‘Tis the season for holiday newsletters
7 tips to spruce up your Christmas letter
Writing a Christmas letter that isn’t greeted with groans is a real achievement. At their best, holiday newsletters are a way to share our lives with the people we wish we saw more often. At their worst, they can be boring (too much detail) or annoying (too much bragging or complaining). Want to avoid all that and make your recipients smile? Try these tips and Christmas letter ideas to spruce up your season’s greetings.
Aim to have your holiday newsletter written by December 1. That way you can give the letter more thought and will have plenty of time to edit. Consider creating two versions: one for close friends and family and one for people you’re in touch with less frequently.
Involve the family
Tap your kids’ memories for the year’s highlights and have them help you select photos. They can even write some of the photo captions.
Keep it simple and short
One page is enough (two sides of one page—tops!—if you’re incorporating photos). User-friendly layout programs like Microsoft Word can help you create letters with a simple design and easy-to-read fonts. “A big block of small gray text isn’t very inviting, and larger type is better for the older people on your recipient list,” says Bernadette Longo, Ph.D., an associate professor of writing studies at the University of Minnesota. Resist the urge to decorate your text with a wide array of type styles and colors—any more than two will look too busy.
Show, don’t tell
Photos are a universal crowd–pleaser. They’re also a creative replacement for text. If you write a caption for a photo of the family at Disney World, you don’t have to write much about the vacation you took. Remember to include snapshots of adults, not just the kids—people want to see you too!
Here are a few ideas to make your holiday newsletters thoughtful, fresh and fun. Feel free to nab a few for your own this year.
- Get an angle.
Use one of your family’s interests as a theme. Or consider a general theme like “Ten Things We’re Grateful for This Christmas.”
- Make someone laugh.
What’s the funniest thing that happened to you this year? Tell that story as your holiday letter each year, and you’ll be the all-time hit of everybody’s mantel card collections.
- Let everyone throw in his or her two cents.
Each family member writes a little bit about their year. You can even write a blurb from the family pet’s point of view.
- Include festive quotes.
Inspirational or cheerful words can set the tone for your newsletter. Use one at the beginning or the close of your season’s greetings.
- Make a hits list.
Put all your “best ofs” in one place—from most-watched TV shows and top playlists to websites worth visiting and must-reads.
Tone down the boasting
When writing about your kids’ accomplishments, try self-deprecating humor, suggests Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, author of Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within. When mentioning your daughter’s good grades, for example, say something like, “Thank goodness Bernice doesn’t take after me when it comes to school. She spends time with her books instead of eye shadow and even made the honor roll!” That sounds light and makes readers happy for Bernice.
Remember the season
Holiday newsletters should be cheerful. No one wants to read on and on about Uncle Jerry’s gallstones in a holiday message. When mentioning serious topics like a death in the family, try to keep things as upbeat as possible. “We lost our beloved Uncle Marty in September and will always remember his loving nature, hearty laugh and fishing stories.”
End on a personal note
Close with warm wishes for the recipients, leaving the attention on them instead of you. Then have everyone in your clan sign it. You can also handwrite a note in the bottom margin of the letter to personalize it and avoid that mass-mail feeling.