Posted by: episystechpubs | November 27, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Last Names

Good morning!

I hope you all had an enjoyable Thanksgiving last week! Of course, five minutes after the holiday, stores started blaring Christmas music, the neighbors put up lights, and visions of Santa Claus and sugar plums are dancing in my head. Even though I’ve lived in Southern California for 27 years, it still seems a bit surreal to be wearing shorts and a tank top while the Joneses drive home with a Christmas tree strapped to their station wagon, and people on TV are bundled up in parkas and drinking hot cocoa.

But what does this have to do with English? Well, one of the most common problems I see and hear about during this time of year is how to address cards and make certain names (like Jones) plural. Yes, for those of you who still send cards or invitations to holiday parties, there is a proper way and an improper way to pluralize last names. Here is an article by Kate Brannen on the topic, complete with a handy-dandy chart at the end to help you out. To read the frequently asked questions at the end of the article, you can click here. Enjoy!

How to Make Your Last Name Plural This Christmas Season

Nothing quells my Christmas cheer as quickly as a stray apostrophe. Every year they assault me.

Usually it’s in the middle of an otherwise quaint moment: I am padding around my parents’ house, wearing pink slippers, sipping on some hot chocolate. Snow is falling outside the window, and Josh Groban’s Christmas CD is filling the downstairs with peace on earth and mercy mild. My mother is baking a pie. She’s about to ask if I want to lick the spatula (which, duh, I will).

First, though, I find a stack of Christmas cards and begin to flip through them—pausing to marvel at how big so-and-so’s kids have gotten. And then I spot it: an apostrophe in a last name that isn’t supposed to be possessive.

I shudder, flipping past the unwarranted punctuation. But as I keep flipping, the apostrophes do, too—flipping me off, that is. They defile Christmas card after Christmas card, last name after last name with their presence. Gone is my Christmas cheer! All my glad tidings, replaced with fury.

“Did no one teach these people how to make their last names plural!?” I scream as I chuck the cards into the fire heretofore crackling peacefully beneath the mantel.

I watch the cards curl and disintegrate in the flames, and I wonder if I’ve overreacted.

Is pluralizing last names more difficult than I realize? Apparently so. Because we get these cards every year—these cards with their adorable photos and their apostrophe catastrophes.

This year I’d like to preempt the pluralization problems. It’s mid-November now, time to order Christmas cards again. I have created a brief guide to help you pluralize your last name. It is my humble attempt to preserve not only apostrophe protocol but also the dignity of the letter S.

The Definitive Guide to Pluralizing Your Last Name

Last letter(s) of last name What should you add to make it plural? Does it need an apostrophe?
a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h (see exceptions below), i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, t, u, v, w, y -s NO
s, x, z, ch, sh -es NO

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services


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