The holiday season brings long-held traditions such as decorating the Christmas tree, gathering with friends and more.
And your family might be preparing to send out holiday cards to friends and loved ones. But some find addressing holiday cards daunting, risking making a grammatical mistake or other faux pas.
Plus, the U.S. Postal Service and other experts are urging shoppers to get their holiday gifts in the mail as soon as possible.
Daniel Post Senning, author and spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute, told USA TODAY that, however you send your holiday greetings, “never underestimate the value that a personal touch can put on your communication.”
Here’s what you need to know before mailing your best wishes.
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How do I write addresses on holiday cards?
USPS recommends that people sending letters “print addresses neatly in capital letters.” If you are handwriting the addresses on your holiday cards, use a pen or permanent marker.
You don’t need to use a comma or period when writing addresses, according to the USPS.
Senning explained it’s also important to use a person’s full name when addressing an envelope.
“The most important thing is that it gets to the right person. And it seems like obvious advice, but oftentimes that's the biggest trick,” he said. “You want to use people's full names on external envelopes, even if inside it’s to ‘Dear Sally’ or ‘Dear Smith family.’”
You can add the addresses of your friends and family online with some holiday card creators. Jim Hilt, Shutterfly president, told USA TODAY that you can also personalize your holiday cards while addressing them. .
"When you’re addressing cards, the font you choose can really help set the tone. I like to keep it simple by addressing cards to the individual’s name or the household family name," he said. "You can get creative and make custom designed envelopes and get free address printing or even have Shutterfly mail your cards for you."
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Is it Miss, Ms. or Mrs.?
If you want to use formal titles when addressing your holiday card, “Miss” refers to an unmarried woman or a girl. Mrs. refers to a married woman. Ms. can be used for all women. Mr. is used for men.
In business, Ms. is usually the appropriate option for women. The plural of two women is Mesdames and the plural of Mr. is Messrs.
Senning advised that “the standard for how you address people is how they would like to be addressed.”
“In terms of the ways that you structure and organize titles, it's really more about the preferences of the recipient,” he said.
How do I know what titles to use for all of my friends and loved ones?
For a couple that consists of a man and woman, one of the most traditional ways to address them is by formal titles and the man’s first and last name: Mr. And Mrs. John Kelly.
But it's 2021, so experts say you can take a different approach without offending your loved ones.
“You've got the very traditional form for a married couple that are addressed using the husband's name, essentially, so it becomes the Mr. And Mrs. John Smith. It can be just as formal to address Dr. Jane Smith and Mr. John Smith,” Senning said.
But he added that “it’s always good etiquette to ask if you don’t know."
“It's OK to ask the person who you're sending it to, ‘I'm sending something. I want to be sure I get the address right. How do you like to be addressed?’ is never an impolite question to ask. It's not revealing the surprise too early, or sort of stealing your own thunder to do it,” he said.
Hilt told USA TODAY there are also details that can make your card more personal.
"Sometimes adding in their nickname in parentheses is a way to make them smile. Or adding in their pets (even the goldfish!) is a nice nod to make your card stand out," he said.
You may also want to ask if a person prefers a gender-neutral title such as Mx., according to Senning.
Is it Happy New Year, Happy New Year’s or Happy New Years?
If you want to send a card to mark the new year, you should wish friends and family a “Happy New Year.”
You don’t need to capitalize the name of the holiday if you’re discussing events in the new year. For example, you might share with your loved ones that your spouse is starting a new job in the new year.
And another quick tip — it's season's greetings, not seasons greetings.
Merry Christmas to the Smiths’? Smith’s? Smiths?
We know you might need a refresher on where and when to use an apostrophe when addressing holiday greetings. Here’s a quick reference:
The Smith Family:
Do: Merry Christmas from the Smiths. The Smiths’ Christmas Eve party is coming up soon. This present is from the Smith family.
Don’t: The Smith’s are traveling for the holidays.
The Jones Family:
Do: Merry Christmas from the Joneses. The Jones’ Christmas Eve party is coming up.
Don’t: The Jones’ are traveling for the holidays.
The May Family:
Do: Merry Christmas from the Mays. The Mays' Christmas Eve party is coming up.
Don't: The Maies are traveling for the holidays.
Here's a general rule: Names that end in "ch," other than those that are pronounced with a hard k like "monarch;" s; sh; x; and z; need an es to make them plural.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How do you address a Christmas card? Plus, holiday greetings explained