z,ch,sh—here, you should then add an “es” to the end to pluralize.

A few examples:
•    Merry Christmas! The Smiths—correct!
•    Have a great holiday! The Joneses—correct!
•    Love from, The Smith’s/Smiths’—INCORRECT! Only if you are showing possession would an apostrophe apply (i.e. We are going to the Smiths’ house for Christmas)

See that, no apostrophes needed when signing your holiday cards! When in doubt, simply writing “Love from the Smith Family” is always a safe bet.

Seasons or Season’s Greetings?
The greetings are those of the holiday season; therefore, the season possesses them and should get an apostrophe “s.” So, when used in a sentence, it would be appropriate to write “Season’s greetings from the Smith Family.”

Compound Possession:
If you are writing about possession and you have two subjects, you have to decide if the two people possess something together or separately. For example, if your friends are hosting a party at their apartment, and their names are Tara and Cassie, it is correct to say “Come to a holiday party at Tara and Cassie’s” because they share the same apartment. “You’re invited to a holiday party at Tara’s and Cassie’s” would only be appropriate if your friends live in different places, and decide to have cocktails at one apartment and dinner at the other.

I hope these tips are helpful. Enjoy the holiday season and if you’re interested in learning more check out our resident AP expert Steve Vittorioso’s posts on AP Style or follow @APStylebook on Twitter!

Topics: Writing

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