One of the biggest pieces of work at this time of year is dealing with holiday correspondence. Some people I know have given up entirely on it because it was overwhelming. Without a doubt, it is the most detail-oriented task I do, but it is very manageable by applying a little technology.
First of all, accept that there are no rules. Unless you live by the strict rules of formal etiquette, anything you decide to do with your correspondence is OK. Even if that means not doing it. (Although if you are not going to send out cards, letters or emails, just skip the rest of this article).
Types of Correspondence
Correspondence is going to fall into three types: cards, letters and electronic. And there is nothing to say that you can’t mix and match! Some people prefer to receive one over the other, and that is fine.
It Starts with a List…
The first thing you need to do is figure out who you are going to correspond with. Make a list of names. No addresses are necessary at this point. Next to each name, list how you would correspond with them.
In my case, I use all three methods: cards, letters and emails. Cards are for close relatives and people we see frequently. Letters are for those we may talk to once or twice a year and extended family, who need to be brought up to date. Email is for those people who prefer to receive email and save the paper and gas a letter uses.
Check it Twice…
Next, go through your list again. Make sure that the people on the list are ones you truly want to correspond with. We culled out childhood friends we hadn’t seen in many years and who never responded to our letters. We also culled out some former coworkers and neighbors with whom we no longer keep in touch.
Get Your Information
Now you’ll need the information to be able to send out your correspondence. If the item is a card or letter, you will need a full mailing address. If you do not have a zip code, check with the US Postal Service website (USPS – ZIP Code Lookup – Search By Address). If the item is email, get a list of emails.
I keep all this information in a spreadsheet, with the following columns: Name, Type of Correspondence, Outer Envelope Greeting (The Smith Family), Inner Greeting (George, Georgette and Georgina), Address 1 (999 Anystreet), Address 2 (Anytown, NY 11111-1111), Country (blank if US) and Email Address.
The easiest way to do cards is to have as much information as possible printed on the cards. We usually buy custom cards, either through Miles Kimball Personalized Christmas Cards or World Wildlife Fund Holiday Card Center. Both will put signatures inside the cards for us.
It is also possible to have the return address printed on the envelopes. If you can’t do this, make sure you have some sticker return address labels.
Both of these options will save you having to hand-write signatures and return addresses on the cards.
I am not a fan of the one-size-fits-all holiday newsletter. I use technology to create custom holiday letters. Detailed instructions are available in my ebook, Creating Personalized Holiday Letters:. By using merge documents, I can produce a semi-customized letter that fits my relationship to the recipient.
Using pre-printed holiday paper can also be a time saver. Most dollar stores have holiday themed paper, and other places have deeply discounted paper right after the holidays. The pre-decorated paper will make the letter seem more fancy than standard printer paper, and won’t require you to drain your printer ink by printing decorations on every letter.
If you want to do letters but prefer the look of hand-written, consider having a font made out of your handwriting. There are many sites that will do this for about $10.
In either of the above cases, the easiest way to address the envelopes is to use mailing labels. There are nice holiday address labels available, or you can use clear ones. In either case, the Postal Service prefers preprinted labels because it is easier for the machines to read. My ebook on simplifying holiday correspondence has instructions on how to use mail merge to create mailing labels.
Simplifying Electronic Communications
There are three ways to approach sending out holiday email: do it directly from your email client, or use an online card service, or put up a web page and send out the link.
Online card services, like the one attached to American Greetings, allow you to send out a link to a card that can be viewed at their convenience. This allows you to get decorative without overwhelming someone’s slow internet connection.
If you choose to send the email out yourself or send out a link, make sure that you send the email to yourself and BCC all your recipients. This prevents email addresses from being given out without permission. If you were sending a letter, you wouldn’t include the names and addresses of everyone else you were corresponding with, and this is the email equivalent.
If you choose email, please also consider that there may be people who are still using dial-up and cannot handle graphics and pictures in their email.
Holiday correspondence can be simplified greatly by using computers and a little know-how.
Photo by topher76