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Being raised in the south, I was taught that no matter how far electronic communication might advance over the next century, nothing quite shows thanks and appreciation like a handwritten note. Call it old fashioned. Call it outdated. Call it true.

Why is a handwritten communique so different? Taking the time to sit down and write something with your own hand takes effort, a tangible quality that shines through to the recipient. Unlike email, text messages, and phone calls, writing by hand requires personal thought and demands that you stop doing everything else (if only for a moment) to focus only on communicating your gratitude. It’s a very powerful notion, indeed.

Look, we know that handwriting might intimidate those of you who forgot the art of writing by hand the day you touched a Blackberry QWERTY pad, but, honestly, it’s not that hard. Think back to those youthful golden years in writing class and recall your cursive. Yes, cursive (gasp).

Writing in print may be your strength, but when it comes to penmanship, print just isn’t the same as script. Remember, this is a note of thanks, not a grocery list. Worried you might mess up? Take the time to think out your letters and practice writing legibly by composing a draft. Sure that means you’ll have to stop your hectic life for even longer, but it’ll ensure you don’t come off as a fool in the final product. Professionalism is often about perception, isn’t it?

What To Use:

simple_stationary_photoObviously, the stationary you write on can make just as much of an impression as the words you say. Does that mean you need to analyze it like business cards a la American Psycho? No. But people can definitely notice the difference between dime store stationary and something personalized to you.

Keep in mind that the ideal stationary should strike a fine balance between being memorable yet polished, and, as designers like to say, white space is always your friend. You can never go wrong with something basic in the white to off white color range with your name printed on it. Mailing the note in a matching envelope is also a must. Not doing so equates to serving a fine Bordeaux in a Burger King cup.

man_notesIf you’re little more daring, then the sky’s the limit in terms of finding a design to fit any personality. Be aware though that being unique can go too far. Judge what’s appropriate based on what your relationship is with the recipient, and if need be have multiple sets. One for close friends and family, and another for business. The same goes for stationary that adds a dash of humor like these Man Note’s shown right. Sending a grass covered envelope with included lawn mower stationary is fine for your college roomie and best bud. Not so for your mother-in-law.

What you write with, though less important, also should be considered. A Sharpie or a purple Crayola crayon (Eric’s writing implement of choice), for instance, can definitely send the wrong message. Of course, we’ll always recommend owning a good pen like the Waterman Hemisphere or Namiki Falcon, but any good fine point roller ball should do the trick. Just be wary of smearing. If it happens, you’re starting all over.

The Bling:

As it is with anything, there are all manner of “accessories” to handwritten notes that have their time and place. Printed return mailing labels or customized address stamps, personalized wax seals, etc. are all possibilities, but by no means necessary. I’ve always felt simple is best, but the choice to integrate these features is really a matter of personal discretion.

When To Write:

I’ve often been asked by friends about what kind of thank you situations merit sending a written thank you note. The truth is, gentlemen, that there is no golden rule. Personally, I come from the school of thought that really nothing is out of bounds, and that being overly thoughtful never hurts. If you hear a voice in your head questioning whether you should, do it. There’s no need to finally scribble out your first novel. Length isn’t the point. Though I hate being cliche, in the realm of thank you notes, it really is the thought that counts.

Where To Buy:

If you’re looking to pick up some stationary, below is a list of links we’ve put together for great resources online. Know of others? Leave the link the comments section and we’ll be sure to throw it in.

Let’s continue the conversation. When do you write, if at all? Any particular people or situations you feel it appropriate? Share your thoughts below (with links to any personal favorites) and help your fellow Gear Patrol reader.