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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.”)
- 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