Writing Your Holiday Cards: Do's and Dont's

Language & Editing

Ahhh, the holidays. I don’t know about you, but I always love opening up the mailbox during the holiday seasonthere’s almost always a pretty envelope or two, containing thoughtful cards wishing me and mine well for the year ahead. You might send your own cards off to family and friends, perhaps even work colleagues, your boss, your references, etc. Your family might overlook a typo or two, but making a mistake in your boss’s card? Not ideal. Here are some holiday typos you should try to avoid!

 

Editor to the Rescue: Holiday Hang-ups

 

Quick: is it New Years Day or New Year’s Day? Season’s Greetings or Seasons Greetings? Whether or not to include apostrophes in these phrases has gotten kind of muddled over time, but both these well-wishes need them! Why? Well, it’s the day of the New Year (possessive), and the greetings of the season (odd, but still possessive).

 

Speaking of apostrophes, I see this mistake ALL the timeand not just around the holiday. Say your last name is Green. Your family is the Green family. Please, whatever you do, don’t sign your card “Love, the Green’s!”

 

Remember, an apostrophe plus “s” at the end of a noun shows ownership over something, not plurality. What you mean to write is “Love, the Greens.” Yes, you need an “s” because there’s more than just one of you, but you don’t need that apostrophe. Figuring out how to make your family name plural can be confusing, especially if it ends in an "x" or a "ch." This handy chart (courtesy of Slate.com) can help you keep your plurals correct. If you want to avoid the confusion altogether, just write “the Green family.”

 

Knowing which holiday terms to capitalize can be tough. The holidays themselves are always capitalized: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc. The words that often accompany them, however, are not (one exception: when they begin a sentence). So, instead of Merry Christmas, keep the “merry” lowercase.

 

Simple Solution: Make a Draft

 

You might find yourself writing the same inscription on multiple cards (for example, to colleagues or acquaintances). If this is the case, try writing out a draft of what you want that inscription to say before you start addressing. Make sure the draft is correct, and that it includes all the things you wanted to say. Ad libbing each card as you go not only takes extra time, but invites more opportunities for mistakes.

 

If You DO Make a Mistake…

 

Mistakes happen, and there’s only so much you can do to correct an error in cursive or fill in a missing letter. Instead of scratching the error out, I’m of the mind that it’s better to just put that card aside (or “discard” it) and rewrite your message on a fresh one. I recommend making sure you have more cards than you think you’ll need (20% is a good estimate) in order to account for errors, as well as insuring you have some extras if you suddenly recall that you forgot to send Great Aunt Beatrice her card.

 

Take Some Time to Review

 

Lastly, we know it can get crazy around the holiday season, and we all get a little frazzled. But take a few minutes (or do it while you’re writing) and proofread your cards. It’s easy to get distracted while writing and skip a word, or, if your mind is drifting, write out whatever you’re thinking instead of your thoughtful inscription (has anyone else ever done this?).

 

The holidays are a time to show people that you care, and an easy way to do that is to take the time and write your cards the right way (see what we did there?). Opening up a card and finding a hastily scribbled inscription with a word or two missing reflects poorly on you in the end. However, when the recipient opens up their envelope to find a wonderfully written and well-thought out greeting, it shows you care enough to make the extra effort.

 

Lastly, the post office will be busy this time of yearmake sure you get your cards in the mail by December 10th!

 

Happy writing!