Giving Special Days Their Grammatical Due



America prizes its holidays and other days of distinction. Whether for federal, state, civic, or religious observance, we have a slew of causes for commemoration.

In the grammatical world, designated days have stature and so receive proper-noun treatment. At the same time, confusion can still seep in over style. For example, do we write Thanksgiving Day or Thanksgiving day?

We’re here to help clarify that for precision in writing.

The Associated Press Stylebook advises to capitalize holidays and holy days. The Chicago Manual of Style directs to capitalize religious holidays as well as most secular holidays and other specially marked days, such as April Fool’s Day.

With that in mind, here are examples of proper treatments for different holidays by category. The federal list is complete; the others are partial.

Federal Holidays
New Year’s Day [Jan. 1] Labor Day [first Mon. in Sept.]
Martin Luther King Jr. Day [third Mon. of Jan.] Columbus Day [second Mon. of Oct.]
Presidents’ (or Presidents) Day or Washington’s Birthday [third Mon. of Feb.] Veterans Day [Nov. 11]
Memorial Day [last Mon. in May] Thanksgiving (Day) [fourth Thurs. of Nov.]
Independence Day (Fourth of July) Christmas (Day) [Dec. 25]
State Holidays [not all are observed nationwide; some are state specific]
Lincoln’s Birthday [Feb. 12] Arbor Day [varies by state]
Casmir Pulaski Day [first Mon. in March] Bunker Hill Day [June 17]
Cesar Chavez Day [March 31] Rosh Hashanah [goes by Jewish calendar, usually Sept.]
Good Friday [Fri. before Easter Sun.] Family Day [day after Thanksgiving]
Patriot’s Day [third Mon. in April] New Year’s Eve [Dec. 31]
Secular and Specially Designated Days
Groundhog Day [Feb. 2] Mother’s Day [second Sun. of May]
Valentine’s Day [Feb. 14] Flag Day [June 14]
St. Patrick’s Day [March 17] Father’s Day [third Sun. in June]
Tax Day [April 15 unless on a weekend or holiday] Halloween (day) [Oct. 31]
Cinco de Mayo [May 5] Kwanzaa [Dec. 26–Jan. 1]
Religious Observances
Easter Sunday [varies March 22–April 25]
Ramadan [ninth month of the Islamic calendar]
Diwali [varies according to Hindu calendar]
Hanukkah/Chanukah [varies late Nov. to late Dec.]
Christmas Eve [Dec. 24]

AP and CMOS differ concerning the reference to the June 6, 1944, Allied invasion of Normandy, France. AP treats it as D-Day and CMOS would print it as D day.

They also diverge in their treatment of election day and inauguration day. CMOS instructs to lowercase both phrases as descriptive designations. AP agrees with the exception of references to the formal ceremonies including inauguration of a U.S. president (e.g., The inauguration day for the company’s new policies is yet to be decided, but The U.S. Inauguration Day is January 20.).

Following proper grammatical style for days of distinction helps maintain their meaning to us. Who would want a calendar full of just this day or that day? By identifying their stature in writing, we hold high our reasons to observe and celebrate.

Posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, at 11:00 pm

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3 Comments on Giving Special Days Their Grammatical Due

3 responses to “Giving Special Days Their Grammatical Due”

  1. Dinah says:

    I do wish you had included “Daylight Saving Time.” The common misspelling–Daylight Savings Time–is literally etched in granite at the Davis Mountains Observatory sundial near Fort Davis, TX. Cringe! Unforgivable.

  2. MitziCarrollEditor says:

    Thank you for the reminder. I know all these but I find myself looking them up almost every time. Have a wonderful Independence Day!

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