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.