Boastful and annoying Christmas round-robin newsletters have given them a bad name – but, done well, they can also be a brilliant way to keep in touch.
In my experience they help keep friendships alive and spark conversations that would never have happened if all I’d sent was a signed Christmas card.
But how do you write a Christmas round-robin newsletter that will be well-received?
Write for your audience
The most important factor to keep in mind is who your readers are and what they’re likely to be interested in hearing about.
Are you writing to ex-work colleagues, friends and family you rarely see – or are you writing to people you see fairly regularly?
If your audience includes people you know in lots of different contexts, you might consider writing a different version of your letter to each group, amending subject matter and levels of detail as appropriate.
Keep it brief
Whoever you’re writing for, one thing’s for sure: they won’t want to read 10 pages of rambling text.
Keep your Christmas round-robin newsy but brief – I aim for just one side of A4 in font size nine or 10, including images.
It also helps to keep your sentences short so your letter is super easy to read.
If your first draft turns out to be too long, don’t worry – when you read through it again you’ll find there’s some less interesting information you can cut out.
Some stories you might want to keep in, but you can try to tell them in a shorter way, perhaps leaving out some of the finer details.
Think about design
Relevant images that help illustrate the story you’re telling will also help bring your newsletter to life.
Clear, colour photographs of faces – placed next to text that relates to the people in the pictures – always work well.
How your text looks is also very important and choosing the right font can determine how easy it is for people to read your letter.
My advice is to use a modern, clear, easy to read font in black or dark grey: lots of different coloured fonts can look messy and confusing.
Use a margin of at least a couple of centimetres either side of your text and break the text into sections with bold subheadings – it will make it so much easier and more appealing to read!
Start a new paragraph at least every two sentences – large, solid blocks of text will make reading your letter very hard work.
One of the main criticisms made about some round-robin letters is that authors use them to show off their achievements and make their lives sound totally perfect.
It can come across as arrogant – and readers will try to read between the lines to find the not-so positive stuff.
So it’s a good idea to remember you don’t have to write about just the positive things that have happened.
If you’ve gone through something difficult in the last year, then say so – and remember that some people reading your letter may not have had a great year themselves.
In my Christmas round-robin newsletters, I try to focus on three exciting or unusual incidents that have happened to me during the year.
Try to open your letter with something intriguing or newsy to draw in your readers.
One of each of the following types of events can provide a good variety of information and entertainment:
- An event – for example, a career change, significant family event or house move
- A challenge – such as illness, redundancy, an exam or university disappointment
- A silly story – did you harmlessly put your foot in it, or did the dog do something funny?
Personalise your letter
Some people send their letters via email, but people receive so few physical letters through the post these days, I think it’s more special to print and post them.
If you have time, it’s also a nice touch to handwrite your round-robin letter: people will really appreciate it.
Another (quicker) option is to print your letter out, but add an extra, hand-written paragraph at the end specific to the person you’re sending it to – and sign your own name at the end.
I hope this blog post has given you some ideas for how to write a great Christmas round-robin letter – do let me know if you have your own tips!