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:

Celebrate Presidents’ Day with BIG savings on avatar items! Get #Roblox on the @Microsoft Store and other platforms for up to 75% off hats, gear, and more until 2/19! https://t.co/H0VZLw4S46 pic.twitter.com/cROanwPsaj

— Roblox (@Roblox) February 16, 2018

See #GetOut for free this Presidents’ Day at a participating @AMCTheatres. Find out more here: https://t.co/PvdzHxJLHB #GetOutOneYearLater pic.twitter.com/LDTxXSKUZm

— Get Out (@GetOutMovie) February 16, 2018

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

This #PresidentsDay weekend, exercise your constitutional right to eat brunch on a Monday if you want to. Here are seven places dishing out everything from Dungeness crab eggs Benedict to cinnamon roll monkey bread this holiday: https://t.co/hqNVHzIibT pic.twitter.com/9eIlwBNlPT

— Sactown Magazine (@SactownMagazine) February 16, 2018

Others omit the apostrophe:

MDC will be closed and there are no classes Saturday, Feb. 17, through Monday, Feb. 19, in observance of Presidents Day. The College will reopen on Tuesday, Feb. 20. pic.twitter.com/iel867ZsIv

— Miami Dade College (@MDCollege) February 16, 2018

Our Presidents Day Weekend Sale offers the best savings of the year!

Buy one ticket for $72, get a second ticket for FREE!

That’s just $36 per ticket! Buy NOW at https://t.co/1cRqfAUs3L pic.twitter.com/zvtZFXePgy

— Cedar Point (@cedarpoint) February 16, 2018

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:

AP Style tip: Presidents Day – no apostrophe – is commemorated on Monday.

— AP Stylebook (@APStylebook) February 13, 2015

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:

Happy Presidents’ Day!
👆That’s where the apostrophe goes. #PresidentsDay

— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) February 20, 2017

Presidents’ Day. They all share it.

— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) February 5, 2018

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?

(Image via)

COMMENT

One Response to “Presidents Day: Should there be an apostrophe?”

    Mr. Bob says:

    I prefer Presidents Day, no apostrophe, but who am I to make grammatical rules?

    It is a day to honor all US presidents. (Should that be U.S. ?) Growing up we had Lincoln‘s Birthday on February 12, and Washington’s Birthday on February 22. At some point those in charge decided to bring the two together, eliminate them individually, and throw in the rest of the presidents.

    I never much cared for that; I believed that those two deserved individual birthday celebrations. But again, who am I? Now that it is changed to include all presidents, even donald trump, the honor has been lost. As for the spelling it surely should not be {apostrophe s}, which I have seen, and {s apostrophe} means it is possessed by the presidents which is incorrect. It is, to repeat my original preference, a day to commemorate the service of all presidents. It is not possessive. If there were a day to commemorate all Jaguars, it would be Jaguars day not Jaguar’s Day or Jaguars’ Day.

    Love my Jag by the way!

    Thanks for asking.

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