How to ‘sleigh’ your holiday card

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(Alabama Cooperative Extension System)

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. — The holiday-card season is here. Soon, mailboxes will be filled with greetings and warm wishes. When it comes to making a holiday card, there are several things that can go wrong. From blurry pictures to misspellings, your card can quickly find its way onto the naughty list. To keep your card in Santa’s good graces, there are several things to keep in mind.

The apostrophe

Holiday cards are often the bane of an English teacher’s existence. Why? Because they often include grammatical errors. Glenda Freeman, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System communications editor, said one of the most common mistakes in holiday cards is misusing the apostrophe.

People will often use an apostrophe trying to make their last name plural. For example, people may write from the Whitehead’s. However, Freeman said an apostrophe shows possession, not plurality.

“As a rule of thumb, add ‘es’ to last names that end in s, x, z, ch and sh to make them plural,” Freeman said. “For names that end in all other letters, simply add an ‘s’ to the end.”

Last names are not often seen in their plural forms, so it may look odd to some people. Another option is to sign your card from The Adams Family.

The apostrophe is also often omitted where it is needed. For example, in the expression season’s greetings, the apostrophe is needed because the greetings are of the season.

Grammar and writing tips

  • Use words correctly. Use the word that correlates with your intended meaning. Common mistakes include your/you’re, its/it’s and they’re/their/there.
  • Watch for stray punctuation. If you want to wish someone a happy holiday enthusiastically, one exclamation mark will adequately express that feeling. Also, watch for stray commas and periods.
  • Be concise. Space is limited on holiday cards. The more text you include, the smaller the font size needs to be. Small text may be difficult to read.
  • Send warm wishes. Make your card personal by tailoring the message to the recipient. Express your gratitude for their presence and extend hopes for the upcoming year.
  • Respect the traditions and beliefs of others.
  • Spread joy and positivity. Include happy moments from your life the past year. You can also add lighthearted humor when appropriate.
  • Sign off in a unique way.

“Embracing the holiday season provides an excellent opportunity to reestablish connections with loved ones,” Freeman said. “Whether through traditional mailed cards or digital greetings, accompany your heartfelt wishes with a message free of spelling errors, typos and grammatical mistakes.”

Taking the perfect photo

Photos are great to include on holiday cards. However, there are a few things to remember when choosing the photo. Margaret Barse, an Alabama Extension multimedia producer, said photos should be fun.

“Family life isn’t perfect, and your photos can reflect that,” Barse said. “However, if you only use one picture for your holiday card, you may want to think a little more about the framing and how to put your best foot forward.”

Photography tips

  • Planning. Think about the time you are trying to take the photo. Are the children hungry? Does someone need to hit the road? Planning can help you choose a time when no one feels rushed, hungry, etc.
  • Lighting. Make sure the main light source is facing the subject of the photo. When a photo is backlit, it creates shadows and details are lost.
  • Framing. Look at the shot, and make sure there are no objects — such as branches or fence posts — coming out of people’s heads or ears. A clean background makes the people in your photo pop out. To give a different mood to your photo, experiment with both wide and close-up framing as well.
  • Selfies. A selfie’s angle is often awkward and unflattering. It is always better to have someone else take your photo.
  • Body positions. Are you posing in a stiff or awkward way? Make sure that everyone looks comfortable in the photo. Look for odd body positions where one person’s arm or leg seems to be attached to someone else’s body. Is everyone’s pose the same? A great photo has dimension and varying heights. Mix things up by letting the children stand in the back and the adults sit on the floor.
  • Cropping. Use your phone’s cropping tool to remove any stray objects. This turns the photo’s focus to the main subject. This can make all the difference in a holiday card.

“I know it’s easier said than done but keep trying to get the photo where there are no closed eyes and pets and children are looking forward,” Barse said. “The best thing is that with today’s cell phones and digital cameras, you can keep filming until you get it right, unlike my childhood of using rolls of film.”

More information

By following these tips and tricks, you are sure to sleigh your holiday card this year. For more information on other holiday-related topics, visit www.aces.edu.