Presidents Day: Should there be an apostrophe?

AP style says the holiday honoring George Washington and Abraham Lincoln should be spelled without an apostrophe. Some marketers beg to differ.

Does the day belong to a single president—or does it honor all holders of the highest office in the United States?

Marketers seem to disagree about the spelling of Monday’s national holiday.

Some use an apostrophe to denote a plural possessive:

Hashtags, of course, don’t like punctuation marks:

This is certainly wrong:

Others omit the apostrophe:

Who’s right, and who’s wrong? It depends on whom you ask.

The AP Stylebook, which the Ragan Communications staff follows (pretty much, anyway), says there should be no apostrophe:

The entry states:

No apostrophe is an exception to Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Not adopted by the federal government as the official name of the Washington’s Birthday holiday. However, some federal agencies, states and local governments use the term.

However, The Chicago Manual of Style disagrees.

Some base their argument on how the holiday has evolved.

Mental Floss wrote:

The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it what they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way—the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

The Obama White House used the Chicago Style “Presidents’ Day” here. The New York Times and The Washington Post have used the apostrophe as well.

Merriam-Webster has stated emphatically that the apostrophe goes at the end:

The history of the U.S. holiday is explained by the Encyclopedia Britannica :

In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, which moved a number of federal holidays to Mondays. The change was designed to schedule certain holidays so that workers had a number of long weekends throughout the year, but it has been opposed by those who believe that those holidays should be celebrated on the dates they actually commemorate. During debate on the bill, it was proposed that Washington’s Birthday be renamed Presidents’ Day to honour the birthdays of both Washington (February 22) and Lincoln (February 12); although Lincoln’s birthday was celebrated in many states, it was never an official federal holiday. Following much discussion, Congress rejected the name change. After the bill went into effect in 1971, however, Presidents’ Day became the commonly accepted name, due in part to retailers’ use of that name to promote sales and the holiday’s proximity to Lincoln’s birthday.

The encyclopedia, you may notice, uses the apostrophe. It also spells honor with a u in it. Well, it is the Encyclopedia Britannica, after all.

How are you writing about this presidential holiday, PR Daily readers? Are you using the apostrophe—or are you vetoing it?

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