Q&A: April Fools, Fool’s or Fools’ Day?

Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week we are feeling a little foolish and confused over an apostrophe…

Q: Hi AWC, we’re going to be prepared this year.

A: For what?

Q: For your crazy practical joke on 1 April. Last year’s was brutal.

A: Ummm, we didn’t actually do one last year.

Q: Yes you did, remember? You told me I was adopted.

A: Oh…

Q: Remember?

A: Um. This is incredibly awkward.

Q: Wait. What?

A: …

Q: So that paperwork was real? And that visit from that strange lady?

A: Let’s get on with today’s topic, shall we?

Q: Umm… sure. So, I was wondering if it should be called April Fools, Fool’s or Fools’ Day? I mean, technically it could be any of them – the plural, single fool or a bunch of fools, but I assume there is an official one?

A: What does your gut tell you?

Q: My gut is not feeling all that well right now. I've just had some big news about my family history.

A: Okay, well, speaking of birth mothers – Mother’s Day and Father’s Day officially follow the “apostrophe-S” rule. Valentine’s Day does too.

Q: She said I had a brother…

A: Can we stay on topic please?

Q: I laughed her out of the house…

A: Hello? We’re talking punctuation here.

Q: Umm, yeah. Sorry. Ah, so does that mean it’s April Fool’s Day then?

A: Not necessarily. But we can discard the plural form – that’s reserved for people who have had the pranks played on them. (“They are such April fools!”)

Q: So there is definitely an apostrophe present?

A: Correct.

Q: Well what about the movies and Bryce Courtenay’s book?

A: They were all “April Fool’s Day”.

Q: It’s looking like the winner.

A: Not so fast. If you’re in America, they typically always use “April Fools’ Day” – the plural possessive favoured by both the AP and Chicago style guides. In that case, the emphasis is on the many fools to which the day belongs.

Q: There are a lot of fools out there.

A: So it would seem. However, on the other side of the Atlantic, the UK’s Oxford Dictionaries prefers the April Fool’s version.

Q: Oh dear. And here in Australia?

A: Macquarie Dictionary actually follows the Americans and suggests “April Fools’ Day” – listing no alternative spelling.

Q: I feel like this joke’s on me.

A: Yeah, Google usage shows it as roughly 50-50 so it’s really up to you which you’d like to use – as long as you’re consistent. However, here in Australia we do recommend following the Macquarie Dictionary and being the Australian Writers’ Centre, we’re partial to plural possessives.

Q: Okay, April Fools’ Day it is! This possessive topic comes up often, doesn’t it?

A: It sure does. Here’s our previous discussion on similar stuff.

Q: Right, well, I better go. I have some paperwork to find…

A: Oh that adoption thing? Yeah, sorry we WERE pranking you after all.

Q: Excuse me while I rock quietly in a foetal position in the corner…

If you have a grammar gripe or punctuation puzzle that you’d like our Q&A to explore, email it to us today!

Browse posts by category
Browse posts by category

Courses starting soon


Nice one! You've added this to your cart