There are a lot of birthdays this month.
Like, a freakish amount.
I work on a team of 28 people and six of us have already celebrated an April birthday. Pretty sure there at least two or three to go.
So I thought I’d make this Writing Wednesday as relevant as possible and address proper capitalization in wishing someone a happy holiday, be it a birthday, Christmas or Mother’s Day.
Let’s start with the holidays that are always capitalized, regardless of what you do with the word before it:
- Father’s Day (apostrophe alert!)
- Labor Day
- Memorial Day
- Mother’s Day (!)
- Rosh Hashanah
- Valentine’s Day
- Veterans Day
- Yom Kippur
Two tricky ones you should always capitalize assuming you’re talking about the holiday and not just some random day/date are New Year’s (Day/Eve) and Fourth of July.
What don’t you capitalize?
Unless it’s part of a greeting, keep birthday and anniversary lowercase.
Easy enough? Hooray! Let’s celebrate.
The first and only thing to consider when trying to figure out capitalization is whether you’re sending an actual greeting or just inserting the holiday into a sentence.
It’s one thing to say “Merry Christmas, Clark!” and another to say “I hope you have a merry Christmas, Clark.”
BUT there is one catch to that logic: “Happy holidays!”
Holiday is, was and always will be a generic term. It doesn’t refer to one specific day, so it doesn’t deserve any sort of capitalization.
Same goes for “Season’s greetings!”
Birthday and anniversary are different. They are specific events for the recipient, so “Happy Birthday!” and “Happy Anniversary, Jim” make sense.
Way easy, but very often overthought. Don’t stress! Just know that if the greeting and a name are literally the only words you’re writing, they should all be capitalized.
Except for holiday. Dammit.
However! If that “greeting” is thrown into the middle of a sentence, only capitalize the occasion (assuming it’s part of the uppercase list).
Short and sweet, but hopefully helpful. I just have one final request.
When you’re sending someone a greeting, be it holiday-related or a simple hello, pleeeeeease put a comma before their name.
“Hi, Anna! I hope you’ve had a happy new year. If you don’t have plans for Valentine’s Day, a bunch of us girls are grabbing dinner downtown. Let me know if you can make it. Oh, and before I forget: Happy Birthday!”
Title Credit: Lindsey Buckingham