More Tips for Letter-perfect Holiday Cards
Besides avoiding the classic “Happy holidays from the Smith’s” blunder discussed in this week’s podcast, here are some more tips for perfectly written and puncutated holiday cards and letters:
If your opening line has both a name and a greeting, separate those elements with a comma and end the sentence with a period, exclamation point, or colon.
Hi, Joe. Happy holidays, Beth! Hey, mom.
This is preferable to the more common
with comma at the end because it conforms with publishing style rules that say to set off a “direct address” like a name with a comma.
However, if you’re opening with just a name and some other word modifying it, like Dear Joe, My beloved Beth, or Dearest Mom, don’t put a comma between those. Also, a greeting like this you can end with a comma or a colon, but note that a period or exclamation point wouldn’t make as much sense because -- unlike Hey, Joe -- Dear Joe is not a complete sentence.
Christmas and New Year’s are proper nouns and are thus both capitalized. Happy and merry are not (though of course you'd capitalize them at the beginning of a sentence). Nor is holiday. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are also proper names that should be capitalized. But dictionaries disagree on the singular new year. Webster’s New World College Dictionary lowercases new year. But Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says to capitalize New Year. Except in the most generic of contexts, I like the capitalized New Year better.
So you could write:
Wishing you and merry Christmas and a happy New Year! or … and a happy new year!
Both are fine.
The spelling of Hanukkah can be tricky because this word is transliterated from a different alphabet, and people disagree on which English letter best represents any particular foreign sound. But if you might want to note that Hanukkah is the preferred spelling of Webster’s New World and Merriam-Webster’s and, yes, it's capitalized.
Greeting cards have a way of inviting in some of the most incriminating spelling and grammar errors (maybe we’re so worried about coming up with something to say to Grandma that we forget to police ourselves), so watch out for these common typos.
Never use of in place of have or its abbreviated form 've in the terms could’ve, would’ve, should’ve, might've, or their spelled-out forms could have, would have, should have, and might have.
Remember the difference between let’s and lets: Let’s get together in the New Year means let us get together. Whereas the one without the apostrophe is the verb to let conjugated in the third-person singular: Uncle Lou really lets his hair down during the holidays.
Remember to watch their, they’re, and there, as well as who’s and whose.
Their shows possession – We will go to their house for Christmas dinner. They’re means they are. And there is a place.
Whose shows possession – Whose turn is it to cook? Who’s is always a contraction of who is or who has: Who’s going to cook this year?
When in doubt, find out. Ask a friend, check a dictionary, or run a quick Google search.
And happy holidays!