Call me old-fashioned, but I think that one of the loveliest holiday traditions is the exchanging of Christmas cards. These days, the simple act of sending something via postal mail – rather than a generic email or a Facebook post – says that you made more than the absolute minimum effort to reach out to the people in your life and wish them happy holidays. And to my surprise and delight, people really do go the extra mile, sending collections of family photos and sharing the curated memories that really mean a lot in the end.
However, the copy of some of these holiday greetings falls short in an important way. It seems that with each passing year, people continue to misuse the apostrophe. As the chief content officer at Bospar, responsible for the accuracy of every piece of written content that is released by my firm, I cringe every time I get a card from the “Smith’s” or the “Jones’s.” This is because an apostrophe does not create a plural – it never has, and it never will! My job requires that I care about this, and taking the time to use correct punctuation, while it might be considered a throwback or an antiquated custom, does mean something. It shows that you care. As internet personality and frustrated English teacher Heather Breedlove Nianouris wonderfully explains in this chardonnay-fueled rant, apostrophes are used to indicate the possessive form of a (in these cases) proper noun or to form contractions. Nothing else.
Adding an “s” or an “es,” depending on the last letter in your surname, is all that is required to indicate a plural. And I suppose that if you want to get fancy, you could create a plural possessive by adding an s-apostrophe combo, along the lines of “Look at all of the toys being collected for charity by the Joneses’ kids,” or something like that. But I’d be happy just to see that the Joneses aren’t referring to themselves as the Jones’s every holiday!
Unfortunately, the misuse of apostrophes is an ongoing problem that goes beyond the holidays, and the apostrophe abusers among us seem to be winning. England recently saw the demise of the “Apostrophe Protection Society,” a group dedicated to using this punctuation mark correctly. Sadly, the group’s founder gave up because “fewer organizations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English language.”
But I am not willing to give up on punctuation, and I applaud the efforts of people like Instagrammer @everygirl to remind people in a seasonally-appropriate way that the apostrophe does matter. Making those holiday cards better requires little effort, and it shows that you care. And, after all, the difference between sending one’s holiday wish list to the Claus’s versus the Clauses means that you’re really asking for an English lesson, not the cool stuff that the elves are making this year.
All kidding aside, happy holidays from Bospar, me and all of the Heinrichs, Smiths, and Joneses!