How to Pluralize Last Names for Holiday Cards—Especially Tough Ones Ending in “S”
'Tis the season for holiday cards! Here's how to properly write plural last names, whether you're signing them or addressing them.
When Santa signs his holiday packages (or you sign them for him), do he and Mrs. Claus sign with “Love from Mr. and Mrs. Claus” or “Love from the Clauses”? “Clause’s”? “Clausses”? Maybe they should just scrap the plural last name and go with “Love from us both.”
If you’re just as confused as Jolly Old Saint Nick, don’t throw in the towel. Turns out, pluralizing surnames is simpler than you think, and it’s a good place to start when figuring out what to write in a Christmas card. “Spelling someone’s name correctly, and that includes plurals, is a way to show respect and care,” says Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life. “Especially when you’re writing it out on holiday invitations, RSVPs or cards. It’s worth taking that extra minute to get it right.”
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How to pluralize most names
Most of the time, writing a plural last name is easy: Simply add an s to the end.
- Anderson → Andersons
- Smith → Smiths
- Garcia → Garcias
- Gupta → Guptas
- Romano → Romanos
- Nguyen → Nguyens
There are exceptions, though. If you’re addressing holiday cards to people whose last names end in ch, s, sh, z or x, keep reading for tips on how to pluralize them.
If the last name ends in ch, s, sh or z
Sending warm wishes to the Burches, Walshes and Perezes? Pluralize these names by adding an es at the end. Do the same when pluralizing those extra-tricky words ending in s: Mr. and Mrs. Claus become the Clauses.
- March → Marches
- Jones → Joneses
- Ash → Ashes
- Gutierrez → Gutierrezes
If the last name ends in x
There are two possible ways to pluralize a surname ending in x, and to avoid a grammar mistake on your holiday card, you may need to say the name aloud. Pay attention to whether you can hear the x sound.
For last names ending in an x sound, add es. For last names ending with a silent x, add an s.
- Beaux → Beauxs
- Cox → Coxes
If the last name ends in a y or i
When pluralizing common nouns that end in y, we drop the y and add ies. Likewise, for words ending in i, we add es. That’s how puppy becomes puppies, and chili becomes chilies.
This isn’t true for proper nouns. You should never change the spelling of a name, even to make it plural. In this case, just add the s at the end.
- Murphy → Murphys
- Rosetti → Rosettis
- Zachary → Zacharys
- Godoy → Godoys
What about apostrophes?
Rules for using an apostrophe can be confusing! No doubt you’ve seen people pluralize a name by adding an apostrophe—like the Jones’ or the Paulson’s. This is incorrect. You never need an apostrophe—ever—when pluralizing a name to sign or address a letter, Gottsman says.
Apostrophes are for showing ownership or possession, not for naming a group or writing a plural last name. In other words, if you’re referring to the Jones family, you’d address the card to the Joneses. If you’re talking about their house, you’d write “the Joneses’ house.”
Tips for writing last names on holiday cards
Sending holiday cards is a time-honored Christmas tradition and a highlight of the season for recipients. So treat it with the care it deserves—this isn’t just one more to-do to check off your list before Santa arrives. With that in mind, Gottsman shared a few more tips to keep in mind when writing your cards:
- Stick to their real name. Don’t shorten it, change the spelling or use a nickname (unless you’re already on a nickname basis). This is especially true when writing “foreign” names or names from a different language. Don’t try to change it to an “easier-to-pronounce” spelling or “English version.”
- Take the time to ensure the spelling is correct. It only takes a minute to double-check.
- Write clearly and stick to print. Cursive writing may look elegant, but many people no longer know how to read it, especially folks under age 35, as that was when it was dropped from most school curricula.
- Ask questions. Some people prefer to spell their names differently than the accepted norms, and that can extend to the way they pluralize it. If you’re unsure, just ask them how they prefer their name to be spelled.
About the expert
- Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert, the author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life and the founder of The Protocol School of Texas.