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December 4, 2013

Not to brag, but online resource could help with those holiday letters

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A Purdue University online writing resource has tips for people writing their annual holiday letter or those trying to pen one for the first time.

"In today's digital age, the annual holiday letter is often the only letter people write and send each year," says Tammy Conard-Salvo, associate director of the Purdue Writing Lab. "Because of the ease to create and produce, these letters have become a holiday tradition for many families. A Christmas card can't fill the niche in the same way, and the annual form letter is easier to do than a series of blog posts. I don't think these letters are going away."

The annual practice is changing the letter to evolve into a newsletter format because it is easier to design and add photos, says Conard-Salvo, who personally pens a holiday letter each year.

"This is another tradition that families can personalize and have fun with as they reflect on the year," she says. "But, I would be aware about being too boastful; some writers can do so in a humorous way and others can be over the top."

She offers the following tips to help make holiday letters a success:

* A good sign of a letter is to keep it personal even though it is mass-produced.

* Keep in mind the broad and diverse audience, which may include elderly relatives, professional contacts and high school buddies.

* Pay attention to spelling, punctuation and grammar. Mistakes can be distracting.

* Take note of its look and feel. Too much complaining? Too much boasting?

* It's OK to repeat what you've shared on social media, but what can you add that is different?

* Make it personal with a hand signature and note on the bottom.

Tips about writing, including grammar, mechanics and punctuation, are available at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/, and specific tips about personal letters and newsletters are available at:https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/992/1/  and https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/993/01/

OWL received more than 230 million visits last year, and the online resource will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2014.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu 

Source: Tammy Conard-Salvo, 765-494-4102, tcsalvo@purdue.edu  

Related websites:

College of Liberal Arts

Department of English