Sending Holiday Greetings? Ditch the Apostrophe!

sign_holiday_card_no_apostrophe_family_nameIf you send holiday greetings, or if you ever sign a gift card on behalf of your whole family, here’s a tip about writing a family name.

No apostrophes, please!

An apostrophe in a name indicates possession. A signature does not imply possession. When you send a card on behalf of your family unit, use care with how you express your last name — your surname — in plural form.

Here are samples of an assortment of last names and how to make them plural.

For most names, simply add an s:

Anderson / Andersons
Avery / Averys (not Averies)
Christensen / Christensens
Coogan / Coogans
Duffy / Duffys
Holman / Holmans (not Holmen)
Kennedy / Kennedys
Lee / Lees
Krause / Krauses
Montgomery / Montgomerys
Olson / Olsons
Orlando / Orlandos
Schweitzer / Schweitzers
Smith / Smiths
Stein / Steins
Vanderdrift / Vanderdrifts

Note that you don’t follow the standard grammar practice of pluralizing words that end in y by changing the y to i and adding es: not Averies, Kennedies, etc.

For names that end with a ch, s, sh, ss, x or z sound, add es:

Ahrens / Ahrenses
Sanchez / Sanchezes
Birch / Birches
Bush / Bushes
Church / Churches
Felix / Felixes
Fernholz / Fernholzes
Fox / Foxes
Givens / Givenses
Jones / Joneses
Maddox / Maddoxes
Rogers / Rogerses
Ross / Rosses
Thomas / Thomases
Voss / Vosses
Vukovich / Vukoviches

Remind yourself of these exceptions:

If a name ends in ch but is pronounced with a k sound, add only an s:

Bach / Bachs
Freidrich / Freidrichs
Reich / Reichs

If a name ends with an x but the sound is not pronounced, add only an s:

Couteaux / Couteauxs
Delcroix / Delcroixs
Devereaux / Devereauxs

Do you see any apostrophes? Neither do I.

If you don’t like the plural sound of your family name, consider signing your greeting simply The Lewis Family, The Urbanowski Family, The Maddox Family, etc.

Would others who share your family name benefit from these guidelines? Please pass along this post.

Note: I don’t consider spellcheck 100% reliable, but it can draw my attention to potential errors. It went WILD trying to add apostrophes to many of these names! Don’t rely on silly spellcheck.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

10 thoughts on “Sending Holiday Greetings? Ditch the Apostrophe!

  1. Avatarwilliam

    I’ve found that some names simply sound wrong when properly pluralized, e.g. the Rogerses. In those rare cases, I’ll default to “the Rogers family” or “Mr. & Mrs. Rogers,” etc.

    1. AvatarMatt

      This is interesting! Never thought about this one before.
      We went to visit the Rogers. Two guys, Roger and Roger, a delightful couple, who live next door.
      Imagine if one of them had the surname Rogers, and they get married (..) and they both take that surname.
      They’d be getting Christmas cards from proof-readers all over the English-speaking world, and the Internet would break 😀
      Sorry.. I’m trying to relax after a 10-hr typing marathon..
      Nice blog Kathy!

    2. Kathy WatsonKathy Watson Post author

      Love your humor, William! When it comes to grammar, we need all the laughs we can get.
      If you truly had a couple of Rogers next door, you could say, “Let’s invite the neighbors over for some R&R.”
      Or if I were in the military, I’d close this with “Roger” or “Roger that.”

  2. AvatarBeth Brewer

    For your second rule it matters that the name actually ends in a ch, s, sh, ss, x or z, not just that it sounds like it does. If the name has a silent e at the end, the plural is just s. For example Krause becomes Krauses, not Krausees.

    My favorite story about why you should not rely on spellcheck: A friend sent out over 40 resumes before realizing that he had advertised himself as a “pubic accountant.”

    1. Kathy WatsonKathy Watson Post author

      Beth, you’re right about Krause, which ends with an s sound but needs only an s to become plural. Rather than write an exception, I added Krause to the first category and hope that serves as an example for all of the Krauses and similar names.

      “Pubic accountant”? Oh, no … how embarrassing! We’re not always good at proofing our own work.

  3. AvatarPauline K

    What a wonderful guide. Thank you Kathy! You can bet I’ll be using this information in a few weeks.

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