Holiday letters have taken up rank with fruitcake and festive (but ugly) sweaters. Want to avoid writing one of those annual letter disasters? Read on for five tips on what NOT to write.

Don't Brag

This is really the No. 1 tip. If you only follow ONE tip, make it's this one. Just say no to bragging. The holiday letter is not a resume, nor is it going to be attached to your children's college application. Avoid bragging about your husband's new salary, your son's basketball prowess, or your daughter's brilliant math skills. Your life may be better than everyone else's...but you don't need to remind them.

Recognize Fact vs. Fiction

Holiday letters used to be a vehicle for catching up. However, in an age where blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and email keep us current on our friends and family, it can be difficult to come up with new material for the annual letter. Keep this in mind as you weave your holiday tale. The people reading have been following your life online — they'll know that you're lying if that story of you hiking the foothills behind your house shows up as "climbing Mt. Everest" in the letter. There's exaggeration, and there's blatant lying. Know the difference!

Edit Adjectives

"This year, we packed our loving family into our highly-efficient hybrid SUV and traveled to the dazzling delight that is Disney. For three magical days, our adorable children had a look of innocent wonder on their cherubic faces. It was an epic trip that will be remembered for many glorious years to come."

Uhm, really? Try "We went to Disneyland. The kids had a great time." Keep modifiers to a minimum to minimize your reader's gag reflex.

Don't Be a Downer

Life is full of ups and downs, and unfortunately bad things happen to good people. Holiday letters should lean toward the up side of life. Now is not the time to describe your recent colonoscopy, or detail the legal trouble that Uncle Sal got into. Solemn news is best shared in a personal phone call, not in a holiday letter. A general rule of thumb is this — if your mother would relay a piece of news in a whisper, it's best to leave it out of the letter.

Write a Letter, Not a Novel

Keep your letter to one page if at all possible. Remember that your readers are used to reading short status updates and 140-character tweets. An actual letter requires a new level of attention. Keep it light, keep it fun, and for the love of the holiday season — keep it short.

Now that we're clear on what NOT to write, check out these tips for stress-free letter writing...and don't forget your holiday-themed stamps!

More Parenting Squad Holiday Guides