With the Christmas season approaching, each of us will receive our share of letters filled with family cheer.
Do you wonder if yours will get read?
As Christian writers, we take this opportunity to encourage and inspire. Here are some tips I’ve learned that make my letters fun to read:
I use a four-page newsletter format with a catchy title, columns, pictures, and lots of white space between articles, and at least one-inch margins all around. My title is “John and Sue’s Yule Log 2011.” It is always the same except for the year.
Small, fancy fonts on dark colored paper do not impress anyone and make letters hard to read. I use common fonts (Times New Roman or Courier) for the body of my articles, nothing smaller than 10 point. White paper and bright holiday graphics make my letters attractive and cheerful. I use two online image resources–iStock Photo and Plus! Image.
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 print.
The 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.
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. I enjoyed writing about my grandson who entered the 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.
Relating to current events in my articles gives my letter a point of reference. For example, in the years following 9/11, I included people in our family who served in the armed forces in harm’s way. In 2009 I covered the Sacramento Tea Party and included pictures of my friends and me.
Although my newsletter is for and about family, not everyone in the family makes the spotlight every year. But over several years, all family members get their time in print.
Keeping my letter positive is important. If a family member has suffered from injury, bad health, or loss, I give an update and thank people for their prayers and support.
While style and design are important, my focus is on content. I want to make my newsletters inspiring and encouraging. My Christmas letter is one chance I get every year to highlight my family and share the meaning of God’s gift of His Son.
I carry my digital camera with me during the year 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 have to have a picture, but they are available if I need them.
Putting it Together
It takes about five minutes at the most to read my annual letter, but I have worked throughout the year, collecting information and photos. It’s fun to add recipes or poetry.
When I have gathered all my material, I craft a cheerful design and write my Christmas message and family articles. Then I send my letter with love.
More people will want to read our Christmas letters if we focus on making the content positive, inspiring, and encouraging. It’s another way we show love for the ones who matter most to us, but they have to read our letters to appreciate that love.
What about you? What do you think are the two most valuable ingredients of the Christmas letters you write and/or receive?
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Author of more than eighty articles and stories, Sue Tornai lives with her husband John and dog Maggie in Carmichael, California. They enjoy camping and fishing at Lake Almanor and the Feather River in Northern California. Sue has taught elementary Sunday school for more than twenty years. Her most rewarding experience as a writer is when someone tells her that something she wrote touched a heart or changed a life. “That’s why I write,” Sue says. “I write to inspire people about God’s amazing love. I write for His glory.”
Visit Sue on her website at www.suetornai.com.