The Christmas Letter Monday, Dec 10 2012 


When their children were young, my friends, Mary Ellen and Mike, sent the most entertaining Christmas letters. They offered a not-so-flattering but realistic and humorous glimpse of their large family in action. Their card and letter was the one I eagerly waited for each season and laughed over well into the new year.

Opening a Christmas card and finding a letter tucked inside is like receiving a little gift.  It’s an opportunity to catch up with loved ones, and it is so much more pleasing than merely a signed card. That is, unless the note is long, boring, or depressing.

So how do you write a dynamic Christmas letter? Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind. Recipients want to celebrate your accomplishments but don’t want a brag-fest. They also want to hear about your trials and how you are getting through them. But they don’t want to know the detailed surgical procedure you endured. Nor do they need your day-to-day journal from the past year.

As with all writing, less is best. In a few paragraphs, tell about the highlights of the past year. What made you happiest and what raises your concerns? Inform readers of your work or other areas and how they may support you if their interests align with yours. And don’t forget to solicit prayers when needed.

Write simply and clearly. Reread and edit. Check grammar and spelling. If recipients can’t read your letter, or it is lengthy, your time is wasted as it all goes unread. Also, even when delivering bad news, try to stay positive.

A good Christmas letter links family and friends far and wide. Make yours an interesting one that is enjoyed and passed around the holiday dinner table.

©Mary K. Doyle

Writing Clinic: Complaint Letters Wednesday, Mar 21 2012 

Are you sweating over a letter or email you need to write about a product? Writing isn’t easy for everyone but if you keep a few points in mind you can produce an effective letter. As with most things we write, the letter will have a beginning, middle, and end.

1. Begin by making a list of things you want to say. Then rearrange your list in a way that allows the letter to flow.

2. The first item should be the point you want to make. In one or two sentences state the problem and what you want done about it.

For example, let’s say you bought a toaster and after only three months the lever will not stay down making it impossible to toast your bread. You would begin your letter by saying exactly that and that you would like a replacement or full refund.

3. Add where you purchased the item, the date of purchase, and the amount paid.

4. End with your contact information. If you still have the receipt, include the hard copy with the letter or scan and attach it in an email.

Before sending your letter, give it a quick review. Grammar and spelling errors distract from your point, so use references if you have them.

Also, edit out any rambling. The manufacturer does not need to know how much you love cinnamon toast in the morning and that your mother used to cut it into little squares for you when you were a child. Writing simply and clearly makes it easy for your reader to know exactly what happened and what you want done about it.

©Mary K. Doyle

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