Please Edit Your Holiday Letters

The post office is still in business, so it’s holiday letter season. Even though we know way too much information about many of our friends from frequent social media updates, some of us still engage in the holiday letter tradition. In the spirit of sharing professional editorial advice, here are a few tips that will take your holiday letter from good to great:

  • Make us laugh – if you have the gift of writing humor. Otherwise, don’t try to write a funny Christmas letter. My years of magazine editing yielded many more rejected “humor” articles than accepted ones. Humor is a gift. If you don’t have it, choose a different genre. We have one family friend who writes the best humor letter ever. Only one.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words, and the trend toward photo collages is welcome in holiday letters. However, a few words are helpful for your readers. Since some of us can’t remember the names and ages of your children, it’s OK to put captions on the pictures. Also, we might be curious about the mountain or monument you are standing in front of, so please label it.
  • If you think your letter sounds too sales-oriented, then it definitely is. If you launched a new business this year, you can mention it in one sentence in your letter. However, this is not the place to give special offers or sales pressure. I will mention my website in my Christmas letter. “I launched my freelance website at” Enough said.
  • One page please. A half page is even better. If your holiday letter is two pages (or longer) then no one will read it, except your Aunt Mary. Slash everything but the core message. If you are playing with font size to make it fit on one page, cut more words. Hire an editor if you need one.
  • You children undoubtably had many fine accomplishments this year. You want to share them all. Please share only one. And your friends with average children will appreciate it if you find something other than accomplishments to write about. “Even though Joey sold an app to his third grade classmates, he would rather spend his free time on the couch eating potato chips.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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