Your friendly holiday grammar PSA
Ah yes, it’s that special time of year when we celebrate with office holiday parties, awkward Secret Santa gift exchanges (your boss will appreciate that quirky toilet-shaped mug… right?) and the nagging fear that you’ll make a glaring grammatical error on your holiday cards and face relentless judgment from your peers. It’s all part of the joy and magic of the season, right? With Americans sending approximately 1.5 billion holiday cards a year, I’m afraid the answer is yes. As long as we’re still penning good ol’ fashioned holiday greetings, our mechanical shortcomings are fair game for the grammar geeks.
Wait… people don’t really care, do they?
Grammar shaming is just something trolls do at 3 a.m. when they’re picking fights with internet strangers, right? I’m afraid not. Personally, I think grammar shaming is rude and unnecessary (hey, I happen to have mad grammar skills, but I don’t want someone laughing at my computer illiteracy or my inability to calculate probabilities.) However, the research shows that those in the know do tend to look down their noses at those who struggle with grammar. In fact, making fewer grammatical errors correlates with earning more workplace promotions and achieving higher professional positions. And samesies for the dating world. Match users report poor grammar as the second biggest turn-off, losing out only to bad hygiene.
Yeah, people notice and, whether or not they possess the couth to keep it to themselves, they have an opinion on it… even during the holidays. So, whether you’re sending personal cards or company wishes, you may want to skim through this quick checklist first to avoid making the most common mistakes.
’Tis vs. tis vs. t’is
This one is super simple if you just break it down. An apostrophe replaces a letter (or several letters in some cases). ’Tis is an abbreviation for “it is,” which means the apostrophe is replacing the “i” in “it,” leaving us with ’tis.
Listen closely, friends, because this is important. You never need an apostrophe when signing your family name. Why? Because apostrophes either (1) replace letters like we just discussed or (2) indicate possession. You don’t want to do either of those things! You just want to show that multiple family member are signing the card. For example, I would sign “The Murrays” not “The Murray’s” or “The Murrays’."
This gets hairy when your family name ends in the letter “s.” Admittedly, “The Evanses” looks completely bizarre but it’s 100 percent correct. If you can’t get past the weirdness, just simplify your life and say “The Evans family.”
Season’s greetings! Or Seasons greetings?
Seriously with the apostrophes! That’s right, we have yet another issue where that pesky li’l apostrophe is the culprit. This time, use it: Season’s greetings! Why? Because the greetings belong specifically to this season.
This one may sound basic, but it’s easy to let your finger wander to the Shift key when the holiday spirit overcomes you. The official grammar rule is that you only need to capitalize proper nouns and words that come at the beginning of a sentence. Therefore, here’s the correct way to write these sentiments: Wishing you a merry Christmas! Have a happy Hanukkah! “Merry” and “happy” are just regular old adjectives in these instances. You only need to capitalize them if they come at the start of a sentence.
There is no shortage of parties and gatherings over the holidays. If you’re hosting, here are two quick reminders. First, if you cohabitate with someone, refer to your place as “Maria and Joe’s” not "Maria’s and Joe’s.” You only need to make the second (or final if more than two) name possessive. Pro tip: just think of Ben & Jerry’s. No one ever says Ben’s & Jerry’s, and who doesn’t want to think about delicious ice cream?
Finally, I’m sure you want to sound as polite and welcoming as possible, but if your invitation has an RSVP, don’t say “please RSVP.” The acronym stands for répondez s’il vous plaît, which has the word “please” built into it already.
OK, little merrymakers, you’re all set with the knowledge you need to spread some grammatically correct holiday cheer. Use it wisely!
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