As we head into the final days before Christmas, many of us are scrambling to get everything done in time. Yesterday, I tackled one of my last remaining tasks: the holiday greeting cards. As I worked through my list, I couldn’t help but think about the grammar and punctuation mistakes I see each year in the holiday cards and invitations we receive. If you’re like me and have waited until the last minute to get those cards or invites in the mail, check out this list of common mistakes to ensure your holiday communications are letter perfect.
1. The Wiseman’s
When signing or addressing a card, you often are writing to or from a group of people who share the same last name. This is where many folks make what I believe to be the most common (or most irritating) holiday grammar mistake: incorrectly making family names plural.
To make a last name plural, follow these simple tips:
• Most of the time, just add an s: The Wisemans.
• If the name ends in ch, sh, s, x or z, add an es: The Burches, The Bushes, The Joneses, The Zillioxes, The Ramirezes.
• Or, as a safe bet, just write The Zilliox Family.
• And NEVER use an apostrophe to make a last name plural.
Apostrophes should only be used to make the family name possessive, like when providing the location for a holiday party. If you’re talking about a party at a family’s home, you want to be sure you make the last name both plural (since it is the family’s home, not just one person’s) and possessive. So add your s or es, followed by an apostrophe:
• We are celebrating at the Wisemans’ this year.
• The party will be at the Ramirezes’.
2. Please RSVP
RSVP is an abbreviation for the French répondez s’il vous plait, which means reply, if you please. I’m all for being polite, but not when it’s redundant. So avoid adding please to RSVP in your holiday invites.
3. We wish you a Merry Christmas!
Typically, the names of holidays are proper nouns and, thus, should be capitalized: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa. Merry, happy and holidays are not; nor are season and greetings. So there is no need to capitalize them, unless they start a sentence.
• Happy holidays!
• Wishing you a merry Christmas!
4. Seasons Greetings!
The greetings are those of the holiday season; therefore, the season possesses them and should get an apostrophe s (and remember, greetings is not a proper noun, so keep it lowercase).
• Season’s greetings!
5. Happy holidays Jane!
Phrases like happy holidays and merry Christmas are interjections, so they need to be set off with some sort of punctuation (often an exclamation point). When addressing someone, you use a comma. (Not to mention, you should always set off a direct address—that is, someone’s name or other term used like a name—with a comma.)
• Happy holidays, Jane!
• Merry Christmas, Jane!
These are just five errors I seem to run across each year. But there are certainly a host of others running rampant in holiday greetings. Which ones drive you nuts?