Use the Apostrophe in Happy Mother’s Day

Okay, this post is not about business writing. But over the next few days, plenty of people–perhaps you?–will be sending Mother's Day cards, notes, emails, tweets, and Facebook messages to mothers and motherly people.

I want to save you the trouble of wondering: Yes, Mother's Day does have an apostrophe–before the letter s. These renderings are correct:

  • Happy Mother's Day! 
  • I want to wish you a happy Mother's Day! (There is no reason to capitalize happy although many people do.)
  • On Mother's Day, I think of you. 

Why the apostrophe? Because Mother's is a possessive form. The day of a mother is a mother's day, just as the house of your brother is your brother's house. The form is singular because each mother (singular) is celebrated. 

We capitalize both Mother's and Day because Mother's Day is the proper name of a holiday.

Whether you are a mother or not, I wish you a happy May 11, Mother's Day. 

Lynn
Syntax Training 

P.S. Would you like to be more confident when it comes to punctuation? Take Punctuation for Professionals

14 COMMENTS

  1. 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?

  2. 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.”

    Lynn

  3. 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.

    Cheers,
    Amy

  4. 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?

    Lynn

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    Lynn

  7. 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.

  8. 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,

    Lynn

  9. Sandy, I’m sorry, but I am unfamiliar with that day. Are you referring to Three Kings’ Day? That is rendered as shown. The apostrophe comes after the s because the word “kings” is plural.

    However, if you are referring to the day honoring Martin Luther King Jr., it’s this way:

    Martin Luther King Jr. Day (according to “The Associated Press Stylebook” and “The Chicago Manual of Style”)

    Lynn

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