3 min read
Bad Holiday Card

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Many things can go wrong when making a family holiday card. Blurry faces, misspellings and awkward body placements can quickly turn your card into a source of laughter among your friends and family.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System is here to help rescue your holiday card this year. The following tips will help you take your card from being a laughingstock to being the talk of the town.

Start with Grammar

Holiday cards are often the bane of an English teacher’s existence. The reason? They often include grammatical errors. Key things to look for are incorrectly used apostrophes and misspelled words.

“The holiday season is a wonderful time to reconnect with family and friends by sending traditional cards through the mail or digital greetings,” said Glenda Freeman, an Alabama Extension communications editor. “Along with your warm wishes, ensure that your message is free of spelling errors, typos and grammatical errors.”

Common Mistakes

Freeman said one of the most common mistakes in holiday cards is using an apostrophe to form the plural of a name. For example, people will write the Parker’s instead of the Parkers. As a rule of thumb, make last names that end in s, x, z, ch and sh plural by adding “es” at the end. For names that end in all other letters, simply add an “s.”

“The plural of Jones is Joneses, Smith is Smiths and Cortez is Cortezes,” Freeman said. “Another option is to sign your greeting as The Jones Family.”

Holiday cards dos and don'tsFreeman said to remember that an apostrophe shows possession. So, it is correct to use in the expression season’s greetings because the greetings are of the season. However, you do not need an apostrophe when wishing someone a Happy New Year.

Other grammar-related tips include the following:

  • 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. When in doubt, consult a dictionary.
  • 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 for text on holiday cards is limited. The more you include, the smaller the font size needs to be. Small fonts may be difficult for some to read.

Taking the Perfect Photo

Family photos are great to include on holiday cards. However, not just any photo needs to be in the running to appear on the annual holiday card.

Margaret Barse, an Alabama Extension multimedia producer, said photos should be fun. However, there are a few things to remember when choosing an image for the annual holiday card.

“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.”

Tips and Tricks

Photo ChecklistWhen taking photos, Barse offers the following tips and tricks:

  • 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.
  • 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. For example, mix things up by letting the children stand in the back and the adults sit on the floor.
  • Cropping. By using the cropping tool on your phone to get rid of any stray objects, you turn the photo’s focus to just the main objects. 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 create a holiday card you would be proud to show any English teacher. For more information on other holiday-related topics, visit Alabama Extension online at www.aces.edu.

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