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How to Say Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary

I received this message from Jen:

As a service-oriented company, we send out birthday and anniversary cards to our clients and close business associates. The last thing we want is to be cookie-cutter, so can you please consider providing some tips to personalize these types of notes without the use of platitudes?

Interesting question! But first, for my global readers, cookie-cutter means "very similar" or "identical." Platitudes, of course, are trite remarks, ones with no originality.

As for tips on birthday and anniversary greetings, here are a few:

  1. "Happy birthday" and "Happy Anniversary" can stand alone on an attractive card. The messages are simple and sincere.
  2. Individual signatures rather than "From your friends at Syntax Training" (for example) are more personalized. Two of my clients, NetSpeed Learning Solutions and Nintendo, circulate their greeting cards around the office so people who know the recipient can sign–and write an extra note if they want to do so.
  3. For a wedding anniversary, it is essential that you name both people. "You and Jamie" sounds 10 times more sincere than "You and your wife."
  4. If you know something about how the event is being celebrated, mention that in the card; for example, "We wish you and Tim a magical time at Disney World."
  5. Be on time. A card is always welcome, but a delayed card conveys disorganization.
  6. Unless you know they will be appreciated, avoid references to drinking or other birthday excesses.

It’s difficult to avoid triteness in birthday and anniversary messages unless you personalize them with details about the person, the occasion, or your relationship. I recommend brevity rather than working hard on each message. The card itself is a caring gesture.

Here are a few simple messages to include in a card. They would also be acceptable in an email.

Congratulations! All of us wish you a very happy birthday and another year filled with adventure [or joy, wonder, all good things, success, pleasure, bliss, delights, abundance].

We are thinking of you on this important day and hoping it is filled with joy. Happy birthday!

Hurray, Micah! Happy birthday! We are cheering for you on this, your special day.

Happy birthday, Susan! We hope you have a grand celebration and an extraordinary day.

We send you our sincerest wishes for a happy birthday. Congratulations on another fine year!   

Dear Chris and Ella,
Happy anniversary! We congratulate you on another year of love and marriage. Have a delightful anniversary.

Happy anniversary, Mark and Dana! We are thinking of you two on this momentous day and wishing you a joyful celebration.

We hope you and Reshmi have a lovely anniversary celebration. You are a wonderful couple, and we are honored to be among your friends. Happy anniversary!

All of us at XYZ Company are pleased to wish you and Nigel a very happy anniversary. We wish you continued joy and happiness.

We are delighted to wish you a happy anniversary and a perfect day. Your love and commitment continue to inspire all of us.

When you can personalize a message, do so:

Happy birthday, Sarvar! We are so pleased you moved to Atlanta and have become a trusted consulting partner. We wish you another year of accomplishments, opportunity, and personal growth.

I hope these suggestions and examples help. If you have ideas to share, please comment.

Syntax Training 

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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.

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