How to avoid misplaced apostrophes during the holidays


Christmas cards, holiday video greetings, mailed gifts and business correspondence prove the holidays are a rife with opportunities to show the world you don’t know how to form plurals and possessives of proper names.

To avoid embarrassing mistakes on holiday greeting cards and other correspondence, memorize this rule: Never use an apostrophe to form a plural. One Wilson, two Wilsons. One Smith, two Smiths. This doesn’t change simply because a name ends in a vowel or vowel sound. One Macini, two Mancinis. One Wu, two Wus. One Zooey. Two Zooeys.

The impulse to add an apostrophe is strong when the name ends with a vowel, as in Wu or Eli. Without an apostrophe, the letter S seems to change the pronunciation of the vowel, giving you words that sound like “wuss” or “Ellis.” Ignore that impulse. The rule stays the same. Two Wus. Two Elis.

To make a plural of a proper name, in most cases, just add S. If the name ends in an S or Z sound, like Williams or Chavez, add ES. The Williamses. The Chavezes. So if you’re writing that you spoke with Mr. and Mrs. Chavez, do not write “the Chavez’s.” They’re the Chavezes. No apostrophe.

Here, in my recent column, are some other apostrophe issues you'll want to get right this holiday season.


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