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Tips for

Writing Christmas and Holiday              Family Newsletters

How can you turn that annual family newsletter into a gift that friends and family will want to read? Here are a few suggestions:

 

1. Make it a family affair. 

Have everyone sit down at the kitchen table on a blustery Saturday afternoon, provide plenty of popcorn and hot chocolate, then brainstorm topics for the newsletter. Write down everything and anything that everyone suggests; you can hone those ideas later.

Make this a fun, creative way to find content for your newsletter. Some of the more obvious events might include:

  • Job changes or promotions

  • Starting or finishing school (any grade)

  • Births, adoptions or other additions to the family (like a new pet)

  • Surgeries or deaths

  • Moving to a new area or new home

  • Renovations on your existing home or yard

  • Family vacations or summer camps the kids attended

Some other (less obvious) things you might include:

  • Hobbies, sports or other activities the family has started together during the year
  • Memories from holidays during the past year
  • Anecdotes or funny stories that happened during the year

And don’t forget fun fillers like these:

  • Favorite family recipes
  • Tidbits and trivia about the holidays and/or holiday customs
  • Short facts about family history or genealogy (for example, the translation of a last name or a brief bit about where relatives lived before coming to the U.S.)
  • Puzzles, word searches and other games built around a holiday theme.
  • Christmas carol lyrics (especially those to which no one ever seems to remember the words!)
  • Children’s drawings
  • Jokes and riddles

2. If possible, try to discern an overall theme for your newsletter, based on the events that filled your year. (For example, "a year of changes," or "a year of additions—to family and home.")

3. After you have finalized the overall theme and article topics, assign each person a job. Depending on your family size, one or two people can write articles, another can edit them, another person might do the layout and another might search for photos and graphics to go along with the articles. (If your family is small, you will obviously have to double up on the responsibilities, but that’s part of the fun of teamwork!)

4. Set a final deadline based on the date you would like to drop the newsletter in the mail. Then work backwards from that deadline to set smaller goals, such as when to have all the writing done, all the editing done, and the layout completed.

When writing articles, remember these tips: 

1. Write conversationally, as if you were having a one-to-one verbal conversation with the reader.

2. Strike a balance between writing too much and writing too little. Try to retain the facts that will most interest the readers; delete those facts that will elicit yawns and moans!

3. Be careful not to boast! State the facts and then move on. Don’t elaborate too much on how little Johnny won every possible award in this year’s music contest! Better yet, have your child write a little bit about their accomplishments. (Most children write in an unsophisticated, humble manner.)

4. Include humor! Don’t be afraid to laugh a little bit at yourself!

5. Instead of just stating facts, talk about your feelings or experiences. For example, instead of just stating that you spent a week at the ocean this summer, talk about how wonderful the cool ocean breezes felt on your face when you walked on the beach.

6. Keep the author’s voice consistent. Use either "we" for the entire family or "I" throughout the newsletter. (If you use "I," give a byline to the writer so the reader knows who is ‘talking’ to them.)

When it comes to laying out the newsletter, keep these tips in mind:

1. Use a lot of white space around copy. White space makes it easier for the eye to focus on the words in your story.

2. Create more interest with photos and graphics. The reader’s eye always goes to the graphics/photos first and then to the article to ‘fill in’ the details left out of the photo.

3. Try to use no more than two typestyles throughout the whole publication.

 

When you’re all done, have the newsletter photocopied (or produce it on your inkjet printer). Be sure to save a copy for your scrapbook. You will enjoy reading it again when the next holiday season rolls around!

Here are a few books on this topic that you might want to check out:


 

 

 

Absolutely Family!: A Guide to Editing and Publishing a Family Newsletter
Absolutely Family!: A Guide to Editing and Publishing a Family Newsletter


Ways to make your Christmas publication a bit different from the others:

 

1) Use an interesting label on the envelope, like this family caricature label from VistaPrint:

 

2) Consider creating your publication on a software program like Microsoft Publisher or Printshop 20 Professional Publisher. These programs make it easier to layout attractive, professional-looking newsletters that will entice family and friends to read them. 

 

 

 

3) Think about adding a small gift, like a flat homemade tree ornament, a bookmark or some holiday stickers.   If you are a gardener, why not include some hand-packaged seeds from your award-winning zinnia plants?   

Check out Oriental Trading Company, Inc. for some inexpensive fillers like the Holiday Domino Card Set pictured below: 

Another resource is Colorful Images which sells bookplates, notepads, goodie labels and more that can be personalized if you desire. (Pictured below is one of their personalized bookplates.)

4) Add an "interactive" feature to your newsletter, like a quiz, riddle or puzzle. Check out these websites for ideas:

BrainCandy

FamilyGames

Christmas Games and Santa Claus Fun Activities

5) Web savvy?  Consider publishing your newsletter online!  Not only will it save you time and money on printing and postage, but distant relatives and friends can immediately respond by adding comments to your guestbook. You can get a free trial website from MyFamily.com

 

6) Do a little research about your family's history and include it in the newsletter.  The Internet is a great resource! Ancestry.com offers a free 14-day trial to their databases.  (Click on the link below to find out more.) 


FREE 14 Day Subscription to Ancestry.com!

 

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