Writing an annual Christmas letter is as seasonal as eggnog and mistletoe. Some Christmas letters have flair and panache. Others are like watching paint peel. How can you write a Christmas letter that’ll knock the socks of your family Saint Nick and make Rudolph’s nose dim?
Here are 12 tips for writing a killer Christmas letter:
1. Keep it short.
I’m talking one page. Preferrably just the front. The more loquacious you are, the less likely people are to read the whole thing.
People are busy, especially during the holidays. No one has time to read a Christmas epistle that’s a War and Peace wannabe. So keep it short and sweet.
2. Be yourself.
This may seem obvious. But it’s amazing how many people try to copy someone else’s style or voice. Don’t. People want to hear from you, not a clone.
3. If you include a photo, make sure you tie it in with the text of the letter. And caption it with the place, date, who’s featured and what they’re doing.
4. Mix it up.
If you used a first person narrative last year, try writing from another point of view. The kids? The dog? A neighbor?
5. Include humor.
Not everyone has an active funny bone. But most people like to laugh and enjoy some levity. Include some.
6. Choose a font that’s easy on the eyes.
I can’t tell you the number of times I gave up trying to read through fancy calligraphy or curliqued letters on steroids. It may look pretty. But if your type font is hard to read, few will.
Choose a standard font like Times Roman or Arial.
7. Handwrite the salutation and conclusion.
If you’re writing your letter on the computer and tucking it into an envelope, be sure to start it with, “Hello Bill and Marilyn” (or whatever). In handwriting.
Also hand write your conclusion and signature: “Merry Christmas from Jim and Eileen, Chad, Chloe, and Joey.”
It takes longer. But it’s more personal.
If you’re using an email delivery platform like Mail Chimp, you can customize the “To” field and do likewise.
8. Keep a list. Check it twice.
Staring at a blank piece of paper or screen and waiting for writing inspiration to strike can be intimidating. It’s helpful to keep a running list of key dates and events through the year.
If possible, jot them down real time. It’s a lot easier to just grab your list or review your calendar than it is trying to remember the last 11.5 months off the top of your head, without prompts.
9. Inclufe your contact info.
Make it easy for people to respond by including your address, email, phone, etc. In The Letter. You can do this in the footer of a Mail Chimp or in a regular email or hard copy letter.
10. Use white space generously
Resist the temptation to jam in as much copy as you can on a sheet of paper by cramming every available millimeter with type. It’s hard to read!
Instead, keep your paragraphs short. Indent for new paragraphs. Or better yet, double space between paragraphs.
Make sure margins are adequate. Choose Justify rather than ragged right for your right margin. It looks cleaner and more polished.
11. Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes.
What do you want to know? What will be of interest? Do I really care about your second cousin’s bunion surgery or the egg substitute you just discovered?
We all find ourselves fascinating. But try to write yiur update with an eye toward news that will resonate with and be interesting to your recipient(s). Think: What will my friends want to know about and what can they best relate to?
12. Draw the reader in.
This is key. It’s also rare, as most Christmas letters tend to be one-sided. Even self-centric.
Engage your reader by “pencilling in” a question specifically for them. How was vacation? The new job? Is Norbert coming home for Christmas?
You might also close with something like, “Please let us know what’s going on with you, too” or drawing attention to your contact contact info. so they can easily respond. (See above.)
If your budget allows, print up your letter on some Christmas-y stationery.
Well, that’s it. Now get those creative juices going and make this year’s Christmas letter the best ever!