April Fools’ Day or April Fool’s Day?

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

On April 1, people in many countries will play practical jokes on each other. These can range from taping a “Kick me” sign on someone’s back, to switching the sugar and salt, to the BBC airing a fake news story about a spaghetti tree. Mashable compiled a list of Google’s past April Fools’ jokes that would be fun to show and discuss in class. If you plan on discussing April Fools’ Day in your class, it’s a good idea to get the capitalization and punctuation rules straight first!

April Fools’ Day or April Fool’s Day?

It depends on where you live (or which spelling system you’re using to teach).

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 uses the apostrophe after the “s” to show the possessive form of the plural noun. If you are teaching students in the US, you should use April Fools’ Day.

Note that 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”.

The Oxford Dictionary Online also lists their main entry as April Fool’s Day, with April Fools’ Day as a possible variant. In the UK and other English-speaking countries, you should use “April Fool’s Day”.

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).

April fool, April fool’s, April Fool, or April Fool’s?

What do you shout out after you’ve pulled a prank on someone? Again, the answer depends on where you live.

The correct answer, according to Merriam-Webster’s, is “April fool!” 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. Note that the “f” is not capitalized and “fool” is not in the possessive form. If you’re teaching in the US, you should use “April fool!”

The Oxford Dictionary Online capitalizes the “f”, so if you live in the UK, Canada, or other English-speaking countries, you should use “April Fool!”


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Tanya Trusler

Tanya is a freelance editor and writer with an extensive background as an ESL teacher. She edits lesson plans, creates new materials, and writes weekly blog posts for ESL-Library and Sprout English. Her company is Editing to a T. Follow her on Twitter (@tanyatrusler) and Google Plus.

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