Column: ‘Tis the season to get it right

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Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

Put that turkey leg down and listen up! Today we have to discuss your family’s upcoming holiday card. In addition to the fact that we do not need to see your pets in your cards, we also don’t need to see any glaring grammar mistakes. Stick to the following tips and you’ll turn a bah, humbug card into a very merry message.

To keep your headings holly and jolly, write “Season’s greetings.” “Seasons greetings” isn’t right because the “greetings” belong to the “season.” Therefore, we need the apostrophe. Also, please refrain from writing “Sneezin’ greetings.” You may think that’s funny, but it’s snot.

Continuing on the theme of that grinch of a punctuation mark called the apostrophe, let’s look at the phrase: ‘tis the season. Never write “tis” with no apostrophe before it. ‘Tis is a conjunction (I like to call it a mashup) of “it” and “is.” These days, we write and say “it’s” instead of “‘tis,” but the antiquated “‘tis” still enters into our collective holiday lexicon.

OK, so it appears that all our holiday card woes stem from the pesky apostrophe. We see it again in the phrase “Happy New Year.” Don’t write “Happy New Year’s” or “Happy New Years.” However, “New Year’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve” are correct. When in doubt, simply write “Have a swell 2022.”

You only need to capitalize the “m” in “Merry Christmas” if “Merry” begins a sentence or if “Merry Christmas” is the heading at the top of your card. For instance, you would correctly write, “We hope you have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.”

How do you write your family’s last name on a card? Suppose your greeting says, “Merry Christmas from the (your last name here).” Should the last name read “Kringle’s” or “Kringles”? This is by far the most common holiday card faux pas. Never use an apostrophe here; instead, pluralize your last name by adding an “s.” Your family name isn’t possessing anything.

If your family name ends in -s, -ch, -sh, -z or -x (as long as the -x is not silent), ad -es to make your last name plural: Happy Holidays from the Joneses. If you want to avoid this plural vs. apostrophe confusion, simply write “Merry Christmas from the Miller family.”

You and your family deserve great grammar and punctuation to go along with your coordinated family photo. No need to thank me when your friends and family decide to frame your card as the pinnacle of holiday merriment.


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