What to write, who to send to, and more advice from etiquette experts
Don’t card me.
As much as I pride myself on my painstaking cursive penmanship, when the holidays come around, I spread digital cheer with a good, old-fashioned e-card. It saves me a trip to the drugstore to buy those cards and the costs of postage.
Nevertheless, millions of us still send traditional greeting cards at the holidays: 1.6 billion cards a year, or $2 billion worth, according to a 2015 analysis.
But for those of us who don’t want to spend the time and money, how else can we send holiday cheer? Here’s the proper etiquette for “Happy Holidays” e-cards, emails, texts and social media posts.
E-cards. December is the most popular month to send an e-card, according to the CEO of Paperless Post; in 2012, he said his site sees an increase of traffic and revenue spiking up 100% over the month prior.
“I think most people use electronic cards for those last minute cards that they just didn’t have time to get out,” says etiquette expert and founder of the Palm Beach Protocol School Jacqueline Whitmore. “It’s a nice substitute. Nothing is going to be quite as nice as a handwritten card with a stamp personally addressed, but… there are some really funny or nice e-cards out there.”
Write,“‘Thank you so much for your friendship, companionship, for your business,’” or whatever is most appropriate, recommends Elaine Swann, an etiquette expert and author of “Let Crazy Be Crazy.” Or try: “‘It’s been a great year. Looking forward to great things in 2018.’”
“People spend way too much time trying to think of super clever things to say that are very long-winded,” Swann says, but ultimately most of us don’t have enough time to wade through such extensive messages.
Swann says you should stick to handwritten notes for people whom you interact with in person most regularly, such as a manager or coworkers. “Here’s a best way to gauge it: If you deal with the person electronically on a regular basis and you really don’t know them but you are connected through the Internet, you could send the electronic card… Physical contact, physical card. Electronic contact, electronic card.”
Whitmore adds one note of caution, however: Sometimes these cards go straight to your recipient’s spam folder, so be careful they don’t got lost in the shuffle.
Email: If you’re not into e-cards, you can also send an email to a person (not a group), instead. Keep the message similar to the advice above, but perhaps a little longer “because the card had bells and whistles and colors,” making it more festive.
“You should have at least two lines — the first one to acknowledge the person and your relationship with them, [such as] ‘I want to make sure to take a moment to thank you for all the great work that you’ve done with me this year. Looking forward to even greater things in 2018. Wishing you a Merry Christmas…” Swann explains.
Texts: Another possible medium for conveying holiday wishes is through text, but only to people whom you know well.
“Three to four lines is sufficient,” Whitmore advises. Dress up the message with a fun bitmoji, an image of your family and pets, or a message referring to a memory you shared with the recipient.
Moreover, Swann says “mass texting” — sending a single joint message to everyone in your contact book — is off-putting, and should be avoided. “If you do it, it should be to the individual… No group texts, because the fallout from that is irritation.”
Social media: Posting a blast holiday message on Instagram or Facebook to all your contacts is “in-addition-to, not a replacement,” for a customized greeting, Whitmore says. If you do this, opt for a fun holiday greeting to show off your Christmas tree or picture of your family.
However, Swann likens this practice to the “[a] sign in the window… or the wreath on your door.” In other words, it’s fine as a public veneer of holiday pleasantry, but don’t rely on it as your singular way of wishing your friends and family well.
And, Swann has some choice words about using the likes of Snapchat to send cute holiday snaps to your friends: “If you’re 15 years old, then yeah, you would probably do that. Not as a grown-up.”
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