Category Archives: Handwritten notes

The Handwritten Note of Gratitude

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As I write this article, we have just celebrated one of our favorite and most meaningful holidays. Thanksgiving is in the rear-view mirror, but surely we maintain the attitude of gratitude from that day. Even in this difficult time of Covid, we have much to be thankful for. As we approach Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanza, we look forward to sharing meals, parties and gifts with our friends, families and coworkers.

Now is the time to consider how and when you will express your thanks to those who have brought joy to your life. Maybe it was something special that you received during the year—a gift, a favor, a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear or an encouraging word when you needed it most. Let those people who matter to you know how much you appreciate them.

How do you do this? By a simple act. You send them a handwritten note with words that come from your heart. Not surprisingly this is challenging for many of us. As a result, we don’t do it or we put it off for an embarrassingly long time.

Let me suggest a few things that will help you write those notes.

  1. Start with a list of those whom you want to thank.
  2. Keep your list close by so it stays not only on your desk but on your mind.
  3. Purchase your stationery, either fold over notes or correspondence cards.
  4. Buy several pens that write easily.
  5. You’ll need to have stamps at the ready.
  6. Keep all your supplies where they are easily accessible.
  7. Set aside a time every day to write a few notes.
  8. Then do it.

Thank you notes need not be lengthy. A few sentences are enough if you are feeling challenged.

  • Mention specifically what you are grateful for.
  • If you have received a gift, say what you will do with it.
  • If someone has been kind or thoughtful, let them know what their kindness meant to you.
  • Perhaps look to the future as you close. Mention how you want to connect with or stay in touch with that person.
  • Select a closing that you are comfortable with. It could be “Gratefully”, “With sincere gratitude” or even “Thank you again”.
  • Sign your name and you’re done.

I want to leave you with a quote from my dear friend and colleague, Elizabeth Herbert Cottrell, whose book HEARTSPOKEN: How to Write Notes that Connect, Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire is soon to be published.

“Some say the handwritten note is a dying art, yet in both professional and personal life, it is still one of the most powerful tools we have for connecting meaningfully with others. A well-written note can give voice to the stirrings of your most heartfelt sentiments and can be read, saved, and treasured forever.”

The Holiday Card – A Victim of Procrastination

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Do you tend to leave things until the last minute? Sadly, most of us do. There is always more time, right? One of the victims of procrastination is the holiday card. It is almost September, and I am already talking about the holidays. It’s not too early, believe me.

In your business and your personal life, if you wait too long to start the process—like after Thanksgiving—sending your cards may become more of a chore than a pleasure. If you delay, your clients and colleagues may already have left the office for the holidays and your friends may be too swamped at that point to notice your thoughtfulness.

Here are some tips to ease the chore and to make your best impression:

  1. Purchase a quality card. It is not necessary to spend a fortune, but good quality says you value your clients, colleagues and friends enough to “send the very best.”
  2. Order your cards while there is time to have your name or the company printed on them. You want them to have a professional look.
  3. Send your greetings early. Have them in the mail the first week in December if you want them to be noticed and appreciated.
  4. Plan to sign your name and write a brief message. The holiday card that comes without a personal signature and a note seems more obligatory than celebratory. It does not matter that your name is already printed on the card. Give it that handwritten touch.
  5. Address the envelopes by hand. While it is easier and faster to print address labels, you lose the personal touch.  Consider hiring someone to do this if you do not have the time to do it yourself.
  6. Use titles when addressing your cards. The envelope should be addressed to “Mr. John Smith” not “John Smith” or “Ms. Mary Brown” not “Mary Brown.” By the way, “Ms.” is the correct title to use in business.
  7. Invest in holiday stamps and avoid the postage meter.  That is just one more personal touch—and a festive one at that.
  8. Email greeting cards may be tempting because they require less time and trouble. It is not totally in bad taste these days to e-mail your holiday wishes, but it is impersonal and not the most impressive way to do it.  Your clever electronic message with singing Santas and dancing trees is a fleeting greeting.  The recipient will click on the URL, download the card, open it, read it, smile, close it, and, in all probability, hit “delete”. Chances are good that your physical card will have a longer lifespan.  Most people save greeting cards throughout the holiday season, and many display them around their office or home.
  9. One final tip: Address your envelopes as soon as you receive your cards. Once you get that step out of the way, you can sit back and relax while you write your personal message on each greeting card.

Expressing Condolences during the Coronavirus Pandemic

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To even suggest that these are difficult times is a classic understatement. We all know and feel the challenges and pain of Covid-19. In one way or another, each of us has been affected. We are all mourning and searching for ways of expressing condolences.  We have lost family members, close friends, colleagues, coworkers or acquaintances. If we have not personally suffered the pain of loss, we know someone who has.

Helping those who are mourning has become complicated since we cannot gather to say goodbye, we cannot embrace the bereaved family and we cannot come together as a community to celebrate and remember a life well-lived. All that being said, I do not mean to imply that there is nothing you can do to reach out to people who are grieving. There are numerous ways of expressing condolences and showing that you care.

