Apostrophe in Presidents’ Day (or Presidents Day)
Both Presidents’ Day (with the apostrophe) and Presidents Day (without the apostrophe) are acceptable in formal writing, depending on the style you choose to follow.
Use of apostrophe
Style authorities such as Merriam-Webster, the Chicago Manual of Style, and the APA Publication Manual treat the word presidents as a possessive noun and recommend placing an apostrophe after s. Others, like the AP Stylebook, consider it a descriptive term and suggest omitting the apostrophe altogether.
- Correct: Chicago, APA, M-W style: Presidents’ Day
- Correct: AP (Associated Press) style: Presidents Day
The reason we have differing styles of writing the name of this holiday, all of them acceptable, is that the federal holiday is still officially Washington’s Birthday, not Presidents’ Day or Presidents Day. However, since the holiday has since expanded to honor both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln (and sometimes all U.S. presidents), the Chicago Manual of Style, APA Publication Manual, and Merriam-Webster recommend using Presidents’ Day instead. Here are a couple of examples from published content.
Presidents’ Day is usually marked by public ceremonies in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country.— “Presidents’ Day,” Encyclopedia Britannica (Accessed Jan. 11, 2023)
For Presidents’ Day, National Geographic investigates why we save such intimate artifacts of Washington and Lincoln.— What Bizarre Relics Tell Us about Presidents’ Lives,” National Geographic (Feb. 13, 2016)
The AP Stylebook suggests using Presidents Day without the apostrophe to maintain consistency with other such holidays (like Veterans Day), whose names are considered descriptive and do not contain an apostrophe.
It’s almost Presidents Day, and now there’s a chance to own a quirky piece of White House history.— “A Quirky Presidents Day Sale: Washington’s Hair, JFK Sweater,” AP News (Feb. 10, 2021)
Use an apostrophe in Presidents’ Day in academic and creative writing (following Chicago and APA style), but omit the apostrophe in news copy (Presidents Day, following AP style), unless house style suggests otherwise.
Grammatically, both styles are acceptable: using the apostrophe makes the noun possessive (Presidents’ Day); omitting makes the noun attributive (Presidents Day). Pick a style, and follow it consistently in your document.
Apostrophe before or after S?
In some U.S. states, the holiday is officially President’s Day (singular possessive, with the apostrophe before s). However, unless you are referring to the state holiday specifically, use either Presidents’ Day (with the apostrophe after s) or Presidents Day (without an apostrophe).
Whether and where to use an apostrophe in the name of a holiday can be confusing, since this decision is often based on style rather than grammar. For a list of holidays written with and without the apostrophe, see Apostrophes in Names of Holidays.
Use of capital letters
Capitalize both words in Presidents’ Day, regardless of whether you use the apostrophe. Names of holidays, festivals, and other special days are proper nouns and therefore capitalized.
- Incorrect: Our offices will remain closed this Monday for presidents’ day.
- Incorrect: Our offices will remain closed this Monday for Presidents’ day.
- Correct: Our offices will remain closed this Monday for Presidents’ Day.