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The Dos and Don’ts of Sending a Holiday Letter

Holiday greeting cards
Wendell T. Webber
When a holiday card just won’t cut it, follow these guidelines for a well-written (non-obnoxious) holiday newsletter.

Sending out a holiday newsletter that recaps your year and shares what your family has been up to is a lovely tradition. But it’s one that can quickly cross into over-share territory or poor manners. Real Simple talked to etiquette experts to find out how to craft the perfect year-end letter.

Whom to Send it To
It’s important to make the distinction between the personal and professional contacts on your list. You don’t need to send your accountant, your boss, or your clients an update on your son’s winning soccer season, or your family trip to the Grand Canyon. However, there may be some crossover with long-term business acquaintances who have become friends. When in doubt, ask yourself if you would like to receive a holiday update from them, recommends Michelle Slatalla, Real Simple’s Modern Manners columnist. If you would like to be updated on what’s happened during that person’s year, go ahead and add them to your personal contact list.

What to Include
Since you have a limited amount of space, keep your letter simple. Include information about each family member, and be straightforward to avoid sounding boastful, suggests Jodi R. R. Smith, author of From Clueless to Class Act: Manners for the Modern Woman (Sterling Publishing, $10, amazon.com). “Instead of saying your son is the best at Tae Kwon Do, say he really enjoys it. It’s better to stick to the facts than your projections of them.”

You should also hit the highlights of your year. Share stories and anecdotes that you would tell a friend you haven’t seen in awhile over coffee, says Slatalla. And if you had an experience that really made an impact on you, this is the perfect space to share it.

Both Smith and Slatalla stress the importance of photos. Not only will they make your letter look better, but they can also help illustrate your stories and show how much family members have grown and changed over the past year.

What to Leave Out
As tempting as it may be to use this letter to vent, avoid it at all costs. Airing grievances about a former spouse or a co-worker might seem okay since they won't be receiving the letter, but news, especially bad news, travels fast. It's best to stick to positive things.


Sharing information about health can be another tricky area. If you have a major announcement this isn’t the place to share it, but it is okay to include it in your recap of the year if it is something that has made a profound impact on you, says Slatalla.

Before You Send
The most important things you can do before you print copies and stuff envelopes are to proofread, edit, and repeat. Consider having another family member read the letter or putting it aside overnight and reading with fresh eyes the next day. That way you'll avoid misspelling someone's name or leaving out an important event from the year.

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