Posted by: Jack Henry | December 16, 2015

Editor’s Corner: Tips on addressing holiday cards

We’ve covered some of these over the last few months, but it’s holiday card time so here are a few more reminders for you about addressing your cards. These are from Grammar Girl and a link to a follow-up article is included at the end.

Making Words That End in S or Z Plural

To make names that end in z plural, you add -es to the end of the name. So you would say you are going to visit the Alvarezes—a-l-v-a-r-e-z-E-S. The same rule applies when names end in s, so the Joneses invite you to dinner—j-o-n-e-s-E-S. You don’t use an apostrophe to make the names plural.

You use an apostrophe to make the names possessive. For example, let’s say you went to visit the Alvarezes and then you wanted to write a letter telling your mom about their wonderful house. To make Alvarezes possessive, you add an apostrophe to the end, so you would write “Mom, you should have seen the Alvarezes’ house!”

So now you’ve got that: If a name ends in s or z, add -es to make it plural and an apostrophe to make it possessive.

Punctuating Salutations

Next, if you’re writing a holiday letter, you might be interested in a bet that Laura and her husband John recently asked me to settle. Their question is how to write a salutation: How do you write something like “Hi, Squiggly”?

It seems straightforward, but it’s not. Although most people seem to think that hi is just a friendly substitute for dear, it isn’t. Dear is an adjective, but hi is an interjection just like the words indeed, yes, and oh.

So technically, Hi, Squiggly is a complete sentence that begins with an interjection, and an interjection at the beginning of a sentence is followed by a comma. So the correct way to write this is “Hi, Squiggly.” with a comma after hi and a period after Squiggly: Hi [comma] Squiggly [period]. You could also put an exclamation point at the end, depending on how excited you feel about the greeting.

The problem is that almost nobody knows that greetings should be punctuated this way, so it looks weird when you do it right. In fact, it’s extremely rare to see an e-mail salutation that uses a comma after the hi. I’m always torn about whether to use the comma. It is correct, but it seems a bit pedantic given the widespread use of the incorrect alternative—especially when you are replying to someone who has already done it the wrong way. Use your own judgment. I usually put it in, but you’ll be in good company if you leave it out. [KC – But don’t be surprised if you send a letter into our Editing department and we add that comma back in and ask you not to call yourself “Squiggly” in front of clients.]

· Dear Squiggly, (correct)

· Hi, Squiggly. (correct)

· Hi Squiggly, (widespread to the point of becoming acceptable)

Compound Possession and Apostrophes

Finally, we’ve talked about this before, but compound possession can come up in invitations, so I’ll go over it again. Imagine that Aardvark and Squiggly live in the same house and they are inviting people over for dinner. The location you are inviting people to is Aardvark and Squiggly’s house—with only one apostrophe s. Because they share the house, they share one apostrophe s.

If Aardvark and Squiggly live in different houses, and they are having a progressive dinner where they go from one house to the next, then the location on the invitation would read Aardvark’s and Squiggly’s houses. They don’t share the house, so they can’t share an apostrophe s. Both names need an apostrophe s: Aardvark’s and Squiggly’s houses.

For additional information on names and addressing mail, see Grammar Girl’s article on the Churches, Foxes, and Marshes.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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