11/12/2012 08:42 am ET | Updated Jan 12, 2013

Holiday Card Etiquette

E-cards are a growing presence on the Internet, but according to statistics they still generate only a fraction of the traffic of paper cards. E-cards are easy to send, they are often well designed, and many of them are free. The downsides of e-cards? They raise electronic security questions, they can take a frustratingly long time to download, and perhaps most important, they can be short on the warm and fuzzy factor. For many, paper still stands the test of time. Like a good pair of jeans, paper greeting cards are a must for anyone's stationery wardrobe. Here are some guidelines for sending holiday greeting cards:

• If uncertain whether the recipient celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah or another religious faith or tradition, send a card with a neutral greeting such as Happy Holidays, Season's Greetings or Peace on Earth.

• For both imprinting and addressing cards, "Mr. and Mrs. John Grotts" is considered formal usage; "Lisa and John Grotts" is informal. The wife's name precedes the husband's if they share the same surname. If they have two different last names, the woman's name goes on the first line and the man's below.

• Write the recipient's name inside the card.

• Write a short note inside the card, even if it's just a phrase. There's nothing worse than a holiday card with a blank message.

• Even if your name is imprinted on the card, sign your first name after your short message.

• Remember to put your return address on the envelope.

• Send cards out in time for the recipient to receive them before Christmas, preferably before the middle of the month. The post office is swamped by the time December 17 rolls around.

• Send holiday newsletters only to close friends and family who would be interested in the details, not someone you met once.

• Business holiday cards are generally sent to thank clients for their services and are usually printed with the name of the firm.

• If business holiday card are sent to someone's home, the spouse's name should be included on the envelope.

Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert, an on-air contributor, and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the city and county of San Francisco and the founder and CEO of The AML Group (, certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Stanford Hospital to Cornell University and Levi Strauss. She has been quoted by Condé Nast Traveler, InStyle magazine, and the Los Angeles Times. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on and