April Fools' Day Capitalization and Punctuation Rules

Don’t be an April fool…figure out the rules before talking about this holiday in class!

April 1st is fast approaching, and that means it’s time to watch out for pranksters in many countries. Though the origin of April Fools’ Day isn’t entirely known, ESL-Library’s April Fools’ Day lesson covers many of the possibilities with a reading, vocab, and fun activities. But whether you do an entire lesson with your class, discuss it momentarily, or just need to answer students’ questions, it’s a good idea to brush up on the correct capitalization and punctuation rules about this day of jokes and hoaxes.

1. April Fools’ Day

According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition), the correct spelling of this holiday includes using the plural form “Fools” and capitalizing each word. This dictionary has the apostrophe after the “s” to show the possessive form of the plural noun. If you are teaching students in the US, this is the form you should use.

Interestingly, the Oxford Canadian Dictionary of Current English spells it “April Fool’s Day”. This dictionary uses the singular form of the noun and thus puts the apostrophe before the “s”. So if you are teaching students in Canada, you should use “April Fool’s Day”. I would assume that the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and other English-speaking countries also use “April Fool’s Day”. If you can confirm this, please leave a comment below!

2. April fool

What do you shout out after you’ve pulled a prank on someone? The correct answer, according to Merriam-Webster’s, is “April fool!” (The Oxford Canadian dictionary didn’t have an entry for this case.) This was a surprise to me, because I grew up shouting “April fool’s!” and always assumed it was just the shortened version of the holiday name. Now I know that the correct version is “April fool”, and that’s what I suggest teaching your students.

Note that “fool” is not capitalized–it is just a common noun in this case.

If you are teaching students about this holiday in more detail, note that the alternative name for this holiday is “All Fools’ Day”. Also, people sometimes shout out “April fish” in certain countries (“poisson d’Avril” in French).

Don’t be fooled by all these rules,
Tanya

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