Don’t make this all-too-common mistake on your holiday cards this year

Watch that apostrophe!

You'd just want "the Ganleys" in this instance. (With permission from Studio 29 Photography/

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as they say: For the holidays, getting together with loved ones, baking, sipping huge mugs of toasty hot chocolate by the fire, and sifting through a stack of Christmas cards that will trickle in over the next month or so.

Let’s talk about that last item -- the holiday cards.

Not to be a total Grinch, but does it ever grind your gears to open up an otherwise lovely card, and then see that it signs off with something like, “Love, The Smith’s.”

That apostrophe can be quite glaring, especially if you’re passionate about grammar. (Are we the only ones mentally grabbing for the red pen, ready to make some copy edits?)

In the spirit of getting our holiday cards done correctly this year, or maybe forwarding this article to your brother-in-law, let’s just go over a quick lesson and review the English language for a minute.

How to make your last name plural this season (and always):

-- To make something plural, you typically just add an S. You don’t need an apostrophe.

-- Remember, an apostrophe implies possession: The cat’s bowl. The family’s house. In those examples, the bowl belongs to the cat. The house belongs to the family. That’s possession.

-- And when you’re making something plural, you’re just indicating that there’s more than one. One Smith family member, or if you’re signing your card from the whole family, there are multiple Smiths.

*Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule -- not really when it comes to the apostrophe itself, but maybe you have a tricky last name.

We’re going to add in a handy guide from Slate, below. We could type all these rules out, sure, but this chart is super easy to follow. Just pick what letter your last name ends with, and the chart will tell you how to make your last name plural.

Maybe you married someone and took on a new last name -- and you were never taught how to make it plural. That’s OK; you’re here now, aren’t you? That’s what counts.

Or let’s say your last name ends in an S. Are you tempted to use an apostrophe? Fight the urge and just add an -es. Or how about a Y? I know it might look funny, but it’s still just “Merry Christmas from the Ganleys,” NOT “the Ganley’s.”

(And no, you can’t switch the spelling of your name to “The Ganlies”). 😉

When in doubt, you could always just go with “The Ganley Family.” Or “The Smith Family.” Can’t go wrong!

Now carry on ... tell your friends -- with love of course! -- and resist all impulses to mark up your incoming Christmas cards with that red pen.

*This story was first published in 2018. It has since been updated.