When I was a kid, my mother always made me make lists of every present I received for Christmas and my birthday, and sat me down to make sure I wrote each person a thank you note. While I resented it a little at the time (it took so long and really made my hands hurt after a while!) I'm really glad she did, because now I've got older I really appreciate the importance of writing a good thank you note to someone to let them know you're grateful and you appreciate that they thought of you either with a lovely gift, or by inviting you into their home, be it for a relaxed dinner or a few days to say. (Also, I think much smaller Rachel was a little bit pleased with herself every time she turned out a perfectly executed letter with no crossings out or mistakes!)
Image: Andrew Yee for Marie Claire
One of the biggest shames I think about the art of a hand written note dying out somewhat is not that all out communication seems electronic these days, but that it means there are less pretty writing papers and note cards about these days. While I used to be content with Paperchase (who are awesome, don't get me wrong) I think after being spoiled for choice in America with the ability to shop at places such as Sugar Paper and Rifle Paper Co., when I return to England I think I'm going to make more of an effort to hunt down cute and unique stationary, writing papers and greeting cards. (I'm also going to try and remember to send more of them.)
There are a few basic things everyone should have in their writing box on a permeant basis (you can buy unique and bespoke things for specific people as and when, but with these basics you'll never be caught short.):
- Plain or monogramed note cards. These should be simple, but if they're slightly stylised they should be suitable to send to both men and women, on any occasion. While I have some in England, I don't have anything like this yet in America so next time I stop by Sugar paper I'm either going to pick up a set of either their Anchor Notecards that I've had my eye on for a while, (at the moment I'm using these green and gold monogramed cards, the style is slightly girly, but the colours making them still suitable to send out to men).
- Note paper and matching envelopes. Sometimes when you want to write a little bit more than you can fit in a note card, or when you're writing to older family members who preserve to receive hand written letter on proper note paper, it is a good idea to have a pad of good quality plain notepaper and matching good quality envelopes to hand. You can get this in so many great colours from Paperchace, but my personal go to forever will be Basildon Bond's Lilac Note Paper Pad and their champagne envelopes.
- Two Birthday cards. Speaking as someone who has once been guilty of forgetting a significant family members birthday one year (and never living it down I might add) you never want to forget someones birthday. So, while it is preferable to buy birthday cards with the person in mind, keeping either a nice unisex card, or one suitable for a man, and one suitable for a woman in your writing box will keep you safe from the years of reminders of my failure that I've been suffering through ever since!
- A sympathy card. It is a sad fact of life while we will always have enough time, and usually enough warning to go out and buy a bespoke congratulations card, you might need to be able to send out a sympathy card to someone at a moments notice, when you may have other things on your mind other than shopping for stationary. So, I recommend you keep a plain but tasteful and thoughtful sympathy card in your writing box at all times just in case.
Once you have a basic letter set built (I'm still looking for a cute box to store mine in), you're ready to write a thank you note at a moments notice. Short and sweet I think is best, both for you and the person on the receiving end so I like to stick to a basic format: Greeting (Dear ________,), 'Thank you for...', 'I will spend it/ use it/ it will come in useful for' or one or two details on what was particularly nice about their party or your stay. Then, I comment on how nice it was to see the person and note when I'm next going to see them, commenting on how I'm looking forward to it, where applicable. Then, sign off. Obviously you can make these more personal, and for really close family or friends I always do, but this is a good basic template to work from. I'm notoriously bad at this, but you should aim to send your thank you within a week, preferably within a few days. However, as I am always telling myself, a thank you is always better late than never.
What are your tips for putting together the perfect writing set, or for penning the perfect thank you note?