For eleven months out of the year, people love to hate on snail mail (or, as I like to call it, “Mail Classic”). Come December though, people begin to enjoy having their mailboxes stuffed with holiday cheer in the form of catalogs, cards, and yes, even the Family Letter. Loved by some and reviled by others, the Family Letter is the fruitcake of holiday mail. I say, if you’re going to distribute a letter that chronicles the last 12 months of your family’s life (whether via snail mail or email, as it’s getting close to that time!), it’s your duty to write responsibly— keep the bragging to a minimum, keep it short, and please, pleeease, make it halfway interesting.
That’s where Evernote comes in. There are so many tips and tricks I use to help me collect great memories I can tap into when it comes time to write my end-of-year declaration. Here are some tips on how to use Evernote to make your Family Letter shine.
- DON’T: Include a 365 day play-by-play. A lot happens in a year…where to start? Go for highlights. Scan your family’s Tweets, blog posts, Facebook, or Google Plus status updates, using Evernote to capture the best ones which you can mine for newsletter fodder. You could begin now (or start prep for next year) by using a service like IFTTT or Zapier to auto-publish an RSS feed to an Evernote notebook, automatically putting all those updates in one place.
- DO: Add telling visuals. When you capture pictures with Evernote’s iPhone app, each pic automatically gets a geo-location label as well as time and date stamp, so you won’t find yourself wondering when exactly it was that your tiny dancer had her first ballet recital, where that family hike was, or the exact day someone passed his driver’s test. This will also make things easy on you when you want to put events in chronological order.
- DON’T stop at family photos. Concert tickets, hotel matchbooks — they all represent special memories and create a bit more variety than yet another picture of you and the kids mugging to the camera.
- DON’T: Weigh down your letter with bad news. If you feel it’s important to let people know about some of the less fortunate things that happened over the year, that’s fine. Just keep it brief and consider countering it with positive news like how far you’ve come with your goals. Just look back on your progress-related notes (maybe you’ve been working on fitness, saving, or job goals) and see how far you’ve come.
- DO: Include other voices. One route you might take? Ask each family member to contribute a short anecdote (5 sentences or so). You could have them contribute voice recordings or written notes to a Shared Notebook so they’re easy to collect and collate for the newsletter.
- DON’T: Write a novel. Break things up into short paragraphs (this is easier to read), and try to keep your updates to a page, two pages max. Seriously, if your Family Letter reads more like a chapter book, you probably want to do a serious edit.
- DO: Let inspiration strike. Once you begin brainstorming, you’ll find memories pop up in the most unlikely of places. Use one of Evernote’s mobile apps to make an audio note on-the-go that you can incorporate later.
What say you: Should family letters still exist? And if so, what’s your best tip for writing one?
Take the Evernote Holiday Pledge
From now through the New Year, you can sign up for the Evernote Holiday Pledge and opt in to receive email tips and guidance from the Evernote team and our Ambassadors about ways you can get more out of Evernote. Participate in virtual events like the Evernote & Chronicle Books Craft-Along and join our public notebook, which is updated regularly with fresh tips and guides. Stay tuned for new tips and challenges to help you start the new year right.
A few of the useful things you’ll find in our public notebook: