London - Hidden inside a Christmas card, they tend to bring tidings of prodigiously talented children, dazzling pay rises and once-in-a-lifetime holidays.

To the writer, the annual round robin letter may seem like a good way of keeping friends and family up-to-date – but to the recipient, it is all too often something that irritates rather than informs.

However, help is at hand. The popular Middle Class Handbook website has published guidelines to ensure penning a festive round robin letter won’t end up losing you friends by the New Year.

To ensure “the recipients aren’t inspired to burn you in effigy”, it recommends the writer cuts down on mentions of children, tones down smugness, does not avoid bad news and stays self-deprecating.

The blog ( explains: “The Christmas round robin is something of a quandary... they’re commonly seen as rather naff, but we feel it’s time for them to make a comeback to the fold of acceptability.”

Advising on tone, it says: “Modesty is key. Your teenage daughter might well be on her way to being the youngest person ever to decode a genome, but it’s best skimmed over with a suitably understated ‘Holly is doing rather well at work, although I fear she hasn’t grasped the politics of the office tea round’.”

But it warns: “Keep mentions of children to a minimum. Passing references to mainstream exams are fine, but extensive detail of achievements of musical grade exams are not.”

It also recommends including plenty of “inconsequential anecdotes”, such as “that time you saw that chap from Gardener’s World in Waitrose”.

Finally, it urges “a balance between good and bad news”, saying: “Slipping the serious stuff into a paragraph somewhere in the middle after the cat’s unfortunate attempts at snaffling the family goldfish earns you maximum Middle Class points.” - Daily Mail