Common Mistakes: Plurals of proper names

January 7, 2009: Issue 322

As we sort through our stacks of Christmas cards and presents from 2009, we’d like to remind you of a simple rule: Never use an apostrophe to form the plural of a proper name. It’s an error often committed in holiday letters and on personalized gifts.

Form the plural of a proper name with -s or -es. Sign your letter “Love from the Smiths.” Put “The Joneses” on that doormat or garden plaque.

To make a plural name possessive, form the plural first, then add the apostrophe: “Love from the Smiths’ home to yours.”

In a few cases where apostrophes clear up confusion, we use them to form the plurals of numbers, acronyms, or single or multiple letters used as words. Find examples.

Heh-heh, get it? We appreciate the readers who gently pointed out our errors in the CE Christmas letter. That was our attempt at some “holliday” humor. (And we’ll confess we’re often guilty of skimming those Christmas letters, too.) You’re in better hands, grammarwise, than that letter might have led you to believe. We promise.

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