Planning to send your friends and family a holiday letter? Make sure your glad tidings of great joy hit just the right note. Don't blow your own trumpet (too hard). Instead, leave them feeling loved-up and festive.
I've talked to a lot of people about their love-hate relationship with Christmas letters. My parents also get a small mountain of Christmas newsletters every year, from old friends and semi-lost relatives.
I'm nosy by nature, so I read every single word. The very worst go a little something like this:
Jason continues to thrive in his role as CEO of 14 multi-national companies, but it’s just so exhausting having this much money. It’s a good job I'm such a goddess – in the kitchen and the bedroom.
There's an art to sharing your news without losing friends and alienating people. So pour yourself an eggnog, and we'll see how it's done.
There are just 4 golden rules
My friend Ali is a bit of a communications guru. She gave me some good advice:
The letters I like best are short, quippy, and cover everything going on – without bragging too much.
All my years as a nosy-parker have told me she’s right. Keep it short and keep it humble. And take the opportunity to have a little fun.
Of course people love to hear what you and your family have been up to, but they don't want too much information.
Nobody enjoys a typed-up moan-fest at Christmas. Even diehard letter readers like me. So keep your gripes and grumbles for a face-to-face encounter in the New Year.
And, whatever you do, avoid graphic medical details and potty-training stories at all costs. These are not to everyone's taste.
Let other people sing your praises
Any trace of boasting is a definite no-no. You can always indicate that the good times are a-rollin’ without really rubbing it in.
Be a little tongue in cheek about the demands and perks of your great life, or opt for straight-up sincere.
"We love watching Ellie play hockey", rather than "Ellie is the most talented hockey player this country has ever seen" – perhaps.
'Tis the season to be goofy
If you can't muck about in a Santa hat, have one too many sherries, kiss someone and fall asleep on a relative at this time of year, when can you?
The same goes for festive greetings. Take the opportunity to be silly, sentimental, weird, wild, hilarious and fabulous all at once. Really, anything goes.
Make it a letter to remember
There are heaps of ways to zhush up your Christmas wishes.
Photos are a winner. Surprise people by recreating a classic photo from your family album. Check out this truly hilarious collection from BuzzFeed.
What about doing a survey? Put together some interesting questions that will say something about your family.
What do you like doing on a Saturday? What is Dad's most annoying habit? What have you asked Santa for this Christmas?
Then simply send round the answers, cute handwriting and all.
Or, send everyone a favourite family recipe, explaining when you make it and why you love it so much.
You could turn a funny family anecdote into a short story. Everyone wants to know about the time you drove the wrong way on the ring road towing a trailer, don't they?
How about making a funny Vine, or singing along to Mariah Carey on Dubsmash? Send the links and entertain people with your talent and charm, rather than telling them about it.
But everyone loves a maverick
Having written all this, I have to say that some of my all-time favourite Christmas letters laugh in the face of every single golden rule.
They're long, rambling, overly detailed and contain a lot of completely irrelevant information about a new shed, refrigerator, or tropical fish.
They take up two sides of A4, written in size 8 font and spread across four columns. I'm never quite sure if they're for real.
But they're brilliantly eccentric, self-indulgent and never forgotten. I keep them like historical artefacts, because I love the sender.
So, when it comes to festive greetings – as Pocahontas's wise old dad once said – you must choose your own path.
And send me a copy!