I love receiving holiday cards in the mail. Whether it’s from someone I see every day or a distant friend I haven’t heard from since last holiday season, getting one gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Maybe it’s knowing that the person stuffing the envelopes thought about my family, if only for a brief second. Maybe it’s just that the sender took time out of their busy schedule to send a card. I don’t know, but there’s just something indescribably nice about receiving them.
While I love holiday cards, what I love more is getting holiday letters. A card usually has a generic, sentimental holiday greeting. A holiday letter, on the other hand, shares a special story. For the past seven years or so, my family has sent out a holiday letter, and people enjoy the personal touch it has. Also, it’s a great way to update friends and family you don’t talk to often on the major events from the past year.
Not sure how to get started with your holiday letter? No problem. I’ve got a few suggestions to get you going. And don’t worry about having Shakespearian quality writing to do this, either. Just have fun with it, and, most importantly, write from the heart.
Whom do you want to write about?
The first step of writing a holiday letter is figuring out whom you want to write about. I usually talk about what my mother, father, brother and grandparents have been up to the past year. Plus, I also write a small blurb about my cat, Dexter. It sounds silly, but for some reason people really seem to like that part.
I’d stick to immediate family to keep your holiday letter short. It may be difficult, but try to pick 10 people or fewer. Keeping your list short prevents you from feeling overwhelmed when you sit down to write. If you try to squeeze the entire family tree in your letter, you might end up sending out a short book instead.
What did they do this year?
Once you figure whom to talk about in your letter, write their names across the top of a notepad. Under each person’s name, write down two or three things they did this year. If you draw a blank, ask the person. I’m sure they’d be happy to share something.
After you have a short list of accomplishments under each person’s name, check with them to make sure it’s okay to share this information. There might be something on your list that someone wants to announce at a later date. It’s always a good idea to double check just in case.
Get your pen (or keyboard) and start writing!
You’ve got all your brainstorming done at this point. Now you can sit down and write the letter. If you’re nervous about this part, don’t be.
Pretend you’re talking to a friend when you write. Consider details you’d include in a conversation to fill in the story you’re trying to tell. For example, if you got a promotion, share more than simply just the title of your new job. What new responsibilities will you take on? What does it mean to the company? Think about what questions someone else would ask to learn more about your new job. Skipping details will leave your readers full of questions.
After you’ve finished writing, read each sentence out loud to see if they make sense. Even if you’re not a grammar know-it-all, you’ll probably notice if a sentence sounds funky and intuitively know how to fix it. Letting someone else look over it can also help catch mistakes.
If you’re still thinking to yourself that you need more help with sentences or grammar, visit the Purdue OWL Guide. They have lots of great information, and you can email specific questions to Purdue tutors.
Find the perfect paper and print your letter
You’ve put a ton of work into your letter at this point, so don’t print it on plain copy paper. Find some festive letterhead to put it on. Make sure to do a test copy before you print all the letters; you might need to adjust the margins if your stationary contains a decorative border.
You don’t have to write for a living if you want to create a holiday letter. Small grammatical mistakes or sentence issues aren’t a huge problem in my eyes, so don’t stress over that stuff. I think what most people care about is hearing what your family has been up to the past year. A letter does take a bit more time, but it’s a more personal greeting than the canned cards at the store. So skip the cards, and try writing your own holiday letter this year.
Do you write a holiday letter? Share your tips with other readers below!