Modern Manners

Annie Norcia

You must write a letter to get a letter, or so the saying goes. While the same applies to e-mail, for those of you wedded to your inbox, nothing is quite as refreshing as receiving a hand-written note. It is a gift everyone can give, provided you have a writing implement and a few minutes’ time.

Consider your audience before you begin penning. Employers don’t care much for hearts over your little ‘i’ or purple pens. Thank them for their time; be concise and pointed. This is not the place for flowery prose. Writing to a grandmother or older relative? Though I’m certain you go to bed at eight, are a diligent student in every way, and single-handedly led a troupe of Hamilton central school children through a tempest of winter fury and into the arms of safety, don’t go overboard. Be honest and mention your accomplishments; they will no doubt be proud anyways. Don’t neglect to ask how they’ve been, too! An interest in what they’ve been doing shows you care. Stumped on how to begin? Perhaps you can tell them about your classes or friends you’ve spent time with. Books you’ve read or clubs you’re joining are likewise fodder for the perfect letter. Of course, the nature of written correspondence is largely determined by your relationship, so if your thing is sweater vests and cooking lasagna noodles, far be it for me to interfere.

Err on the side of print. While you may be able to read your cursive, it looks like Farsi to the rest of us. If you can write legibly, do so. It is far less strenuous on the eyes. If your handwriting is abominable, only write to people who you know like you, to practice. They’ll make the effort to discern your lettering, and in the meanwhile, you’ll improve!

Try not to write with pens that smudge easily. You’ll likely end up with ink all over your hand, your words scrambled illegibly all over the letter. Do not cross out sentences or words excessively. One mistake is fine. Two, maybe. Nobody wants to see big splotches and angry slashes. By mistake three, if you don’t own a bottle of white-out, start over with a new sheet of paper. Also, most people will end up wasting time trying to see if they can decipher what you originally wrote; never under-estimate this inclination.

Have nothing to write on? Unlined paper is better than lined, if you’re debating between printer sheets and binder inserts. Smooth edges add that extra something special. Single Hallmark cards are available for 99 cents at Kinney’s, and boxed cards can be found lots of places.

Think you’d like your own stationery? The best place to start is – oh you are clever, clever, readers – the stationary store! There, someone can help you navigate the seas of correspondence cards, enclosure cards, embossed paper, monogrammed headings, envelope linings, card stock … Oh the fun you’ll have! If you don’t have a stationery store near you, there are countless websites where you can browse and get an idea of what you what like.

Aside from Kate Spade, whose has creative and charming designs, most designer stationery is a waste of your time. The letter came from you, not Louis Vuitton.

You, too, can master the art of written correspondence. Unrivaled in the book of etiquette, a hand-written note is truly a delight. Grab your paper, pick up a pen, and get to it!