Pluralizing Surnames on Christmas Cards

Every year I have the same grammar questions. They come around as I am addressing Christmas cards, and I bet you have the same questions. When I am addressing cards, instead of using a formal title like “Mr. and Mrs. John Jones” (especially when I want to include children’s names as well), I usually opt for a more casual “The Jones Family”. However, occasionally I like to go with “The Joneses,” but then that doesn’t look right, so I try “The Jones,” but that looks too singular. How do you use the plural form of surnames???

My go-to article to refresh my memory on proper grammatical pluralizing of surnames is found on Grammar Girl. In this article, Mignon Fogarty gives the down and dirty on this topic.

1. The most common way to change a family name to its plural form is to simply add an “s” to the end. The surname “Hill” becomes “Hills.”

2. For surnames ending in “s,” “x,” “z,” “ch,” and “sh” an “es” is added to the ending. So, “Jones” becomes “Joneses.” My maiden name “Mills” becomes “Millses.”

3. In all circumstances, you keep the base name the same, regardless of whether you would typically pluralize the word in another way. For instance, let’s look at “Chapman.” In everyday language, we would pluralize “man” by changing it to “men.” We ignore this rule when it comes to surnames and always keep the surname’s original form. Therefore, instead of changing it to “Chapmen,” you would use “Chapmans.”

4. Never, ever, ever use an apostrophe to pluralize a name. Apostrophes are ONLY used to show possession or to form a contraction. Therefore, the following are incorrect:
Let’s send a Christmas card to the Jones’.
I like to hear the Chapman’s sing.
The Mills’ are some of my favorite people.
Instead, you should say:
Let’s send a Christmas card to the Joneses.
I like to hear the Chapmans sing.
The Millses are some of my favorite people.
Should you, in fact, need to show possession to a plural surname, you would do it in the following way:
The Millses’ home is so lovely.
The Chapmans’ singing sounds like angels.
The Joneses’ card is in the mail.

Clear as mud?

The Grammar Nerd



  1. Great overview! I had to do a bit of research this year, too.

    Now it’s time for you to tackle the more complex questions, like, how do you address an envelope to a family unit if the husband and wife have different last names? Especially if you don’t know the man? And how the heck are you supposed to know their kid’s names??

    • thehillhangout says

      Generally speaking, you would address the envelope with the following:
      Ms. Ann Smith and Mr. John Jones
      123 Main Street
      Anytown, US 12345

      It is entirely proper to add “and Family” when you don’t know kids’ names or to use “The Smith and Jones Family” or “The Smith/Jones Family.”

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