Hooray for Holiday Letters


—Bite-sized advice for better business writing—

December 23, 2019 

Hooray for Holiday Letters

“To write is human, to receive a letter: Divine!”

— Susan Lendroth

One of the underrated joys of the holiday season is receiving paper mail you actually want to open.

Stuffed in between those bills and grocery specials are letters and cards from family, friends, and acquaintances, all with photos and life updates that are sure to warm the heart. Look at how big little Chrissy has gotten! Marco got a new dog. How wonderful. Okay, Kathy’s letter is laying it on a bit thick. No family is that perfect. We know Jerry got a neck tattoo.

In all seriousness, though, there is something wonderful about receiving personal notes from family and close acquaintances. And what’s more, some of those letters are handwritten, a lost art that gives letters a more personal feel.

What about you? Do you send holiday letters? What’s your process like?

Today's tip will introduce strategies for writing your letters quickly and effectively and then highlight holiday grammar gremlins to avoid.

Keep it short and simple.

Imagine if you ran into your reader on the street and had three minutes to recap the past year. What would you share? Introduce similar ideas in your card or letter.

Consider your audience.

Share what’s relevant to your readers. If you met a business associate on the street, you probably wouldn’t recite a family newsletter. Likewise, your aunt and uncle probably aren’t interested in an inside joke about your workplace.

Create a standard script.

Choose a simple greeting and message for the bulk of your letter list. This is something you might even automate through a card service.

At times, deviate from the script.

When you want to make a more personal connection, add a handwritten note under your standard message, providing more ideas about your year but also sharing something you noticed or appreciated about your reader (or your reader’s family).

Be positive, but not boastful.

Share the great things that happened to you and your family, but don’t embellish. It’s not a contest.

Read your message out loud.

This practice will help you catch missing words and other silly errors.

Check your names.

Double check the spelling of names. Correct spelling is a simple but important sign of respect.

Correct Tricky Holiday Grammar

Here are some potential grammar pitfalls to avoid in your holiday messages.

1. Season's greetings needs an apostrophe.

2. Meanwhile, don't use an apostrophe when pluralizing last names.

Merry Christmas from the Kendall’s.
Merry Christmas from the Kendalls.

3. But, wait, what if your last name ends in –s, –z, –ch, –sh, or –x?

the Jones’s
the Joneses
the Jones family

4. Unless it’s part of a title, a heading, or the beginning of a sentence, lowercase “happy holidays.”

Happy Holidays
happy holidays

5. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, not Its the most wonderful time of the year. (Remember, the apostrophe creates the contraction of it is.)

6. Speaking of contractions, ’tis is an old fashioned contraction for it is. Notice that in this scenario the apostrophe comes first.

Tis’ the season
’Tis the season

7. We’re not done with apostrophes yet. As the new year rolls around, remember to include apostrophes for these uses.

New Years Eve, New Years Day
New Years Eve, New Years Day

8. It’s Happy New Year, not Happy New Years (unless you’re celebrating multiple new years 😉).

9. Finally, remember holidays are proper nouns and need to be capitalized.


Play the Editor

Can you spot the grammar errors in the following holiday message . . . actually, scratch that. Holiday cards from friends and family are not the place to patrol for grammar mistakes. Let’s focus on our blessings, not on misplaced apostrophes.


Get More Support

Check out Write for Business and past eTips for more help with your holiday writing.


Happy Holidays!

Dear Reader,

Thank you for reading and supporting eTips! We wish you a joyful holiday season. See you in 2020. 

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