Do you struggle with the apostrophe? That little floating piece of punctuation that is so pointedly used? With its many uses and even more rules, it’s hard to know where to put it, when to put it, and if it should be even used at all. Oftentimes, it’s placed at random, and is perhaps the most misused piece of punctuation in the English language. Especially in scenarios that rarely arise … after elementary school. Such as pluralizing one’s last name. Or even more difficult, someone else’s last name.
As a writer who has seen hundreds of grammatically incorrect nameplates (I’m looking at you, limestone carving companies), I decided it’s high time we have a guide. A go-to document that outlines how to pluralize last names, and why. Whether you’re posting on social media, or carving it permanently in hard rock.
Adding the S
Most often, when taking something from singular to plural, you add an S. A single letter that shows you’re dealing with more than one item. One apple, two apples; a single computer vs. many computers; a lonely house as opposed to many houses.
The same is true with names. There might be a Martin present, or many Martins; one Anderson vs. a slew of Andersons; a Hart waiting for the rest of the Harts to arrive. In these instances, and S is added, nothing else, and especially not an apostrophe.
For a quick rule, remember that you almost always add an S to the end of a last name.
Adding an ES
In contrast, there are a few letters that require an ES at the end of a name in order to make it plural. Those ending in S, X, CH, SH, or Z all get an E before their final S. The Sanchezes, Helmses, Foxes, Churches, or Birches. (Respectively, Sanchez, Helms, Fox, Church, and Birch.)
Sure, these look a little tricky, but that’s simply a little-known burden for having a last name ending in these rare, albeit more unique, letters. And if the extra E really bothers you, you can always say “family” after your name, for instance: the Thomas family. Easy, right?
Just remember: if your name ends in S, X, CH, SH, or Z, add ES to pluralize.
You know that punctuation that we talked about way in the beginning? Are you wondering why we didn’t talk about them? Because more often than not, they aren’t needed. Apostrophes make a name possessive, not plural. For example: the Reeds is plural, while The Reeds’ swing set is possessive; use the latter when talking about specific ownership of a specific noun. Otherwise, it’s likely you’re looking to make a name plural.
If you still have questions, feel free to email; I’d be happy to make you a customized nameplate for your upcoming greeting card or limestone rock. Otherwise, look to this guide for easy and fast rules on outlining last names in any situation.
The grammar enthusiasts of the world will thank you.