The holidays will be here soon and if you are like me, you receive piles of hard to read letters, letters written on dark colored paper in small fonts with small margins and little formatting. With a little planning you can write letters that people want to read, letters that encourage, inform and inspire. Here are ten easy steps I use to make my letters fun to read:
1. I use a four-page newsletter format:
An attention grabbing nameplate (large letters at the top of the first page and the same letters but smaller at the top of following pages). I use “John and Sue’s Yule Log 2009.” It is always the same except for the year.
Catchy article titles and well crafted stories about family members.
Use of columns, pictures and lots of space between articles.
One inch margins on all sides.
2. Instead of writing a rambling journal of things I did during the year, I make an outline of topics for my letter. Then I make each topic a subtitle for an article using large attractive fonts in bold colored print.
3. Small, fancy fonts on dark colored paper do not impress anyone. They make holiday letters hard to read. I use common fonts, Times New Roman or Courier New, for the body of my articles, nothing smaller than size 10. These are the fonts the professionals use for newspapers and newsletters. White paper and bright holiday graphics make my letters attractive and cheerful.
4. My feature article is my Christmas message. Whether it is devotional, inspirational, or humorous, I give it a strong beginning (hook), a cohesive middle and a clear conclusion.
5. I also write family articles that highlight special occasions, events and accomplishments. Children and grandchildren like the attention they get when I write about them, especially when they see their pictures with the articles. Last year I wrote about my grandson who entered the U. S. Navy Coast Guard, my niece who served in Afghanistan, my grandson who played in the Little League All Stars, and my daughter who placed in her first triathlon. These articles inspire and encourage my readers.
6. I relate to current events in my articles which gives my letter a point of reference. After 911 John and Sue’s Yule Log 2001 included a column with the lyrics to “Heal Our Land.” Letters in later years included people in our family who served in the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. This year I could talk about how God is in control, even in out troubling economic times, times of tea parties, town hall meetings, and high unemployment.
7. During the year I carry my digital camera with me to capture memorable moments. When it comes time to write my annual letter, the pictures are on my computer. Each snapshot is documented with names and dates, giving my letter more credibility. Every article doesn’t need a picture, but I have them if I need them.
8. Although my newsletter is for and about family, not everyone in the family makes the spotlight every year. Yet over several years, all family members get their time in print.
9. It is imperative to me that I keep my letter positive. If a family member has suffered from injury, bad health, or loss, I give an update and thank people for their prayers and support.
10. While style and design are necessary, my focus is on content. I want my newsletters to be inspiring and encouraging. My annual letter is one chance I get every year to love on my family and share the meaning of Christmas.
It takes about five minutes at the most to read my newsletter, but I have worked throughout the year collecting information and photos. It’s fun to add recipes, songs or poetry. When I have gathered all my material, I craft a cheerful design; write my Christmas message and family articles. Then I send my letter with love and prayer.
Whether you use some or all of these tips, more people will want to read your Christmas letters and they will look forward to receiving them each year.