Decking the Halls With Erroneous Apostrophes

Use apostrophes wisely this holiday season

Don’t make Dasher cry. Use apostrophes wisely this holiday season.

As the holiday season approaches, there’s an overabundance of tinsel, perfectly straight holiday lights on homes (obviously not lined up by yours truly) and Christmas carols that assault the ears in every store you walk into. And, it seems, there’s a similar overabundance of parasitical apostrophes, determined to leech onto holiday cards.

I recently knocked out a different parasite — in this instance, of the flea kind — on a pup we were considering adopting (causing us to jokingly change her name from Kiwi to Ki-Flea). And now, I’m ready to tackle this one as well, before well-wishers flood Vistaprint and Costco with their cards to be printed and mailed.

Each year, I’m greeting by dozens of misplaced apostrophes on holiday cards. “Happy holidays from the Smith’s.” “Season’s greetings from the Austin’s.”

Perhaps I’m more sensitive to the error, being a writer/editor and all. I try to be gentle in my corrections. Try not to blame texting for aiding and abetting in the degeneration of (and occasional lack of interest in) the English language. (No! “Literally” does NOT mean the same as “figuratively,” no matter how many people say it wrong and what authority may say it’s now OK.)

But please, as your gift to me this holiday season, indulge me in a little lesson on pluralizing last names and correctly using the apostrophe.

Making your last name plural means there are more than one of you in the family. Adding an apostrophe makes your name possessive — indicating that something belongs to you.

  • Happy holidays from the Byrds.
  • The Byrds wish you a happy holiday season.
  • The Byrds’ Christmas armadillo went missing … again.

How do you know how to pluralize your last name? It’s simple, my friend. Thanks for getting this far and asking.

Just add an “s” at the end to pluralize most last names. But if your last name ends in “s,” “x,” “z,” a soft “ch” or “sh” — then simply add “es.”

  • Warm wishes from the Parsonses
  • Happy holidays from the Hollyberrys
  • The Diazes hope you enjoy this fruitcake.

So go forth and be merry. And apostrophe wisely.

Julia Byrd is the owner of Nine Birds Communications, a company dedicated to helping you build your business through the power of written word. She may be a little overzealous about her apostrophes, but her heart’s in the right place. You can reach her at

Photo credits: (lights)

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