The Power of the Handwritten Note: From Thank You Notes to Condolences

Remember how exciting it was to get mail when you were a little kid? That feeling doesn’t change as you get older. If you want to make someone feel special, put it in writing. This holiday season, when you want to recognize someone—or need to thank someone who gave you a gift—remember that handwritten words are worth a thousand, well, you know.

Whether you want to show someone you care, want to thank someone who’s helped you out in the past, or want to be remembered by someone you met while networking at holiday parties, the receiver will appreciate the effort. And you? You’re all class.

Put the “Person” in “Personal”

Sometimes an email or a text is totally appropriate, but in professional situations and those where you have something more substantial to express, we recommend going the handwritten route. Here are a few examples of when we suggest putting pen to paper:

* Thank those you spoke with during job interviews.
* Got a raise or promotion? Show your boss that you appreciate his or her effort on your behalf.
* A close friend’s grandmother passed away and you’re not sure what to say, but you can offer heartfelt sympathy in writing.
* You see that your favorite professor from college won a major award; handwritten congratulations are in order.
* You goofed, big time, and forgot your Aunt Wendy’s birthday – send her a letter.

Be Specific and Sincere

Whether you forgot an occasion, or want to send a note of congrats or thanks, it’s never too late. Even after the fact, your recipient will appreciate that you’re thinking of her. Make sure your message is well-written and expresses exactly what you want to say. If you’re unsure, feel free to type it out on your computer first or use scratch paper until you get it right.

The Anatomy of the Perfect Note

Longer isn’t better. A brief, to-the-point message is often more poignant than the longest of letters. Be as specific as possible. Instead of talking around the fact that you’re thankful, state clearly what you’re grateful for (even if the answer is that you’re grateful for the person’s friendship and want to wish him or her happy holidays). Aim to include at least one particular example of why you’re grateful, why you value the person as much as you do, what you spoke about at your job interview, etc. The more personalized, the better—the last thing you want is for the recipient to think that you’re jotting out similar, generic notes to a bunch of different people.

Send Smart, Save More

Fancy stationery can get expensive, but you don’t need the triple-weight ecru to convey your personal message. In general, we recommend choosing something simple and elegant that would be appropriate for any occasion. There are so many gorgeous choices available when it comes to stationery that it's hard to choose just one. We could only narrow it down to five, so click through our slide show to check out our favorites, then gather your goods and start writing.

View Slide Show

Tell us in the comments: When do you use handwritten notes? Do you have a favorite stationery to share?

  • JackieAU5

    I just read in an article that some professionals like emails to follow-up job interviews instead of handwritten notes. I thought this was a big no-no and you have clarified things for me. I’m sticking to the handwritten note and kicking it old school!

    • http://twitter.com/amkade Allison Kade

      Hi Jackie,nnThat’s a good point. I think some people may prefer email because at this point they’re totally digital, but I know that for me, that’s only true of “official” correspondences. Thank-you notes still stick out from the crowd. nnI was actually talking to a friend this weekend and he was saying how he was interviewing candidates and, of two, both sent notes. The first sent an email and he thought of the second, “Hmph, this one’s losing the race!” And then a few days later he got the handwritten note and was like, “Oh snap! That’s true dedication!”

  • Anne

    I love this post. I like to send a handwritten note to a niece/nephew/friend at college around midterm. It’s not for any holiday; it’s specifically random. I say I’m thinking of him and throw in a word of advice that helped me through college (“no matter what, make it to class” or “don’t drink on Sundays”). And, yes, I throw in a $10 or a $20.

  • HHRC

    Some of my favorites are “Goldfish I Have Loved (too much?): Mix and Match Stationery” and “Menagerie Mix and Match Stationery by Anvil Modern Paperie”. It’s $9/pack on amazon.com and each pack comes with 16 sheets of stationary and 8 envelopes and stickers, etc. I write at random times to friends and family. Who doesn’t love opening a random note from a friend with goldfish or octopus all over it?

  • DG

    Hand written notes show thoughtfulness and a touch of class. This is an art that differentiates the author as an individual who will go the extra step. I think it makes the world of difference when it comes to first and lasting impressions.

  • http://twitter.com/alexavontobel alexavontobel

    I love this LV Daily!

  • Marie

    I love sending handwritten notes. They are fun for me to write, and my friends and family love receiving them. It’s a nice surprise to get something in the mail besides bills and junk mail! nnI like Crane & Co. for professional correspondance like after a job interview, but it’s pricey for everyday use, so I also stock up at Target.

  • Katherine Santer

    Jennifer, nnThank you for this great post! I thought I’d let you know about my company, JackCards.com, which makes it super easy to send handwritten thank you cards, and to plan ahead to make sure every event is covered. There is a wide selection of thank you cards, from beautiful and thoughtful to witty and quirky, from 50+ independent designers. Jack Cards can address and stamp each envelope for you to save time. Check out the site at http://www.jackcards.com (featured in the WSJ, Oprah, Instyle, Parents, and FamilyCircle magazines, and on the Today Show and Rachael Ray Show).nnLove your blog and following your tweets!nnKatherine SanternCo-Founder & CEO, Jack Cards

  • Allison M.

    I am a huge fan of handwritten notes and always make the effort to send them. Two places to find very nice stationary/cards on sale: T.J. Maxx and museum gift shops at the end of the season (Christmas cards in January, for example)

    • http://twitter.com/amkade Allison Kade

      Thanks for the suggestions!

  • http://www.peterpauper.com Claudne

    Great blog post. And thank you for mentioning our Japonica Note Cards. :) If anyone is interested in any Note Cards or Thank Yous from http://www.peterpauper.com feel free to use our 20% off coupon code DEC20 (for this whole month).

  • http://www.facebook.com/AshleyVictoriaBurton Ashley Burton

    This was a great article for me, as I LOVE sending out cards and staying in touch. It’s just something tangible in a world of intangibles, I have even printed out emails to keep because someone has received one of my cards or remembered me! It’s a great professional habit, for every business card there is a thank you card and two of my business cards within, one for them and one for them to pass along. Secondly, I also make an effort to thank speakers who I may not have a chance to get their card or have that one on one with but they have impacted me and I just wanted to let them know! Even books that I have read and found something profound I have thanked them!

  • Emilia

    I bought a similar paisley design last year to send as a thank you note to a job interviewer. I’m glad I was on the same wavelength!