Image by Biljana Jovanovic from Pixabay

A new Shutterfly poll, conducted by Ipsos, has revealed that two in five U.S. Americans plan to send out holiday cards or give personalized gifts to connect this 2021 holiday season, a significant increase of nearly 24% from 2020.

So, during this pandemic holiday season, individuals, families, and organizations will send more holiday cards. There is something about receiving a card personally addressed to you. The feel of the envelope, and the anticipation of opening it to see just what is featured inside. Cards are displayed, cherished, and saved. That is not so with e-cards, which are deleted and forgotten.

For the environmentally conscious who resist mailing paper cards, consider this: one way we recycle our cards is to reuse them as gift tags next season. We have been doing this for 7-8 years and enjoy reliving the joy of the cards again as we wrap and prepare gifts.

So yes, it is the time to review and update your stored mailing list or request address updates through an app. We start updating ours annually in January. We must mail our cards in late November or early December due to the long travel time to global destinations.

Since sending holiday cards is an annual project, it is possible many recipients have either moved homes, gotten promoted, married, divorced, or died. There are common etiquette and grammar mistakes to avoid when addressing cards on your holiday mailing list. Consider the following tips to guarantee happy holiday card recipients.  

There is a distinction in addressing cards in social and business circles. In the U.S., in business “Miss” and “Mrs.” are not used unless specifically requested by the client, colleague, or customer. In business, “Ms.” is the correct title as explained further below.

In global social and business correspondence, it is important to remember that our U.S. American informality is not always appreciated. When mailing globally, it is best to defer to the cultural norms, or default to the formal.


Unmarried Women

Miss: Historically, used for young, unwedded women. “Miss” is used until age 16 to 18, then Ms.” Today, this is still used in certain social circles.

Ms: Used as a default form of address or when unsure if she is married or not

Unwed couples living together: Use her maiden name, such as Mr. John Smith and Ms. Mary Williams

Divorced woman: Absent a court order, women have the option of using their ex-husband’s last name or using their maiden name.

Widowed spouse: “Mrs. John Smith” – Historically, addressed with the husband’s last name until she may remarries. However, modern manners reveal that Mrs. (Ms.) Jane Smith is also correct and appropriate. If you do not know the widow’s preference, addressing the card with the husband’s last name is the traditional and preferred form.

Married Women

Mrs: Used for women who are married and use husband’s name socially

Engaged: Still use Ms. with the woman’s maiden name until married

Married, but keeping maiden name: Mrs. Mary Williams-Smith

Married and using the husband’s last name: Mr. and Mrs. Smith or “John and Mary Smith.”

Business Professionals:


  • Use “Ms.” for a more formal address, unless she prefers “Mrs.” and goes by her husband’s name.
  • For women who are an attorney at law, use “Esquire” in place of “Ms.” or “Mrs.” Only used in written form, not verbal.
  • Professional Designations: Mary Williams, J.D., Mary Williams, CPA
  • Women who outranks her husband in a professional or educational degree: Dr. Mary Smith and Mr. John Smith

Business Professionals

  • If the person is a Reverend: The Reverend and Mrs. John Smith
  • If the person is a Chancellor: Chancellor & Mrs. John Smith
  • If the person is a Chief or Captain: Chief Smith, Captain Smith


Couples living at the same address –

Ms. Mary Williams and Mr. John Smith

Individuals living at same address – Use two lines and do not use “and” (i.e. college roommates or siblings)

                Ms. Mary Williams

                Mr. John Smith


Sign Offs:

If you are printing or writing cards for someone of a different faith, consider secular, or a religiously neutral holiday greeting, such as “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.”

No matter how many holiday cards you are sending off, close with your personal signature and a quick handwritten note. This makes the card more personal rather than perfunctory. This year during the pandemic, advising as to your family’s health, and inquiring about the recipient’s may be appropriate, depending on your relationship.

Recipient List:

Never underestimate the power of an elegant handwritten note: sending holiday cards to former colleagues and bosses can be a subtle form of networking that maintains friendly contact and keeps you in their thoughts. Personalize the message with your well-wishes and express your gratitude for the chance to work with them.


While confirming your recipient’s current (or potential new) addresses, it may take time for them to respond and finalize the mailing list. Meanwhile, order holiday cards, purchase stamps, address and apply return address labels to envelopes to ensure the materials are ready. Avoid licking the stamps and envelopes due to the transmission of viruses or other bacteria. Use easy seal envelopes or a small envelope sealer sponge.

After the fact:

Once holiday cards are mailed, some may be returned if the address was incorrect or the recipient moved. If the returned envelope does not have the forwarding address, it is best to reach out to them by text, or email or call saying:

“Happy holidays! Our holiday card mailed to you was returned. We sent it to 123 Berry Lane. Do you have a new address where we can send it to you? Thank you.”

Millennials and Holiday Cards

While e-cards are easy and quick to send, millennials are changing the game by purchasing physical cards for friends and loved ones. Last year in 2019, NPR reported that Greeting Card Sales Have Stabilized, Thanks To Millennials : NPR . Other sources like Chao are also saying it’s easier to receive a lower number of cards in the mail from close friends and family members rather than opening over 300 Facebook messages from acquaintances. Electronic messages might not be opened, or the recipient may not accept DMs.

Holiday Card Mistakes to Avoid:

1. Failing to Update the database: It is incredibly important to update your holiday mailing list to avoid making mistakes by mailing to someone who has:

  1. Divorced and remarried, changing their previous name and title
  2. Been promoted within the past year and had their title changed (i.e. Ms. to Dr.)
  3. Moved to a new home
  4. Changed status since their spouse has died

2.    Incorrect Spelling & Phrasing: Be sure to ask for help proofreading your holiday card list – whether an e-card or mailed card list.  Double check for apostrophes, exclamation points, and spelling. “Happy Holidays!” is plural to include more than one holiday; however, an apostrophe is not needed as there is no possessive. “Happy Hanukkah!” must be spell checked and capitalized. Use correct grammar when writing “Season’s Greetings” and include an apostrophe since the greetings belong to the season. With “Happy New Year,” is a wish for your recipient(s) to experience happiness in the (singular) upcoming year, and not the forthcoming decade, so avoid the apostrophe.

3. Incorrectly signing the family name: It is a mistake to add an extra or unnecessary apostrophe to the family name when signing off on the holiday card. To pluralize a last name, add the letter “s” at the end. If the family name ends in a “ch,” “s,” “sh,” “x,” or “z,” add an “es” to the end. Another option is to sign with “The Robinson Family.”

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a diversity and inclusion consultant, cross-cultural trainer, etiquette expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre, she is an attorney and mediator. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia, won a coveted Kirkus Star, and was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books. She’s a winner of numerous awards, including the British Airways International Trade Award at the Greater Austin Business Awards.

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