For many of us, the year-end holidays provide a timely reason to update family, friends and peripheral characters on the latest news in our lives.

We share details, from the mundane to the profound, from the joy of new life to the sadness of recent death. And these missives wouldn’t be complete without one trite reflection or another, such as the almost-obligatory astonishment that another 365 days have passed.

This is all well and good. But what has become beyond bearable is the rampant grammatical disregard that accompanies these greetings.

I refer to the misuse, overuse and just plain old-fashioned abuse of the all-too-misunderstood apostrophe (‘). People can’t seem to resist sticking it somewhere, typically between last names and the “s” that shows their awareness that there is more than one individual involved in the equation.

As I write this, three days after Christmas, the mail has just brought the latest exhibit-A card from a baby-sitter who squandered ink after the “n” in Baron and before the plural-signaling “s.” I applaud her perceptive sense of plurality. But when it comes to using the possessive, she and others seem to be, well, possessed.

What makes this plague all the more disconcerting is that it afflicts some of the brightest minds around. One can only shudder at the brutality inflicted on folks whose last names, in their singular form, end in “s.” (To keep up with the grammatically adept Joneses, just add “es” to such names.)

Some folks make a valiant effort by inserting the apostrophe after the “s.” While incorrect, it’s at least more understandable. But let’s examine further the frequent, inexplicable apostrophe placement before the “s.”

In my case, then, we have become “The Baron’s” as if some 15th-generation feudal-state gent lords over me, my wife and our two children as his indentured servants. If you or someone you know succumbs to this apostrophe apostasy, please memorize the following rule as if it were your punctuation for “Jingle Bells” (note the lack of apostrophe):

Addressing a family signifies plurality, not possession. Just add an “s” and call it a day.

One cat, two cats. One car, two cars. One irate writer. Two irate writers. See? Nice and simple.

So, when addressing a card, simply write, “The Barons” or “The Winzenheimers” and so forth. If this proves too difficult, then work around the issue by writing “The Baron Family” or “The Winzenheimer Family” and sidestepping the “s” altogether.

Simply put, the best course of action is to look the “s” squarely in its curve and just leave it alone. Thank’s!

Matt Baron’s (i.e. Matt Baron is) a freelance writer who has resided in Oak Park for 11 years.

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