It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…For Holiday Card Grammar Mistakes


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For many people, holiday cards are grammar and punctuation mistakes waiting to happen. For something so short—most cards are, what, 5–10 words max?—there’s a surprising number of areas where things can go awry. Here are the four most common.

  1. Seasons Greetings vs. Season’s Greetings. If you decide to use this phrase, you’re going to want to go with the one with the apostrophe. Why? Because you’re expressing greetings of one particular season—this holiday season. No apostrophe implies that you’re expressing greetings from multiple seasons.
  2. Pluralizing your last name. I have it easy. If I want to send a holiday card out from Steve and me, I simply say “The Krolls.” But what if your last name is Stevens? Then it becomes a bit trickier.Many people simply add an apostrophe—“The Stevens’”—and call it a day. But this is incorrect. Instead, you should make the name plural. So in this case, the card would be from “The Stevenses.”
  3. Capitalization. Proper nouns like “Christmas,” “Hanukkah,” Kwanzaa,” and the like should always be capitalized, but the adjectives “merry” and “happy” should only be capitalized if they’re the first word of the greeting. So “Merry Christmas” is correct, but “Wishing you a Merry Christmas” is not. (It should be “Wishing you a merry Christmas.”)
  4. Proofreading. I know it’s a busy time of year, but be sure to take that extra couple of minutes to proofread your cards or—even better—have someone proofread them in addition to you. It’s way too easy for a typo such as “Form Steve and Mindy” to creep in.

Speaking of Which…
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a year since I launched this blog. After I wrote my first post, I was excited. I sent a link to several friends, family, and colleagues, and people were incredibly supportive. However, I also received the following email from Doug, a Plante Moran partner, gently pointing out a mistake he’d noticed:

Love it….and I am sure we will all learn
a ton from your prose. Fantastic idea!

Unfortunately, I found something in your narrative
that I have been trying to correct in one of our consultants for years.
Darn spell check does not catch it but, nonetheless, it may impact the piece:
The next day—without any prompting form me—he designed this site for me.”

Do not despair or discontinue your journey to make us all better writers.

Of course I despaired! A typo in a blog post about grammar is like a hair in an entrée at an otherwise delicious restaurant. (I’m talking to you Athens Souvlaki Greek salad.) And the thing is, I had proofread that blog—more than once. It just reinforced what I already knew yet chose to ignore—that we can’t be trusted to proofread our own writing unless significant time has transpired. Why? Because no matter how well-intentioned we are, odds are we’ll read what we intended to put on the page versus what’s actually there.

Two More Things
Last week, I was out on the Plante Moran intranet and happened onto the office administration page. While there, I found a link to my blog under the heading “Resources.” It said, “Mindy Kroll’s Blog: Check out this well-written blog on grammar and writing.” I can’t express how honored I am that someone thought highly enough of it to include it as a resource on that page. I don’t know who put it up there—Sarah? Sande?—but thank you so much. You totally made my month.

This will likely be my last post until 2016. I just want to thank everyone for reading this blog and for commenting on it. (Keep commenting!) Thanks also to the best frienditor on the planet, Alexis Zayed, for reviewing all of my subsequent posts after that first one. You rock.

So what should we cover in 2016? Anything in particular that perplexes/irritates/drives you insane? Have a wonderful holiday!

Word of the Week:  Christmahannukwanzadan
Songs of the Week: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” by Judy Garland; “The Christmas Waltz,” by Nancy Wilson; and “Christmas,” by Blues Traveler

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!


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Recently, I was talking to a friend about what I should write about over the holidays. She told me about an Anton Chekhov short story called “The Exclamation Mark” in which Perekladin, a civil servant, is insulted after someone questions his ability to punctuate correctly. Affronted, he heads home and goes to sleep. All of this occurs on Christmas Eve. Can you guess what happens next?

In a parody of “A Christmas Story,” he’s visited by a series of ghostly punctuation marks—commas, colons, semicolons, question marks—all of which he banishes by thinking of appropriate uses for them. But then he’s’ confronted by the exclamation mark. He realizes, to his horror, that he’s never used one. He has no idea what it’s for.

Apparently this sets off an existential crisis for our troubled protagonist as he realizes nothing of any emotional significance has ever happened to him. But that’s not the point of this blog. The point is that, unlike Perekladin, most of us use the exclamation point far too often.  So if one punctuation mark has to go, let the exclamation point be that mark.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” And that was at some point before his death in 1940, back when the norm was to use the mark sparingly. Today, it’s all over the place, in headlines, text messages, emails. “I’ll see you at the restaurant at 6!” “Your order has shipped!” “See you at the conference!” Those are just a few examples of sentences with unnecessary exclamation marks that have come my way recently. But the worst—the absolute worst—is the person for whom one exclamation point simply isn’t enough. “I can’t wait to see you!!!!!!!!!!!!” “That’s great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” “I’m going to pick up some bread at the store!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (That person also finds it difficult to stop with a single question mark: “Are you coming to dinner tonight???????????????????????”) It reminds me of when colleagues accidentally hit the “caps lock” button before typing an instant message—IT FEELS LIKE THEY’RE SHOUTING AT ME!!!

That’s not to say there aren’t occasions where an exclamation mark is warranted. Did you get your picture taken with Slash? Let someone in on a gridlocked expressway who failed to give you a courtesy wave? Realize that someone finished off that last bag of dangerously cheesy Cheetos? Then, by all means, express that joy, anger, or sadness appropriately. Otherwise, maybe stick with a period.

If you were going to be visited by the specter of a punctuation mark, what would it be, and why?

Word of the Week: Emote

Song of the Week: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, by Judy Garland