Sharpen up your card sense

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The Independent Online
ETIQUETTE time again - and today, all you need to know about the ins and outs of Christmas card sending and receiving]

Is it too soon to start sending out Christmas cards?

No. Now would be quite a good time to start.

To whom should I send them?

On the whole, to people you know.

All the people I know?

No. Just the ones who are going to send you Christmas cards.

How do I know if they are going to send me Christmas cards?

You don't. Sending Christmas cards is not a precise science. In fact, it is not a science of any kind. It is a folk art. Actually, it isn't even a folk art. It is inspired guesswork, drudgery, manual labour and a primitive form of National Lottery.

Do I send cards to people who sent cards to me last year?

Yes, but only if you could work out their identity. And only if they are still alive.

How do I know if they are?

If they don't send you one this year, they probably aren't. Unless, of course, they are still trying to make out your signature.

Should one send any cards to people one doesn't know?

Yes. To people you hope to do business with.

Do I send cards to the people living next door?

There is absolutely no point in sending cards to close neighbours you see every day.

I know there is no point in it. But do I have to do it?

Yes, alas, you do. Still, at least you can deliver them by hand and save postage.

Is card-sending an expensive business, then?

Yes. The cost of card plus stamp now averages out at about pounds 1 a go. Plus breakages.

Breakages?

When you start putting cards up round the house, you inevitably put them next to little knick-knacks and precious ornaments. Inevitably, you knock some of them over and break them. Inevitably, some of them are quite valuable. It's all money down the drain.

Down the drain? But isn't it all in a good cause?

Only if you buy charity cards.

Charity cards? Aren't they those dull ones looking like bad children's drawings with Happy Christmas in 10 obscure languages inside?

No. That's what charity cards used to look like. Now they are glossy and well designed.

And cost more to produce?

We don't ask questions like that.

What message should you write inside your Christmas card? A terse signature? Something a bit more personal?

In the first 10 cards that you send, you will write a long, chatty message. In the next 10 you will put a short chatty message. Thereafter the receivers of the cards will be lucky to get a terse signature, and a scribbled 'See you in the New Year'. The only really vital thing to put in a card is your address.

Why?

It gives the recipient a clue as to who you are, and also saves them going through the dustbin for the envelope.

The Bible says it is better to give than to receive. Does this mean it is better to send out more cards than you get? Or is it a sign of success to receive more cards than you sent out?

I don't think what the Bible says is very relevant to Christmas, do you? The idea that there is any connection between sending each other pictures of holly and the birth of Jesus is a little far-fetched.

Should one send Christmas cards to one's business colleagues and contacts?

You can, if you like. But what I always do, and which seems to impress people, is to get a special business card printed with Christmas motifs on, so that you can hand it over to your business confreres in person, as you would normally hand them a business card, with a hearty cry of 'Merry Christmas]'. All post- free, of course. Besides Christmas greetings, it can also bear special seasonal rates and offers, if business isn't going too well.

And your CV, if you're looking for a new job?

Well, if your CV can fit on the back of an average size business card, you need to rethink your situation.

Actually, I'm out of work at the moment, and won't be able to send any cards this year.

Then why have you been wasting my time, for heaven's sake?

Well, I was going to ask if you had any work going . . .

No, I haven't. Push off. Get lost. Never darken my etc again.

Oh. Oh, all right . . .

And by the way . . .

Yes?

Happy Christmas]

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