Attend the funeral or memorial service.

If the service is conducted in a place, such as a graveside, where you can social distance and wear a mask, by all means, go. Even if you cannot speak to the family, you can sign the guest book so they will know that you were with them.

Pick up the phone and call.

During this time of isolation, a phone call and the sound of another human voice may be just what the grieving person needs. If they do not feel like talking, they can decline your call. They will know and appreciate your effort. If you connect, do not attempt to be a grief counselor. Your job is to ask how they are feeling and listen to what they have to say.

Food is always appreciated.

There may not be the usual large family crowds around, but someone is going to need to eat. If you find out that enough food is already being provided, wait a week before offering to take a meal. It may be needed more later. For fear of spreading the virus and to practice social distancing, advise the family that you are coming. Call when you arrive and leave your nourishing gift at the door.

With today’s technology, there is no excuse for remaining silent.

While I am not a fan of using the Internet to send condolences, it is better than nothing at all. In spite of my aversion to emailing, texting, or using forms of social media to convey your sympathy, there are those for whom it is their preferred means of communication.  Options for expressing your condolences online include 1) writing a message in a guestbook published on the funeral home’s website, 2) sending a sympathetic email, 3) texting your acknowledgment—although that should be the channel of last resort. Online communication platforms are endless.

If you are a loyal subscriber to this blog, it will come as no surprise that when you cannot do it in person, my preferred manner of conveying sympathy is the time-honored handwritten note.

Nothing trumps that. If you want your kindness to make a lasting impression and offer the most solace, find your note or correspondence cards, your nicest fountain pen, your forever stamps and share your thoughts on paper with the one who is grieving. Those who have suffered a loss often save those notes for a long time and bring them out at anniversary dates and other times of remembrance.

During this time of Covid-19, people who are mourning need support more than ever.

They are often alone having to quarantine. They need love and support. Whatever you decide to do, do it immediately and make a promise to yourself that you will not let it end there. Go beyond keeping these people in your thoughts—keep them in your actions. Continue to stay in touch and do the little things that can mean so much.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to learn how her virtual presentations, workshops and resources can help you and your associates add the polish that builds profits through these tough times.

The New Year is Thank You Note Season

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Now that the holidays are almost over, and we find ourselves in the new year, it’s time to start sending out thank you notes for the thoughtful gifts and tasty treats you received during the season. Yes, I know, those are not the words you want to hear—especially since you know that I am talking about those handwritten notes that I continue to harp on. It would be so much easier and more convenient to text or email your gratitude. A few clicks of the keyboard, and you’re done.

However, when it comes to delighting those special gift-givers with the perfect sentiment at the perfect time, here are two things to consider:

  • Ink trumps email. Why? Ink implies effort.
  • Handwritten notes connect people in a way that simply isn’t possible via text or email. How? Your unique handwriting makes your message and therefore your relationship more personal.

Now that you understand the power of the handwritten note, what’s holding you back?

  • Is it the time? We all have the same number of hours and days.
  • Are you too busy? Everybody feels life is too demanding.
  • Do you lack the supplies you need? If you haven’t heeded my earlier advice and purchased appropriate cards or notes before the holiday rush, those items are still available. They do not sell out during the holidays.
  • Did you forget to buy stamps?  If so, no problem. The rush is over at the post office so pick up stamps while you’re out shopping for your stationary. Then write a note to self on your calendar for next fall that reminds you to buy your correspondence cards or notes and stamps early.

Finally, the greatest obstacle for most people is knowing what to say and how to say it? Those two things should be the least of your worries if you establish a process for writing your thank you notes and follow these steps:

Step 1. Decide how to address the recipient. Do you need to formal salutation or one that is casual? Are you going to call the person by first name or use their title and last name?

Step 2. Begin with “Thank you”. There’s no need to attempt anything more exotic than those two words.

Step 3. Name the gift specifically. Saying “Thank you for the gift’ is cold, off-putting and will make your recipients wonder if you value their gift or even know what it was. You might as well say, “Thank you for the thing.”

Step 4. Say something about the gift. What made it special? How will you use it? If someone sent your food items, tell them how much you either enjoyed the treats or how much you are looking forward to having them. Even if you are not thrilled with what you received, the giver need not know.

Step 5. Say how much you appreciate the thoughtfulness. This is really simple and always sincere. Who doesn’t appreciate being thought of?

Step 6. Choose your closing. Again…are you being formal or casual in your approach? Your salutation will determine your closing.

Think of your thank you note as a sandwich.

The opening and closing are the like the two slices of bread. Your thank you for the specific gift is the lettuce; the sentence about why you like the gift or how you will use it is the meat; the statement saying you appreciate their thinking of you is the cheese. Now wrap that in an envelope; garnish it with a stamp; and you have it. Just don’t forget to drop your handwritten thank you notes in the mail.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com. Find out how her presentations, workshops and resources can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.

The Handwritten Thank-You Note

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Handwritten Notes

Handwritten notes

Do you want to make a positive professional impression during the holidays?  Do you want to make your clients, customers and colleagues feel special?  Do you want to stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons?  Then try sending a simple handwritten thank-you note to those who thought of you during the season.

