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How Do You Like Your Holiday Cards?

Cathy wrote to me today, concerned about a possible change in how her team sends holiday greeting cards.

In the past they have purchased holiday cards, addressed them to a mailing list of customers and other important people, had everyone on the team sign them, and then mailed them through the US Postal Service.

This year they are considering sending e-cards wishing their customers and important contacts a happy 2012.

Although they can design a beautiful card, Cathy is worried that an emailed PDF will seem lazy compared to their past efforts. She also wonders how recipients will react when they see "Best Wishes for 2012!" or a similar greeting as the subject line.

What do you think as someone who receives holiday greetings? Would you prefer getting a printed card signed by the team in your mailbox? Or do you like e-cards in your inbox?

Please share your views. If you are comfortable doing so, please let us know whether your age is 20-30, 30-50, or 50+, along with the country in which you work.

I look forward to reading your comments–and so will Cathy!

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.

34 comments on “How Do You Like Your Holiday Cards?”

  • I would definitely prefer a printed, signed, mailed card–just like I would prefer a handwritten thank-you note to an e-mailed one. E-mail is great for so many things, but it’s not so great for the warm personal touch that a signed card can carry.

    Of course, I’m in my early 40s–just old enough to be old-fashioned.

  • It will be interesting to see how age factors in. I turn 60 in November a week after walking 60 miles for breast cancer research (to show age is just a number). πŸ™‚

    I personally send every contributor to my 3-Day Walk a hand-written note. So, not surprisingly, I still use printed holiday cards, too, for my clients.

    I don’t have a problem with electronic holiday cards, but instead of a pdf, if you go that route, why not create a video of your company and employees. Easy to do and much more personable.

    Just a thought. Looking forward to what others think.

  • I also prefer to get hard-copy cards. Some of the pictures are really lovely (or cute, or funny) and I like to see them displayed during the season. I suppose you could do that with e-cards on your computer desktop or screensaver if they are formatted to work that way (jpg). I’m mid-50s.

    Cathy, as a former video producer, I have to say that it takes time, good lighting, agreeable employees, and a good editor to make a video that would be worth sharing with clients!

  • I’m 26, I work in eMarketing (so I’m biased) and I don’t have a preference. With all the greetings received this time of year, I’d prefer to see something that stands out an is relevant to me. Getting another generic card doesn’t add much value. I appreciate a nice printed card with a creative or personalized edge. As another poster indicated, video is a nice touch to an eCard or something interactive or engaging.

  • An electronic card has nowhere near the staying power of a tangible, handwritten card. Paper cards are several steps closer to a real human interaction and create a greater personal connection with the recipient than ecards that she can delete and forget about with one click of a computer key.


  • My clients are seldom at their offices. I make a donation to a charity in their firms name and send them an ecard, with best wishes and noting the donation on their behalf. I’ve gotten positive feedback. I’m 55, and in the High tech and consulting industry.

  • I just turned 30, and because I do use email or social media for nearly all of my business and personal correspondence, a printed and mailed card stands out to me in a big way. This is true for holiday cards, thank you cards (which I always send in hard copy, never email, but rarely receive), and birthday cards. It indicates more effort and personalization than an email, and when I receive a handwritten card or note, whether from a business or an individual, I have a positive response.

  • I am 26 and I reside in the U.S.

    I would definitely prefer a real, handwritten card. I very much agree with Stephanie G’s comment above- almost all of my day-to-day correspondence is via email (or text message!) so a real card carries a special meaning.

    On a related note, I was just married last year, and in the world of wedding thank you cards, it is still considered completely inappropriate (or worse, insulting and disrespectful) to send anything other than a fully personalized, handwritten card. I think that says something!

  • If my recipients are like me, they delete most electronic cards after one glance. So I instead send a few handwritten cards to the people who are most important to me personally and professionally. The cost of postage here in Switzerland keeps the list short. I am 55.

  • Thank you for sharing your preferences, Nina, Cathy, Val, Jenna, Marlene, Michael, Stephanie, Lisa, and George.

    I will add my own view to yours: I strongly prefer printed cards, especially ones that include a personal note. I make my workplace festive by displaying them on the wall. I am 50+ and live in the U.S.

    I believe our votes strongly favor printed cards, with a tally of:

    Printed card preference: 70%
    E-card preference: 10%
    Both/either: 20%

    Some of the words you used in your preferences are ones we might want to think about as we choose our holiday greetings: “warm, personal touch,” “personable,” “lovely,” “cute,” “funny,” “stands out and is relevant,” “creative or personalized edge,” “something interactive or engaging,” “real human interaction,” “effort and personalization,” and “special meaning.”

    Thank you for taking the time to share your views!


