Business Writing

Talk, tips, and best picks for writers on the job.

Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Share this page

« Don't Chip Away at Your Credibility | Main | Book Review: Advice on Clear Writing and on Life »

May 02, 2014


George Raymond

A favorite of mine is Users Manual.



In my school they write: color's day referring to a day when the students can go to school in colored clothes. It doesn't look right to me, I would say colors day; could you please clear the use of the apostrophe in this case?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, George. Yes, "User's manual" seems to have dropped out of sight. People should look to "Writer's Digest" as a good example.

Thanks for stopping by.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Josette. Interesting question! I am not sure why the school uses "color's day." Perhaps the idea is that the day belongs to color. One day might be red's day; another, blue's day.

I agree with you. The apostrophe would not be my first choice. I would probably write "Colors Day" if it is a special day; otherwise, "colors day."


Amy Frushour Kelly

Hi, Lynn. As usual, you're spot-on in your explanation of the correct punctuation for "Mother's Day." I'll be forwarding a link to my brother, who consistently punctuates the term as a plural possessive.

Also, a clarification, if I may, regarding manuals: the correct term is "user manual," singular. This is because the manual is written for the purpose of informing and instructing the end-user, rather than being written by the end-user. Therefore, it's the manufacturer's manual for the user.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Amy. Thanks for letting me know about "user manual." I like your logical explanation. It set me to looking through nine style guides and two dictionaries, none of which touched on the issue.

How did you come to the "user manual" decision?


K. Laird

I respectfully disagree. It is a day for mothers, not a day that mothers possess. No one can possess a day, nor can one own a day. It would be the same for Veterans Day. One would not write Veteran's Day, for it is not a day owned by veterans but a day for veterans. In the end, I suppose this will turn out to be a matter of "personal preference," but I hope not.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, K. There are accepted names of holidays, so the correct usage is not a matter of personal preference. Yesterday was "Mother's Day." You are correct about "Veterans Day." Its official name does not have an apostrophe.

Here are other official names:

New Year's Day
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Armed Forces Day
Father's Day

You can see that the way holidays are rendered is not consistent. However, the renderings above are accepted.

There is one day that style manuals disagree about. "Presidents' Day" is recommended by my dictionaries and two style manuals on my bookshelf. However, the "Associated Press Stylebook" puts forth "Presidents Day" without an apostrophe.

Thank you for commenting.


K. Laird

Lynn, thank you for the response. The use of attributive nouns versus the use of possessives is an intriguing argument to word nerds like me. Thank you for allowing me to weigh in on the debate.

I hope you had a lovely Mothers Day. Cheers.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, K. The problem with going your own way with something that has an accepted rendering is that people may think you do not know better. I believe you have considered that risk in your decision to write the name of this holiday your way. It's not a battle I would fight.

I used "email" long before others removed the hyphen. I did it because I knew that eventually the word would be closed up, and I did not want to revise all my materials when that day arrived. Perhaps that is how you feel about "Mother's Day." I don't believe the name of that holiday will change during my lifetime, so I am sticking with the traditional, accepted rendering.

Best wishes,



It's still correct to capitalize 'Happy' when it's the first word of the written phrase on a card?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Yes indeed!

Happy day!


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Share this page
© 2005-present - Syntax Training - All Rights Reserved