If you are in the habit of sending emails to congratulate, thank, or acknowledge people who are in your network or who you would like to include among your friends or acquaintances, you are halfway there. Communication of any kind is the first step. But my preference is for handwritten snail mail or hand delivery; it gets more attention. Last year, I actually got thank you notes for my thank you notes. I truly cherish those; they are special.
Begin at the beginning–purchase the write stuff, your stationery. I prefer white or cream, trimmed in either navy or green, never black (too formal and sedate). I like either embossed initials or full name, minus middle initial. I usually have three choices–full sheet with name at the top; folded card with initials/monogram or name on the front, and less formal card with nickname (in my case, Cathy instead of Catherine) and last name or initials/monogram at the top. Each has its own envelope, with my home address printed or embossed.
The full sheet (about 5 by 7, max) I use for catching up and longer messages. I have optional blank second sheets the same size but with no name. The folded note is all purpose, especially for thank you notes and congrats, or brief messages. The card is the least formal, for saying “nice to see you last night,” “saw your promotion in the paper,” or attaching to an article you clipped–stuff like that. I admit to owning and using gift enclosures, which ensure that the recipient receives my personal message inside the box in which the gift was conveyed. That tiny envelope does not host an address.
The message itself, no matter the paper on which is arrives, should be personal, detailed, and carefully (legibly) written. I am very aware that cursive is probably too much to ask of those under or around the age of thirty. If you learned it at all, practice and give it a go. It will be memorable. If not, well, print if you must. The point is the effort and the personalization represented by ink or gel on lovely paper by your own hand.
Those details–make them sincere and specific. If you were moved, say you were moved; if the occasion was joyful, say you shared joy. If the blouse was pink, reference the pink blouse, not just the blouse. If the advice provided hit the mark, say how, and how that made you feel and what happened then. Always positive, always about the other person’s contribution. If your note is late, don’t apologize (that turns the attention to you and your needs, and is a form of a request–for indulgence or forgiveness).
You can purchase plain stationery in any of these forms, and if you cannot afford or don’t wish to commit to personalized stationery, use the plain. If you know you might be moving, or if you plan to change your name, don’t spend money on paper that will soon be obsolete.
Tasteful notecards representing your town, alma mater, profession, or interest–I said tasteful, not cute, humorous, sarcastic, or profane–are just fine, especially if they connect to a recipient’s own sensibilities. Still better than email.
Notes are powerful. Well-written, well-crafted notes are treasures that many people–like me–keep. The senders are memorable; I know they went to some trouble on my account. I am almost always compelled to return the favor as soon and as often as I can.