  • When I was newly married (30 years ago), the practice was to send tangible greeting cards to almost everyone we knew. Because I wanted to make the cards “special,” this meant I needed to write a personal greeting in each one. This, of course, became too much for me as we were blessed with children and became busier with daily living. Therefore, the process eroded to “just keeping up” with those who actually sent cards to us. Although the physical cards were nice to use for decorations, they often contained only signatures (or even factory-printed signatures) with no personal messages. I much prefer to receive e-cards from friends and colleagues who take the time to write personal notes with them, rather than impersonal “hard” cards that have only signatures. I’m 52 years old and find myself pitching a lot of the physical cards, anyway. I’d rather save a tree. If I find an ecard especially touching or beautiful, I can usually print it; better yet is to save it to a file which I marquis on my desktop screensaver.

  • Printed Card, Age 31
    In the digital age, a printed card is a way to stand out and set yourself apart. We are continually deluged with email, much of which goes unopened. A printed card is sure to get a first and lots of times a second look.

  • Hello, John, Fran, Lillian, and Doris. Thank you so much for your ideas from as far away as Malta!

    Among your comments, printed cards are ahead 3 to 1. Lillian, your comment about email never even being opened is persuasive. Nevertheless, Fran’s ideas in favor of e-cards are compelling.

    Doris, I appreciate your comment about having touched a card. Very interesting!


  • Hi Lynn,

    I enjoyed reading your blog post, and wanted to mention that I love receiving cards in the mail. As a matter of fact, I just wrote a blog post about it. (
    I have received email holiday cards, and do like them. I just prefer those received in the mail.

    Thank you for inquiring!

  • I would prefer a printed card. However, I am very concerned about the environment. For this reason, unless we send a recycled paper card, I will choose an e-card. By the way, I am 31. Pablo.

  • Typical e-cards do seem too easy, and they can’t stand on my bookshelf or hang on a bulletin board. That doesn’t mean e-offerings can’t have a personal touch, though: A holiday computer wallpaper or smartphone app shows that the sender put some effort into the greeting. Make it downloadable with a link, not an email attachment, and your consideration shows even more. I’m 55, by the way.

  • Hi Lynn,

    I’m in agreement with most of the people leaving comments in that a real printed card is the way to go. It just shows a little bit more care and effort than an e-card.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Thanks for the post!


  • One year I subscribed to an e-card web site and sent out many personalize e-cards for birthdays and holidays. I found that most people responded with a thank you for their card but actually never opened them up. E-cards can take time and effort to send just as sending a printed card through the US mail, but at least there is a better chance the recipient actually opens and reads the card when it’s a printed card verses an e-card. I myself prefer to receive a printed card.

  • Jackie, thank you for sharing your story. I admit that I have received e-cards and not opened them for days. After sending one myself in response, I realized that the sender receives an email when the card is opened. Once I learned that, I opened cards much faster. I did not want to offend people who sent them!

    I appreciate your comment.


  • Nothing says “I sent my admin to Staples to order printed cards and send them so I could get credit for acknowledging your value to my company” like a factory signed, generic holiday card. That type of card is holiday junk mail. BUT, a hand signed card with even the briefiest personal note provides a personal touch that is hard to duplicate with an ecard. I vote for a combination of both. eCards provide an ease of distribution and immediacy that allow you to reach many people and know they have received your message. Printed cards, on the other hand, can be more formal OR more personal depending on their content. I am 53 and work in telecommunications.

  • Lynn, I love your question. It is very interesting to me to read what people think about this because I send out holiday cards to my clients every year.

    Ecards are certainly appealing to me, mainly because of the fast delivery. I must admit though that I love printed holiday cards – giving and receiving them.

    This year I used 100% recycled paper and I will do so from now on. I managed to get them out in good time, but last year was crazy and I remember staying up very late to get them all done (about 100 cards). I choose the design very carefully and write a short personal message on each card, and my clients seem to genuinely appreciate it.

  • Personally, I consider e-cards as spam. I have a brother who over uses it and has really ruined the entire concept of every reason I can think of to use them. One day I got 5 Christmas cards. Each day I got at least 1 e-card from him (all christmas this time of year) but don’t forget ALL of the holidays in between. And if I don’t open them, then the calls come on why I don’t open them. They seem to take forever to open, and each one says the same thing. Jesus is the reason -or preachy. So, personally, buy a stamp and send one to me if you want to get my attention, otherwise they will get deleted, without opening. One or two a year would be perfect. one per wk is harassment.

  • Thank you, Marie-Louise and Carmen, for taking the time to share your views.

    It is now December 26, and I am just getting to work on my New Year’s cards for my business contacts. I write each person an individual message. I hope they enjoy hearing from me!


  • I am 33 years old and actually find a paper card more offensive than personal. The volume alone! Think of the carbon footprint!! Realistically the executives have not signed these in person (speaking as a cynical administrative assistant who has always had to forge signatures). Send me a picture or a video and the message can be equally thoughtful, in fact, more so, because it takes into account the environment!

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