I go through this every year in mid-February: looking through the ads for refrigerators, mattresses and windows, I see three different ways to show why Washington and Lincoln were born to sell these items. Which one is correct?
That’s a shadow,. This banner has no apostrophe.
Here we have both presidents trying to sell you appliances.
And here is only one president—but is it Washington or Lincoln selling you windows?
Obviously, the correct punctuation is seen in the second example. The rule for using apostrophes is very simple: take the owner word and add ‘S. If the owner word happens to end in an S, just add an apostrophe (boss=boss’).
Every year on this date, I think perhaps I won’t be annoyed the next year with missing or errant apostrophes in the name of the holiday, that people will catch on to the correct punctuation. But how can they when they see rampant errors in advertising? (I do wonder whether the holiday exists primarily for Macy’s to have a sale on towels and bedding.)
Today I have seen PRESIDENTS DAY, PRESIDENT’S DAY and PRESIDENTS’ DAY. Which is it? This is simple. Obviously, the name is a possessive. Just decide how many presidents the day belongs to. If it were on Lincoln’s or Washington’s birthday, it would be PRESIDENT’S. But since the day is in memory of both Lincoln and Washington, the apostrophe goes after the final S: PRESIDENTS’.
When deciding where a possessive apostrophe needs to go, ask yourself whom the item belongs to. Think of the apostrophe as an arrow pointing to the owner word. Then add APOSTROPHE S. If the new word you’ve formed ends in two or three esses (weird word), just drop the final S. It’s not wrong to leave it, but the trend is toward eliminating it:
Three dogs’s tails——-> three dogs’ tails
My boss’s memos——–> my boss’ memos (pronounced “bosses,” which happens to be the plural of boss)
Read the papers and you might think Lincoln and Washington were born so you could get a deal on mattresses and towels. Monday is, according to which ad you see, Presidents Day, President’s Day or Presidents’ Day.
This is not rocket science, people. That day belongs to someone, but who is it? With no apostrophe, we see no ownership. With the apostrophe before the S, the day belongs to only one president (I guess it would be your choice as to which one). With the apostrophe after the S, both Washington and Lincoln get their due. That’s the one you want.
Enjoy your new towels.