For those who want to ring in the new year correctly, read on!
When I was editing ESL Library’s New Year’s lesson plans recently, I started to question the use of New Year’s and New Year. When do we use the possessive form? Also, there are instances where the words “new” and “year” shouldn’t be capitalized. Confusing, right? I did a bit of research to find out what the style guides and dictionaries suggest, and I thought I’d share the results with you. With the holiday around the corner, your students might be asking you about this very soon!
Capitalized Vs. Lowercase
First of all, let’s sort out “New Year” vs. “new year.” This distinction depends on whether you’re referring to the holiday or the year itself. If you’re referring to the holiday, you should capitalize it. For example:
- Happy New Year!
When you’re referring to the year itself, you shouldn’t capitalize it. For example:
- It’s the first day of the new year, so let’s celebrate!
- He’s decided to quit smoking since it’s a new year.
Here’s an easy way to remember this: If you use an article (a or the), you shouldn’t use initial capital letters.
New Year Vs. New Year’s
Now it gets tricky, since both ways seem to be commonly used. I think the problem started when we occasionally dropped the words “eve” and “day” from the full holiday names “New Year’s Eve” and “New Year’s Day.” When the words “eve” and “day” are present, we clearly need the possessive form “New Year’s” (according to The Chicago Manual of Style, section 8.88). But what about when those words aren’t present? People sometimes forget to include the ’s, but I think it should be included. For example, I recently wrote a blog post called 7 Christmas and New Year’s Classroom Activities” and I chose to write “New Year’s”. Why? Because I’m thinking of the holiday “New Year’s Day”, and I’m simply dropping the word “day.” I reasoned this out after editing ESL Library’s New Year’s lesson plans. The writer had chosen to use “New Year’s” over “New Year,” and I agreed with this choice.
What do the dictionaries have to say? Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., has an entry for “New Year,” but states that usually “New Year’s” is used. Oxford Canadian Dictionary of Current English does not have an entry for “New Year” and does have an entry for “New Year’s,” so clearly they advise using “New Year’s,” For example:
- Try these Christmas and New Year’s classroom activities.
- It was a fantastic New Year’s celebration.
I would use “new year” when following an article (a or the), and I would use “New Year’s” in all other cases, aside from the expression “Happy New Year.” (Note: “Happy New Year’s” is also possible, but not as common, in my opinion.) What do you think? What do you normally use? Leave your comments in the section below.
Happy New Year, everyone!