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Handwritten Notes: For When an Email Just Won't Cut It

Posted: 01/30/2013 4:19 pm

Emails are to the art of letter writing what instant coffee is to a meticulously crafted espresso. Though inarguably efficient and convenient, and sure to do in a pinch, it just lacks finesse. I know, I know, email is so much more convenient than sitting down to write a note by hand. Not every message warrants a handwritten note, but don't write them off entirely (horrible pun intended).

Messages giving thanks or marking important occasions call for putting a pen to paper.

  • Offering condolences

  • Moving on to a new job or city

  • Welcoming a new baby

  • Getting hitched

  • Thanking for a gift, hospitality or someone special's time

Stock up on stamps and some great stationary that you actually want to use. Start by scribbling out a quick draft of what you want to write. This way you can test out your pen and perfect your message, something I learned after burning through an outrageous number of condolence cards, trying to get out what I want to say. It can be expensive to practice on note cards. Opt for scrap paper instead.

Your wording should be yours. Write your message using the same diction you would if you were speaking to the recipient. A note to a friend will be more casual than a note to a mentor, just as your conversations would have different levels of formality.

A good note should address the recipient ("Dear friend"), touch on the occasion ("Thank you for the gorgeous flowers") and any specifics ("I'm so happy you could celebrate my birthday with me") and finish with a fitting sign off ("Looking forward to seeing you soon, Sincerely, you").

Sure, you could put this in an email, but doesn't this medium elevate the message? Never think that because you can't think of what to write, that the task isn't worthwhile and you shouldn't bother. Sending a short to-the-point thank you letter is better than not sending one at all, even if it isn't your most moving message.

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  • Thank You For Asking Me To Your Prom

    Remember prom? Nikki Simmons probably won't forget hers, even though the guy she asked had to politely decline. Seems he'd just gotten married and, honestly, he was probably busy. <em>Dear Nikki - Thanks for your very flattering offer. It's great to know I have such a devoted fan out there, and I'm sure you would make a great prom date (I didn't go to mine - it's a very sad story). Unfortunately, I got married recently and my wife doesn't allow me to go to proms anymore with cute 16 year old girls. Still, it was very cool of you to ask me. Thanks and have a great evening. Your Friend, Conan </em>

  • Thank You For The Dream You Sent Me

    Once upon a time (1989), a little girl named Amy sent a bottle of colored water, oil and glitter to Roald Dahl, who knew right away that this was a dream in a bottle inspired by his book, 'The BFG'. In response, the author penned this short note to his 7-year-old fan. <em>Dear Amy, I must write a special letter and thank you for the dream in the bottle. You are the first person in the world who has sent me one of these and it intrigued me very much. I also liked the dream. Tonight I shall go down to the village and blow it through the bedroom window of some sleeping child and see if it works. With love from, (Signed) Roald Dahl </em>

  • Thank You For Keeping Me Safe On The Moon

    When your job involves leaving the planet to walk on the nearest rocky body, it's important that the people who build your equipment do things the right way. The enormity of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit engineering team's task - that is, building a spacesuit that kept a man safe and alive on the moon - was not lost on Neil Armstrong, who wrote this letter for the 25th anniversary of the lunar landing. <em>To the EMU gang: I remember noting a quarter century or so ago that an emu was a 6 foot Australian flightless bird. I thought that got most of it right. It turned out to be one of the most widely photographed spacecraft in history. That was no doubt due to the fact that it was so photogenic. Equally responsible for its success was its characteristic of hiding from view its ugly occupant. Its true beauty, however, was that it worked. It was tough, reliable and almost cuddly. To all of you who made it all that it was, I send a quarter century's worth of thanks and congratulations. Sincerely, (Signed) Neil A. Armstrong </em>

  • Thank You For Not Hitting Me

    Once upon another time (1974), John Lennon showed up drunk to LA's Troubadour club and proceeded to heckle the Smothers Brothers during their act. A fight ensued which involved just about everyone, including actress Pam Grier. The next day, she got this letter from Lennon: <em>Dear Pam, I apologize for being so rude and thank you for not hitting me. John Lennon P.S. Harry Nilsson feels the same way.</em>

  • Thank You For The Champagne

    Sometimes less is more. <em>Dear Mr. von Fuehlsdorff: Thank you for your champagne. It arrived, I drank it and I was gayer. Thanks again. My best, Marilyn Monroe</em>

  • Thank You For Including Animals In Your Book

    After reading Yann Martel's book Life of Pi with his daughter, a fan sat down to write this short note of thanks. <em>Mr. Martel -- My daughter and I just finished reading 'Life of Pi' together. Both of us agreed we prefer the story with animals. It is a lovely book -- an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling. Thank you. (Signed, 'Barack Obama') </em>

  • Thank You For Making A Fine Car

    When a product has served you well, it's always nice to write an appreciative letter to the people who make it. This one allegedly comes from Clyde Barrow, of Bonnie and Clyde notoriety: <em> Dear Sir: - While I still have got breath in my lungs I will tell you what a dandy car you make. I have drove Fords exclusivly when I could get away with one. For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got ever other car skinned and even if my business hasen't been strickly legal it don't hurt enything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8 Yours truly Clyde Champion Barrow </em> Legend has it Henry Ford received the letter about a month before Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934 while attempting to outrun the police... in a V8-powered Model B Ford. There's some evidence against the note's authenticity, but we're hoping it's real.

  • Thank You For The Picture

    Andy Warhol first printed his Liz series in 1963, but it wasn't until 1977 that Elizabeth Taylor got her own version of the iconic painting. She didn't wait 14 years to send Warhol a thank-you: <em> Dearest Andy I'm so proud I finally have your "Liz" and thank you for signing it so sweetly to me. I do love you. Elizabeth or Liz (of A.W.'s fame)</em>

  • Thank You For The Music

    This is just a little note from an actress to the man who composed the score for her recent film. That's all. <em>Dear Henry, I have just seen our picture - BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S - this time with your score. A movie without music is a little bit like an aeroplane without fuel. However beautifully the job is done, we are still on the ground and in a world of reality. Your music has lifted us all up and sent us soaring. Everything we cannot say with words or show with action you have expressed for us. You have done this with so much imagination, fun and beauty. You are the hippest of cats - and the most sensitive of composers! Thank you, dear Hank. Lots of love Audrey [Hepburn]</em>

  • Thank You For Coming On Our Show

    From hosts Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, a uniquely personal note of thanks to a recent guest on Laugh-In.

  • Thank You For Letting Me Be Your President

    Ronald Reagan wrote this touching open letter to the American people in 1994, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The former president lived another 10 years. <em>My fellow Americans, I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. Upon learning this news, Nancy and I had to decide whether as private citizens we would keep this a private matter or whether we would make this news known in a public way. In the past, Nancy suffered from breast cancer and I had cancer surgeries. We found through our open disclosures we were able to raise public awareness. We were happy that as a result many more people underwent testing. They were treated in early stages and able to return to normal, healthy lives. So now we feel it is important to share it with you. In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clear understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it. At the moment, I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done. I will continue to share life's journey with my beloved Nancy and my family. I plan to enjoy the great outdoors and stay in touch with my friends and supporters. Unfortunately, as Alzheimer's disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience. When the time comes, I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage. In closing, let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future. I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you. Sincerely, Ronald Reagan </em>


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