The photo at right says it all. At one time, this box surely brimmed with letters, correspondence that chased its way downward through the floors of this downtown Manhattan office building before coming to rest in the lobby, ready to be sped on its way by an employee of the United States Postal Service. And today? Whitewashed. Barely legible, the words: "U.S. MAIL LETTER BOX." Painted over like a poster for a film that left the theaters many seasons ago.
When was the last time you hand-wrote a message to someone you love? If you’re like most, it’s been a long while (if ever). In our era, email has endangered eloquence; emojis have enfeebled expression. And yet, if you believe the hand-written note has outlived its usefulness, I urge you to reconsider. In a time marked by Tweets and texts, #TBTs and TTYLs, there is no better way to convey sentiments that will endure than by putting them down on paper.
With this in mind, and just in time for National Card and Letter Writing Month, I've partnered with the Hotel Hugo in New York City on a 30-day campaign to promote the penning of truly meaningful messages. After check-in, guests discover in their room a set of complimentary, custom note cards. The hotel and I are encouraging guests to think of a special person in their life, put their thoughts on paper, seal the envelope and bring it to the lobby, where the hotel will mail the correspondence for free anywhere in the world.
Though you may not be staying at the Hugo, you can still take part in the campaign. Write even one note this month and rediscover the joys of expressing yourself on paper. If you're feeling rusty, never fear. Here are my top tips for creating a keepsake that’s cherished…for all the “write reasons,” of course.
1. Penmanship counts. (And so does your pen.) In fact, the two can be closely linked. Find the implement that allows you to write as neatly as possible. Too inky and you’ll get blots. Too greasy and you’ll leave smudges. With a porous card stock, a fountain pen can be very elegant, though a felt-tip pen may provide cleaner results. Skip the ballpoint entirely, and if your handwriting is just a shade above legible, consider printed- rather than cursive lettering.
2. Blue is not the new black. Ink the color of ebony is the appropriate choice for a formal note card. Eschew the blue and whatever you do, avoid red at all costs.
3. Be a dear. Date the card in the upper-right and start off with a salutation; invariably this will be “Dear” or “Dearest”…you’ll have more options when it comes to the complimentary close. (See below.)
4. Get your messaging down. Consider composing your note on a computer first and transcribing it to the note card second. This allows you to find the most appropriate wording without ruining precious paper in the process. You can also run a spell-check before committing, thus avoiding unsightly cross-outs. Make your message matter by being as descriptive and expressive as possible.
5. In closing. Select a complimentary close that suits your relationship with the recipient. This is also your chance to show more flourish. Some suggestions: Affectionately; Thinking of You; Love Always; Your Friend Forever; Devotedly; Gratefully Yours; With Deepest Thanks. And don’t forget to sign the card…first-name only unless the recipient won’t know you from your given name alone.
6. Stamp of individuality. Place the card in the envelope right-side up, with the front of the card facing the flap. Hand-addressing is a must—in the same ink you used for the note. Stick to a real postage stamp (as opposed to a printed label or meter imprint). Skip the ubiquitous USPS flag stamps unless the intent of your note is to be patriotic. Instead, enhance the theme of your card with a stamp appropriate to the message you’ve written. Last but not least, don’t forget to include your return address, which—if you’ve played your card right—will spur and facilitate an equally treasured reply.