In these digital days, it may seem archaic, inefficient, and even wasteful. While it’s true that nothing can compare to the efficacy of a quickly composed email or an instantaneous text, the impact of a handwritten note simply cannot be rivaled. The fact that they are so rarely written and received in today’s wired world only makes them that much more valuable.

A thoughtful note can be read and reread, saved like those love letters of yesteryear. Even a simple postcard from a friend’s travels can become a keepsake. The thought involved in sitting down, pen to paper, and writing in your own hand an expression of gratitude, condolence, excitement about a business opportunity, or even a simple hello is meaningful to the recipient – far more than an email hastily typed on your computer keyboard.

There are some instances where nothing but a handwritten note will suffice. Etiquette dictates that wedding thank you notes and condolences be handwritten. This is not optional. Keep in mind that even an ordinary handwritten letter is better than the best email. While the task may seem daunting, it’s far easier than you might think.

So the next time you want to express a condolence, a heartfelt thank you, or make an impression in the workplace, reach for your pen and paper, and do it old school.

Here are some tips to get you started.




◗ Use stationery and pen. If you don’t have stationery, plain white paper will do.

◗ Write a draft first. It’s fine to do this on the computer. Make sure that all spelling is correct.

◗ Include the date, even on a short note.

◗ Take your time and keep it legible. Don’t cross out and correct.

◗ Don’t be stiff. Feel free to express yourself as you normally would. Your personality, sense of humor, and “voice” should be apparent to the reader.

◗ Don’t ever mail an angry letter. Allow yourself to cool down. Angry words can destroy friendships.


◗ Begin with a greeting, followed by appreciation of the item or favor, mentioning how helpful or useful it will be (or was), and close with a suggestion of a future meeting.

◗ Don’t procrastinate. Try to send it within a week. Even if it’s late, send the note anyway. It’s better to send a late thank you than none at all.

◗ Send thanks for even trivial things. Whether your friend made you dinner while you were sick, or a neighbor took in your mail while you were away, a handwritten note is the best way to express appreciation.

◗ Don’t exaggerate. While it’s nice to rave about a gift, don’t go overboard. Keep it sincere.

◗ Never refer to specific amounts of money.

◗ Keep it concise. Don’t ramble on about something off-point. An earnest expression of gratitude is all that’s needed.


◗ Send sympathy notes within a month. These notes should be brief.

◗ Begin by acknowledging the loss.

◗ Express your sympathy in a genuine way.

◗ Offer a brief anecdote or recollection of the deceased, mentioning the role he or she played in your life. If you didn’t know the person who passed away, offer some form of praise for their memory, or recall a story that you have heard about them.

◗ Close the note with an offer of help to the family.

◗ If you’re more comfortable sending a greeting card of condolence, don’t just sign your name. Handwrite a note in ink inside the card, complete with salutation and signature.