I know I am not the only one out there feeling the stress of the Holiday season. Everyone tries to fit it all in while working and managing their daily life. It is easy to overlook the details or forget how to do the simplest tasks during this time.
I love sending out Christmas cards every year. Before I get started, I set the Christmas mood by putting on a Hallmark Holiday movie and grabbing my special pens. Usually, this process happens at night, and I am not a night person. Around the twenty-fifth card, I begin to lose it. I am half asleep, under the pressure of a deadline, and start to forget the basic process of how to address an envelope.
Every year I go through this forgetfulness phase but never do anything about it. So, in this post, I will lay out the major issues in addressing Christmas cards to get you and me through the Holiday season with a jingle in our step.
One of the trickiest spots in addressing Christmas cards is correctly writing a family’s last name. If the person is single, it is simple, you write out the last name, and you are done. But when there is more than one person you are addressing a card to, making the last name plural can be thorny.
Let us travel back to elementary school and remember how to make nouns plural.
- If a noun ends in a consonant, put an “s” at the end to make it plural. For example, if the names are John and Mary Smith, the card would be addressed to The Smiths.
- Yikes. What if the name ends in s, z, ch, sh or ss? The grammar rule is to put an “es” at the end of the name. So, if your card was addressed to my family, you would address the card to The Griggses. But that sure is ugly looking, so I simply put the last name plus the word family. In this case, you would address my card to The Griggs Family.
- Now we have to look at nouns that end in “y,” “i,” or “o.” You will love this one. The grammar rules that apply to nouns, which I have included below if you want a refresher course, do not apply to proper nouns, such as names. Simply add an “s” to the end to make it plural. So, Darby becomes Darbys (not Darbies), Loki becomes Lokis (not Loki/Lokii) and Antonio becomes Antonios (not Antonioes).
Y—Drop the y and add “ies” to the end. For example, party becomes parties.
I—For nouns ending in “i,” we usually keep the letter “i” at the end, and sometimes we add an “i.” For example, cactus becomes cacti.
O- Nouns ending in “o” usually have “es” added to the end of the noun to make it plural. For example, potato becomes potatoes.
There are several other grammar rules for changing singular nouns to plural nouns, but I will stop here. It would be simply exhausting to describe them all, and the purpose of this blog post is to reduce Holiday stress, not cause more. The good news is that names are proper nouns, and generally, you can just add an “s” to the end of the name to make it plural and call it a day.
Quick Tip: Don’t put an apostrophe and then “s” to make a name plural. For example, Smith should be Smiths, not Smith’s. An apostrophe only works for the possessive form, such as the Smith’s house. But again, don’t sweat it. I did this one for years before realizing I was doing it wrong.
Etiquette and Tone
How formal you want your cards to be is up to you. Whether it is a collage of family photos from the past year or a formal family portrait, each year’s cards are special because they express your style.
However, your style should follow some basic rules for addressing.
- Family and Friends – When addressing your card to a family member or close friend, it is okay to use their first names or nicknames without a title, such as Mr. or Mrs. For example, you can write John Smith for the name if John is a close friend or relative.
- Acquaintances or Work Associates – It is a good idea to add a title before the name when addressing cards to co-workers or acquaintances, for example, Mr. John Smith.
- Professionals – Include a person’s title if they are a professional who uses a title, such as a doctor or professor with a doctoral degree. Ex: Dr. John Smith
- Unmarried couples living together – Don’t sweat the order of the names. Just be sure to include “and” when addressing both people who live together but are not married. For example, John Smith and Mary Brown.
- Married couples – Include both members in the address to read Mr. and Mrs. Smith or Mr. John and Mrs. Susan Smith. If you want to be more informal, you can use just the first names, such as John and Susan Smith.
- Same-sex married couples – If both people have kept their surname, address the card as described in the above bullet point: unmarried couples living together. If they share a last name, even if hyphenated, follow the information in the married couple’s bullet point. If you don’t know if they use the same last name or not, don’t assume they do and address the card with the last name of each person.
- A single person – Use a title before a single person’s name if not a family member or close friend, for example, Mr. John Smith. According to etiquette, a single woman should be addressed with Miss as the title. The title Miss often connotates a young single woman, so I prefer using the title Ms. for all single women.
Quick Tip: If the card is a different shape, such as a square, you may need extra postage.
Have you heard the catchy phrase, “There’s a reason for the season?” Christians use this phrase to remind others that Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas and that we shouldn’t worry about the challenges that come along while getting ready for the Holidays.
The same phrase applies to your writing and addressing cards. Yes, correctly addressing people reflects your communication style and skill, but what really matters is the thought and care that went into making the cards and the moment you took out of your schedule to write someone’s name and think about them, even for a moment.
I hope this will help you tidy up your Holiday to-do list and ease some of your stress. And don’t worry too much about mistakes. I realized this year that I put one of my co-worker’s dog’s names as the family’s last name on the envelope. I am sure they have received the card, and I hope they have a good laugh.
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, I recommend the following resources:
- Mignon Fogerty’s episode https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/greeting-card-grammar on the Grammar Girl podcast
- A quick refresher on changing singular nouns to plural: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/plural-nouns/