Open Government at the National Archives

Plain Writing Tips - Veterans Day – Getting it Right

[This plain language writing tip comes to us from Venerable Veteran Jim Worsham.]

The day the nation honors its veterans is this coming Tuesday, November 11. As an Army veteran myself, I've often wondered if I'm spelling and punctuating the name of the day correctly when I write about it.

This once was not a problem. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 to be Armistice Day, the anniversary of the date that the Great War (later called World War I) ended in 1918, to honor the veterans who fought in that war.

Armistice Day became a legal holiday in 1938, and in 1954 Congress changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day.

That's "Veterans" without any apostrophe before the "s" or anywhere else. So it's not Veterans' Day or Veteran's Day, just Veterans Day. (Veteran's Day would mean the day belonged to just one veteran, not all of us.)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not use an apostrophe when referring to the holiday or in its name, and that's good enough for me.

It's explained like this: The word "veteran," which is usually a noun, is in this case used as attributive noun, or an adjective, in "Veterans Day."

There are, of course, instances where you DO use an apostrophe, as in: "He saw the disabled man who had fought in World War II and stopped to help carry the veteran's baggage." Here, you're using "veteran" as a common noun and referring to one individual person.

In the following sentence, we're referring to all those who fought in America's wars: "The parade in Springfield honored all 68 of the town's veterans from all the services." Or you might write, when referring to more than one former person in uniform: "I thought all the veterans’ uniforms looked very colorful and official."

But when it comes to November 11, it's still just Veterans Day—no apostrophe.


Do you have any examples to add to this list? If so, please share them with us! Email plainwriting@nara.gov

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