Grammar, common mistakes and more

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Winter holidays are approaching, and it’s a time to wish family and friends a merry Christmas or another greeting.  

But some people find addressing and mailing holiday cards intimidating. What if you forget an etiquette rule? What if you make a common grammar mistake, or don’t catch a typo before sending messages to your loved ones?  

Experts say not to let the process of sending holiday greetings scare you out of connecting with your community. Daniel Post Senning, author and spokesperson for The Emily Post Institute, told USA TODAY well wishes provide the chance “to connect with the people in our world that matter to us.”   

“Just having a good excuse once a year to reach out and make contact and touch base with all kinds of people in your life is a really rich opportunity,” he said.  

James Hirschfeld, CEO of Paperless Post, told USA TODAY that holiday greetings – whether digital or on paper – allow us to be more purposeful.    

“The idea of intentionally choosing to reach out to a select group of contacts around the holidays and sending them a thoughtful message that’s really meant for specific people, rather than just broadcasting to the world, is a very powerful kind of interaction,” he said. 

Whether you’ve been sending Christmas cards for decades or you want to send your first holiday greeting, here’s what you need to know.   

How do I write addresses on holiday cards?  

When addressing an envelope, you should write your name and address in the top left corner. Write the recipient’s name and address in the bottom center of the envelope, according to the U.S. Postal Service.  

The USPS recommends that you print addresses neatly in capital letters, using a pen or permanent marker if you are handwriting addresses. And when addressing an envelope, Senning said, “the first tip is legibility.”  

“This thing just needs to get there,” he said.  

You should also use a person’s full name when addressing an envelope. Including a person’s title for a holiday card isn’t a requirement, according to Senning, especially if the person is a family member or friend.  

“You want the way you address someone to reflect their wishes and the nature of the relationship that you have with them,” he said.  

Is it Miss, Ms. Or Mrs.?  

If you do want to use formal titles when addressing a holiday greeting, “Miss” refers to an unmarried woman – though these days it is more commonly used for girls. 

Mrs. refers to a married woman, while Ms. can be used for all women. Mr. is used for men.  

In business, Ms. Is typically the appropriate option for women. The plural of two women is Mesdames and the plural of Mr. is Messrs.  

People may also prefer other titles, such as the gender-neutral Mx. Senning noted that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask people how they prefer to be addressed.  

“It’s one of the essential tenets of good etiquette, whether it’s introduction etiquette or correspondence etiquette, is that we address people the way they would like to be addressed. People get to define for themselves what their identity is and how they present themselves,” he said.  

How do you address a couple?

One of the most traditional ways to address a couple made up of a man and woman is by using formal titles followed by the man’s first and last name. For example, Mr. And Mrs. John Kelly.  

But Senning explained you can simply address a couple by keeping their names on the same line of an address.  

“It doesn’t matter who comes first. That’s a discretionary choice,” he said.  

Is it Happy New Year, Happy New Year’s or Happy New Years?  

If you want to celebrate the beginning of 2023 in a message to your loved ones, you should wish them “Happy New Year.”  

If you’re talking about events that might occur next year, there’s no need to capitalize the words “new” and “year.” For example, you might tell a coworker that you’re traveling to Canada in the new year.  

Is it the Smiths’? Smith’s? Smiths?  

We can all use a refresher on where and when to put an apostrophe. Here’s a quick reference if you’re writing or typing names for a holiday greeting.  

The Smith Family:   

  • Do: Merry Christmas from the Smiths. The Smiths’ Christmas Eve party is coming up soon. This present is from the Smith family.   
  • Don’t: The Smith’s are traveling for the holidays.   

The Jones Family:  

  • Do: Merry Christmas from the Joneses. The Jones’ Christmas Eve party is coming up.  
  • Don’t: The Jones’ are traveling for the holidays.   

The May Family:  

  • Do: Merry Christmas from the Mays. The Mays’ Christmas Eve party is coming up.  
  • Don’t: The Maies are traveling for the holidays.  

Here’s a general rule: Names that end in “ch,” other than those that are pronounced with a hard k like “monarch;” s; sh; x; and z; need an es to make them plural.   

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