Names: First versus last names

October 4, 2007: Issue 207

Our style is to use first names for homeowners and last names for professionals:
Jay and Lana Boyer hired architect Emma Jackson to design their addition. Jackson and Lana took a neighborhood tour to identify projects that Lana particularly liked.

Things get a little sticky, though, when a professional team involves two members of the same family. In that case, use first names to avoid confusion:
Mother-and-daughter design team Janie and Kristin Abbott took on the project. Janie started on a new color scheme for the drab kitchen, while Kristin tackled the awkward arrangement of the entry and great-room.

While we’re discussing last names, let’s talk about names that end in -s or -es, such as Andrews. We form the plural by adding -es: the Andrewses. We form the plural possessive by adding -es and an apostrophe: the Andrewses’ yard. But those constructions quickly gum up copy. Rephrase when you can to keep text smooth: the couple, the family’s yard.

Possibly the most embarrassing correction ever: This mistake will make you wince.

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