Whether you received a gift, were included in a holiday party, were invited to a special meal, or were on the receiving end of an act of kindness, take time to recognize people’s thoughtfulness and generosity.

You may have been given a gift at the office party.  Perhaps a vendor delivered one in person. In both instances, you should have expressed your appreciation at the time. But go the next step and follow up with a handwritten thank-you note.

If the gift came by mail or some other form of delivery, it is even more important that you acknowledge it.  The person who sent it needs to know you received and appreciated it.

If the present came from an organization or a business group, you are not off the hook.  Some people think that when a supplier or vendor sends a gift, it doesn’t require any form of thanks.  Being the customer or client is no excuse for bad manners. 

When you were included in a holiday party or meal, always follow up with a written thank you.

Sending a handwritten thank-you note is not as daunting a task as some people make it out to be if you follow these tips.

  1. Purchase the appropriate stationery before you need it. In business, thank-you notes are traditionally written on message cards (5 x 3 ½) or correspondence cards (6 ¼ x 4 ¼) which are single white or ecru cards with your full name or monogram engraved at the top center. Another option is the fold-over note (5 ¼ x 3 ½). The front page is blank or has a monogram engraved in the center.
  2. Do not send the garden variety cards that have “Thank You” printed on the front if you want to appear polished.
  3. Keep some of your stationery on the top of your desk, as convenient as your phone and computer.  If you put it in a drawer, there is the temptation to “get to it later”.  Have your stamps next to your stationery. This assures that your notes will go out in a timely fashion—like that day or the next.

The format of a business thank-you note mirrors that of a general thank-you note. It’s simple.

  • Begin with a salutation.
  • Mention the gift, occasion or act.
  • Be specific by writing how you feel about it. What makes it special, useful or helpful?
  • Say “thank you”.
  • Compose a sentence that winds it up.
  • Add your closing.

A handwritten thank-you note trumps an email thank you every time. It gives the appearance of extra effort on your part and makes the recipient feel special. So do yourself and the generous person who sent the gift or who entertained you a favor.  Take five extra minutes to show your personal gratitude with a handwritten note. I promise that in today’s world, you’ll be among the few who do and you’ll long be remembered for your thoughtfulness and good manners.


Lydia Ramsey is a  business etiquette expert who believes it’s not about rules–it’s about relationships. She is keynote speaker, trainer and author of several books. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to find out how she can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.

Handwritten Notes – How to Stand Out in Business

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When was the last time you received a handwritten note from a business associate?  It may be so long ago that you can’t remember. On the other hand, if you have received one lately, you know exactly who sent it and when. If you are looking for ways to stand in business, be noticed by your colleagues and clients, and set yourself apart from your competition, try putting pen to paper at the slightest excuse and send out handwritten notes.

Handwritten notes are practically extinct in the business world—and everywhere else. Few actions are more impressive than handwriting a letter or a note to someone with whom you already do business or would like to.  Most people think that writing notes by hand requires a lot of time and effort.  Ironically, it can be quick and painless if you do it frequently and follow these tips: 

Have writing supplies close at hand.  Keep stationery and stamps in a convenient place in your desk or better yet, on your desktop.  When you need to send a note, reach for your stationery, dash off a few lines, address the envelope, add the stamp and mail it.

Keep your message brief.  These are notes so you only have to come up with three or four sentences to impress. If you attempt to compose more than a few lines, writer’s block will set in and you will never get past “go.”

Address and stamp the envelope ahead of time.  Before you leave for a business meal or event, address and stamp an envelope to your host or business colleague. Writing your message as soon as you return will be a breeze. 

Use professional stationery.  Both single-sided correspondence cards and fold-over notes with the company name or logo imprinted on them are business-like and will represent you and your organization well. Another choice would be cards or notes with your name imprinted.

Poor penmanship is no excuse.  The person who receives your note will appreciate your thoughtfulness and is not likely to grade you on handwriting.  If your penmanship does not meet your standards, it is never too late to improve.  There are numerous resources at your local library and online to teach you how to write legibly so that you are not embarrassed to send handwritten motes.

Use any occasion to get noticed with a note.  A few of those instances are when…

  • You have received a gift
  • You were hosted at a meal
  • You received a business favor
  • You have made a new business connection
  • You are replying to an invitation
  • You want to follow up after an event
  • You are sending condolences
  • You would like to offer congratulations
  • You need to apologize

Make your message timely.  Whether you are sending a note of appreciation, congratulations or condolence, do it as quickly as possible. A thank you should go out within 24 to 48 hours.  However, don’t forgo sending a note because you think too much time has elapsed.  There is no  statute of limitations on appreciation.

Successful people pay attention to the details and look for ways to build better business relationships.  When you take the time to send handwritten notes, you will stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons. Your next big sale or job promotion may come about as a result of your doing business just a little differently from your competition.

 

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based international business expert, speaker, trainer and author of Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits and Lydia Ramsey’s Little Book of Table Manners. You can contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website at www.mannersthatsell.com