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Apply your writerly skills to a holiday letter

It’s time to bust out your pen or keyboard and write your annual holiday letter.

One of my favorite things to do when I go home for the holidays is to read all the letters that my parents receive from relatives and family friends. I know that some people like to make fun of them, but I love to read them all.

As writers, the bar for us may be just a bit higher for this annual missive, so if you’d like some tips for writing your letter, read on.

Remember your audience. Write for the recipients, not yourself. Think about the topics that would be especially informative or inspiring to them.

Keep it conversational. Since this is a letter to family and friends, imagine you’re having a chat over a cup of tea, coffee, or maybe something stronger (depending on your family).

Consider the content. People you care about will care about you and want to know what’s new for you and your family. But your letter doesn’t have to be just a laundry list of everyone’s activities over the past year. Consider writing about something meaningful you learned – including how you learned it — or something you did and what it meant to you. Do you have any epiphanies to share? You also might want to include a photograph or even a piece of your writing.

Figure out a format. A standard letter is always appreciated, but you might want to try something new. My cousin once sent “a week in the life” letter that took readers through a typical week in her family’s busy household. It was fun and inspiring to see how she, her husband, and two children all worked together to create a happy life.

I’ve seen other letter writers create a “Top 10” events of the year, highlighting each family member. And one of my friends sends an annual letter designed like a newspaper with humorous stories about each family member’s escapades over the past year. The holidays wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t get this letter.

You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again. The best things in life aren’t things. (Well, unless you’re talking about books!) In any case, holidays are opportunities to share time with the ones we love and reflect about what really matters. I can’t think of a better way to do that than through a letter.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Good points. I really like the way your first tip is to “Remember your audience.” That’s the first rule of writing ANY document.

    I’d like to add to the section on “consider the content.” To write a good letter, or any kind of document efficiently, make an outline first. Start with the overall idea, then work out the order. Format is important, too, but it’s the second-last step in the process. The last, of course, is editing and proofreading.

    Happy holidays!

    December 8, 2011
  2. Hello – Just to let you know you were awarded a blog award today by me ;D = hope you can stop by to accept it. XX

    December 8, 2011

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