The Lost Art of Handwritten Notes and Letters

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Once upon a time handwritten notes and letters were as common as cell phones. These days, most of us rely on text messages, emails, and other types of messaging with our smart phones to communicate with people. Some see handwritten notes and letters as old-fashioned and too slow for today’s fast-paced world. But what they might lack in speed, I believe they make up for it in thoughtfulness and heart.

Why would anyone want to write a note or card when you can just send an email or text, you might ask? There are several reasons I can think of.

  • It’s more personal. The message is directed at you from another human being rather than an electronic device.
  • It’s more thoughtful. The person took care to think about what they wanted to say.
  • It’s not rushed. Writing notes take time, which means the sender isn’t dashing off a mindless text message they might regret later.
  • It’s more memorable. Handwritten notes tend to leave a stronger impression, while emails and text messages can be easily deleted.

I still have several notes I’ve received from grateful colleagues over the years. Every now and then, I pull them out and re-read them, especially when I’m feeling discouraged about something. Reading them always puts me in a more positive frame of mind.

Handwritten notes don’t take nearly as long to write as you might think. The key is to know what you want to say. Your message should be simple. Your handwritten note or card can be used to express any number of things, including:

  • Thank you for something they said or did to help you
  • An invitation to get together
  • Share a favorite memory
  • Express what they mean to you and that you’re thinking of them
  • Share condolences over the loss of a loved one
  • Wish them a happy birthday, anniversary or other special occasion

Now that you know what you want to say, think about how you want to say it. I recommend writing a few drafts of your message, which will give you a chance to test out different phrasings to see which one works best. When you are satisfied with the wording and tone, you can start on your note.

Choose a pen you feel comfortable with, and find a clean sheet of paper, note card, even an index card. Then begin writing. I like to date my notes so the recipient knows when the note was written. When you begin writing your note, consider the following tips:

  • Keep the message short and sweet. Three to five sentences should be sufficient. Experiment by using an index card.
  • Be yourself. Express yourself in ways the recipient might recognize.
  • Use a warm, lighthearted tone. Your practice messages can help you find that right tone.
  • Smile as you write. Somehow that smile seems to transfer onto the page. The reader can sense it when they read your note.
  • Add humor if you want, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to tell jokes or if you know your recipient will appreciate your humor.
  • Proofread your message. Make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors.

Handwritten notes might take a little more time and thought, but think how the other person will feel when they open up the envelope and see the note from you. There is something that is more heartwarming and expressive in a handwritten note. As long as they still touch people’s hearts, handwritten notes will never completely go out of style.

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