Shortly after my wedding day my wonderful mother-in-law sat me down to say that my new name Barnes was to be spelled (in Christmas Cards) Love from the Barnes'. She went on to explain that her German mother-in-law had the same talk with her regarding Christmas Cards. So, in keeping with family tradition I have always said with love from the Barnes'

Now they are both on the other side and I am gaining a wonderful daughter-in-law and plan to keep the tradition going. But I am curious if it's grammatically incorrect.


  • I swear I recognise this story, but I can't find a duplicate. Maybe I'm just suffering from deja-vu all over again. – AndyT Oct 3 '17 at 8:58
  • Totally incorrect. There are exceedingly few words that take an apostrophe to form the non-possessive plural (do's / ex's ...) and only some people accept those. Some companies retain an apostrophe (Lloyd's of London), referring back to ownership, whereas others have got rid (Waterstones). But families, no. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 4 '17 at 16:23
  • Love from the Barnses--it's not, after all, love from the Barnses' dog – Xanne Oct 5 '17 at 9:15

Why is it that addressing holiday cards is such a controversial topic?

This is not a matter of grammar, but of style. It's your name and your card, and you don't need to follow anyone else's rules if you don't care to. Besides, matters of family tradition, and of pleasing in-laws, are not resolved with citations from the Internet.

In current English usage, apostrophes signify possessives, not pluralization. Usually, the plural of a name ending is s or z is signified by adding -es. The AP Stylebook, for example, asserts

PROPER NAMES: Most ending in es or z add es: Charleses, Joneses, Gonzalezes.

Similarly, the Chicago Manual of Style states flatly

Names of persons and other proper nons form the plural in the usual way, by adding s or es:

… flouting the Joneses

Note that the apostrophe is never used to denote the plural of a personal name: "The Schumachers left for London on Friday" (not "The Schumacher's …")

Such examples assume, however, that you would pronounce the plural of Jones as Joneses, adding a syllable. Whether you write Dickens' novels or Dickens's novels, or an herb garden or a herb garden, depends on how it sounds in your head. In the same vein, I would say if you pronounce the plural of Barnes indistinguishably from singular Barnes, you have liberty to sign the card as love from the Barnes, nitpickers be damned. Alternatively, you can sidestep the issue and offer love from the Barnes family.

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