I have a little secret to confess. I know it's not cool, and I know it's not hip, but I LOVE to get Christmas letters.
The much-maligned holiday letter, included in Christmas greetings from friends and loved ones, is a favorite part of the holiday season for me. I enjoy seeing the pictures of children, who seem to have grown like weeds over the past year and, I DO love to hear about the exotic vacations my friends take.
Maybe it's because I'm in the word business. Maybe it's because I love reading and I love reporting. After all, isn't that what a holiday letter is - reporting?
For someone who loves to read, and loves to write, I am woefully inadequate when it comes to actually corresponding with my friends. Periodic updates on Facebook just aren't the same as a good, old-fashioned letter. That's why the yearly Christmas catch-up is so important to me.
As far as writing a Christmas letter goes, I am often hamstrung by my own desire to NOT be overly flamboyant in my descriptions of our year's news. I feel an extra amount of pressure, given my career, to keep my letters to-the-point and clear. I don't want anyone to accuse me of embellishing the truth.
So, I do what all good journalists do when faced with a deadline, and an expectation of quality - I procrastinate. Often I procrastinate so long that my cards arrive late the week after Christmas, with only a scribbled "Merry Christmas, I promise I'll write you by Valentine's Day."
Some folks just don't know where to start when it comes to writing their Christmas note.
Some folks don't know where to stop.
The good folks at News of the North.Net have given us a simple, easy to remember guide to writing a good holiday letter. You just need to remember the YULE rule.
Hopefully this will get those procrastinators (me included) in the letter-writing mood.
John Llewellyn, associate professor of communication at Wake Forest University, came up with the YULE rule for writing a well-crafted, year-in-review letter. He says these four simple steps will help you compose a holiday letter that loved ones will actually enjoy reading.
*You care for these people. Make the love and caring -- the spirit of the season -- come through in the letter. "We generally send holiday letters to people with whom we have strong connections, so use the opportunity to remind them of the things that really matter in your life," Llewellyn says.
*Use vivid language to tell your story. Let them "see" the special moments. This is not a drab inventory; it is a catalog of adventures.
*Level with them about the hardships of the past year. While you want to keep the letter upbeat, it's important to strike a balance between spreading cheer and being sincere. "You're showing a level of respect and concern for the person by not glossing over adversities, but you want to tell the truth in a way that makes it easy for you to tell, and easy for them to hear," he says.
*Enough is enough. Two pages of news is plenty. Writing any more than that is likely to overwhelm your readers.
Llewellyn points out that holiday letters can be even more meaningful now that so much of our communication is electronic. "You could dash if off, hit a magic button and send it to 100 people," he says. "But since you're choosing to do something more direct and intimate, it just makes sense to take the time to do it right."