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Grammar Tips & Tidbits


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Plurals of Last Names

It's that time of year again—time to start preparing your holiday cards!

As someone who is paid to be picky, I tend to notice minor details that most people don't. I choose to "overlook" most of the everyday mistakes I spot, but I must admit to having a few pet peeves. For example, misplaced apostrophes really irk me, especially when they pop up in words that are meant to be plural, not possessive.

Holiday cards provide a perfect example of this. I can't tell you how many cards I receive where an unnecessary apostrophe has been added to the family's last name. I'm sure you've received them too:

●  Happy Holidays ~ The White's  (should be The Whites)

●  Season's Greetings ~ The Walkers' (should be The Walkers)

●  Happy Hanukkah ~ The Feldmans'  (should be The Feldmans)

●  Merry Christmas ~ The Hastings' Family (should be The Hastings

In the examples above, the last names are not possessive, so they shouldn't include apostrophes. The only time an apostrophe is required in a last name is when that person (or family) owns something:

●  Mrs. White's truck (singular)  /  the Whites' truck (plural)

●  Mr. Walker's boat (singular)  /  the Walkers' boat (plural)

●  Miss Feldman's dog (singular)  /  the Feldmans' dog (plural)

●  Dr. Hastings' pool (singular)  /  the Hastings' pool (plural)

    Note: Although awkward, some style guides recommend using
   "Dr. Hastings's pool"  and "the Hastingses' pool" in the above example.

As you sit down to write your holiday cards this year, I hope this tip serves as a friendly reminder to refrain from adding an apostrophe to your family's last name. The "Grammar Nazi" on your list will thank you. Happy Holidays!

For more information on using apostrophes correctly, see these related tips:

Apostrophes: Part I

Apostrophes: Part IV

Apostrophes: Part V

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