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Tips for Writing a Holiday Letter

During the holiday season, many people write an annual holiday letter or Christmas letter that reviews the previous 12 months. One challenge is how to write it without sounding like a bragger. Another is to avoid merely listing job promotions, vacations, and our children’s accomplishments.

Although holiday letters are typically sent to family and friends–not business associates–I am including some tips on them. That’s because this morning I received a helpful e-newsletter on writing holiday letters from UpWrite Press, and I wanted to pass on these excellent suggestions, indented below.

Note: For writing tips and examples of brief holiday greetings, see my December 12 post.

Instead of telling about your daughter’s triumph in the school musical, examine what that activity actually taught her. Then write about how she learned to work with others–even those she might not have liked at first–and how the experience made her grow.

Instead of telling about your fabulous job promotion, think about why that promotion was important to you. Then write about what you hope to accomplish in the job, and how it is important in your life.

Instead of telling about your son’s scholarship to that Ivy League school, consider how hard he worked to get that scholarship. Write about how proud you are of that work, and what he hopes to study and accomplish.

Upwrite Press’s e-newsletter suggested this approach if you have had a bad year, with few successes or happy moments:

Write about what you learned about yourself, your family, your life. Write about the important little moments that make up your reality. Write about your hopes and dreams for next year, and extend your good wishes for others.

For holiday letters, as with everything you write, think about your reader. What would he or she enjoy knowing about your year? What do you want your reader to know? And remember: This type of letter is usually reserved for family and friends–not for business relationships, unless they are close ones.

If you do write a holiday letter, I hope you enjoy sharing your memories with others and that the process of thinking about 2005 is a happy, meaningful one for you.

Happy holidays!

Other search spellings: Chrismas, Xmas, hollidays, bragging

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.