When I was a child, we didn’t wake up at 2:30 in the morning the day after Thanksgiving to line up at a store opening at 3:00.  Rather, we woke up when our bodies told us it was time, and once everyone awakened, we started unpacking boxes of Christmas decorations.  The day after Thanksgiving signaled the official start of the Christmas season in the Ardis household.

I love to remember those times, my parents, all of my brothers and sisters and I piling into our station wagon so we could go to a Christmas tree stand to pick out the perfect tree.  If we found one we thought could be “it,” we yelled for my dad and he would come over to lift it for a closer inspection.  We didn’t want a scrawny tree or one with missing branches.  Our perfect tree must be tall and had to be full, just like Santa. 

I thought it only fitting that the after-Thanksgiving Grammar Guardian column should make it official:  The Christmas season is upon us.  I wanted to focus on capitalization, so let’s stick to the Christmas theme and address common errors involving capitalization.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

(Remember to capitalize the title, except for articles like “the” and most prepositions.) 

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen

Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen

(Always capitalize names, whether names of people, stores, restaurants or reindeer.)

But do you recall, the most famous reindeer of all?

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer

(Rudolph.  It’s his name.  It must be capitalized.)

had a very shiny nose,

and if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names.

(There is no capitalization here, but I just want to remind you not to add an “s” to “reindeer.”  The plural of “reindeer” can be either “reindeer” or “reindeers,” and songwriter Johnny Marks chose “reindeer.”)

They never let poor Rudolph, join in any reindeer games.

(There’s the red-nosed guy’s name again.)

Then one foggy Christmas Eve,

(Secular and religious holidays should always be capitalized, so be sure to capitalize both “Christmas” and “Eve.”)

Santa came to say, “Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

(Santa—another name.  Rudolph must be capitalized for two reasons:  1) It’s the sleigh-leader’s name; 2) The first word of a quotation must be capitalized.

Then how the reindeer loved him,

And they shouted out with glee,

“Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, you’ll go down in history.”

(Two-rule capitalization again—the historical reindeer’s name again, and it’s the first word in a quotation.)

Keep guarding our grammar over the holidays.  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays!