Lydia Ramsey

Article Summary:

Guidelines for proper holiday greeting card etiquette.

Greeting Card Etiquette

When it comes to holiday greeting cards, to send or not to send is often the question. Once you have decided in the affirmative, you then have to determine who to include on your list, what kind of card to choose and how to address the envelope.

There are lots of reasons for sending those holiday cards. You might want to enhance your current business relationships, attract new customers, remind old clients that you exist or show appreciation to those who have faithfully supported you during the year. What is obviously a well-meaning gesture can actually offend the people you want to impress when it is not done properly.

The first place to start is with a good quality card to show that you value your clients and colleagues. Skimping on your selection can be interpreted in a number of ways. Your recipients might take it as a sign that business has not been good or that they aren't worth a little extra investment on your part.

Make sure your list is up-to-date with correct names and current addresses. If you do this on a regular basis, it does not become a dreaded holiday chore. As you gain new clients and contacts throughout the year, take a few minutes to add them to your database and mark them for your greeting card group. This way you won't overlook anyone or embarrass yourself by sending the card to the old address.

Sign each card personally. Even if you have preprinted information on the card such as your name - which is an impressive detail - you need to add your handwritten signature. The most elegant cards should still have your personal signature and a short handwritten message or greeting. Sound like a lot of trouble? If the business or the relationship is worth it, so is the extra effort. This is your chance to connect on a personal level with your clients and colleagues.

Take the time to handwrite the address as well. If you are ready to throw up your hands at this point and forget the whole project, then have someone else address the envelopes for you. Whatever you do, don't use computer-generated labels. They are impersonal and make your holiday wishes look like a mass mailing. You may save time and even money, but lose a client or a business associate in the process.

You may mail your greeting to the home if you know the business person socially. Be sure to include the spouse's name in this instance. The card is not sent to both husband and wife at the business address unless they both work there.

Whether you are addressing the envelope to an individual or a couple, titles should always be used. It's "Mr. John Doe," not "John Doe," or "Mr. and Mrs. John Doe, rather that "John and Mary Doe."

Be sensitive to the religious and cultural traditions of the people to whom you are sending your cards. Find out whether they observe Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanzaa and make sure your message is appropriate for each individual. If you decide to go with one card and a single message for all, choose a generic one that will not offend. "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays" are both safe bets.

Mail your greetings in time to arrive for the designated holiday. If you find yourself addressing the envelopes on Super Bowl Sunday, keep the cards until next year and send out a high- quality note thanking people for their business during the previous year instead. The best way to avoid the last minute greeting rush is to have all your envelopes addressed before Thanksgiving. Then during December you can leisurely write a short message - one or two lines are all that is necessary on each card, sign your name and have them in the mail with a minimum of hassle.

You now have all the time in the world for the shopping, baking, decorating and celebrating that accompany the holiday season. Additional

Tips for Addressing Envelopes
If you are about to address your holiday greeting cards or the invitations to the company party and you are confused about the correct way to do it, you are not alone. There are situations that we have not had to consider before. There are more women with professional titles, increased numbers of women who retain their maiden name after marriage, and couples choosing alternative living arrangements. The simple act of addressing an envelope has become quite complicated. Here are a few tips to cover the majority of those demanding dilemmas.

Always write titles on the envelope. The card or invitation goes to "Mr. John Smith," not "John Smith." It is addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith," instead of "John and Mary Smith."

When you address a couple, use titles, rather than professional initials. It's "Dr. and Mrs. John Smith," not "John Smith, M.D. and Mrs. Smith."

If both the husband and the wife are doctors, you write, "The Doctors Smith." However, if they use different last names, you address the envelope to "Dr. John Smith and Dr. Mary Brown." The husband's name is placed first.

If the wife is a doctor and the husband is not, you send your invitation to "Mr. John Smith and Dr. Mary Smith."

Try to get it all on one line. When the husband has an unusually long name, the wife's title and name are indented and written on the second line:

The Honorable Jonathon Richardson Staniskowsky and
    Mrs. Staniskowsky

When a couple is not married and share a mutual address, their names are written on separate lines alphabetically and not connected by the word "and."

Ms. Mary Brown
Mr. John Smith

When the woman outranks her husband, her name is written first. It's "Major Mary Smith and Lieutenant John Smith."

Note: The man's name is always written first unless the wife outranks him or if the couple is unmarried and her last name precedes his alphabetically. So much for "Ladies first."

Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, professional speaker, corporate trainer and author of "Manner That Sell - Adding The Polish That Builds Profits". She has been quoted or featured in The New York Times, Investors' Business Daily, Entrepreneur, Inc., Real Simple and Woman's Day. For more information about her programs, products and services, e-mail Lydia or visit her web site www.manners thatsell.com.

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