The Lost Art of a Handwritten Note

Entrepreneur in Residence Diana Henderson uncovers the forgotten practice.

From Diana: Let me paint a picture: it’s an ordinary day, you’re home (or at the office) sorting the just-delivered mail and you see a 3x5, eggshell-colored envelope addressed to you. Inside is what we’ve all tagged as a “lost art”—the handwritten note. It’s a ‘thank you’ from someone you met with for coffee three days prior, expressing their gratitude for the time you spent together. Wow.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this lost art form and it’s incredibly touching. It also elevates my impression of the sender.

Maybe you're thinking “I don’t have time for handwriting notes” or “nobody does that anymore, nor do they expect it.” Exactly. It's unanticipated, sets you apart and is worth the three to five minutes it takes to complete. And, in the very least, you’re likely to spread a little goodness in the world.

To adopt the practice of expressing thought through penmanship, here are a few things to consider:

Recognize its power

I’m such an advocate of handwritten notes that I encourage my corporate employees to take part in every opportunity possible. I can directly correlate growth in business or client relationships with sending a handwritten note (or several). When one employee suggested it was an “old-fashioned practice," I challenged her to write one in place of her usual text message and observe the results. She was soon blown away by the recipient’s response of calling to thank her for the thoughtful note.

Keep materials handy

Note-writing is so ingrained in my DNA now that I’m constantly buying stationery, cardstock and greeting cards. But that’s the key—keep cards around and it will be less of a production to send one. If you have to run to the store or wait for your card to arrive from Amazon, you’re less likely to make it happen. Aim for variety so the card’s print mirrors your audience’s style. For instance, I send different prints to male and female recipients as well as personal connections and business contacts. Regardless of style, availability is key.

Focus on the content

Before you grumble or panic over what to say, I encourage you to keep it simple—short and sweet. Get straight to the point with three to five sentences max. Add in a point of personalization and you’re all set. Need an example?

One point of caution—if you enlist administrative support, make sure they have enough detail to mimic you for the best possible experience. One year, my brother used written notes in his business to thank sponsors for their donations but, in response to my donation, I received a note where the salutation read “Dear Mrs. Henderson.” That hardly reflects our relationship!

Realize that timing is everything

Make the biggest splash with handwritten notes through timely execution. It’s one thing to receive a note in the mail, it’s another to receive it days after the interaction occurred. Frankly, the longer you wait, the less likely you are to find the time to make it happen. I keep a folder with me when I travel with business stationery, stamps (I get them personalized on Stamps.com), return address labels and envelope seals. That way, I have no excuses—it’s a ready-made package to set me up for success.

Happy hand-writing!

For more from Diana, read her recent columns on our site or visit her online at DianaHendersonConsult.com.

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