Presidents Day: Should there be an apostrophe?

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:

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

This is certainly wrong:

Others omit the apostrophe:


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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:

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:

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.

The Obama White House used the Chicago Style “Presidents’ Day”

The New York Times


The Washington Post

have used the apostrophe as well.

Merriam-Webster has stated emphatically that the apostrophe goes at the

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?

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