Business correspondence may take place through email, Twitter, and all sorts of other electronic means, but the art of the letter is far from extinct. In many ways, the hand-written letter is more important today than it was 100 years ago, because fewer people possess the skills it takes to pen a truly great business letter, or even a thank you card, by hand.
Think about it. When was the last time you received a personal thank you note on beautiful card stock? When was the last time you received a hand-written note thanking you, reminding you, encouraging you? Chances are, if you have received one, you remember it. You may even have it on your refrigerator, desk, or bulletin board.
If you’re a business executive, you have likely received more hand-written notes and official cards than most others. Business etiquette at higher levels demands this sort of personal service and flair. If you don’t have it, you can bet your competitors do, and who can afford to give an inch in this day and age?
For those who are newer to the world of business etiquette and note writing, here is a quick primer:
- Use short sentences and short paragraphs.
- Use only one page, and leave lots of white space.
- Language should be common, with simple words and phrases.
- Never include terms that your recipient may not know or have to look up.
- Start with a personal greeting, and end with a personal closing.
- Be very specific about what you are writing about.
When opening the note or card, it’s okay to use the address you would if you were alone in the office with the recipient. For example, instead of Dear Dr. Williams, you might just say, Dr. Williams, or, if you are on a more collegial level, Bill. Remember, this is a personal note or card, and the intent is to impact the recipient as a person and not just somebody holding a position. That said, if you are addressing a superior, always err on the side of formality.
When signing off on the card, there are a number of standard closings, including “Best regards,” “Yours truly,” “Respectfully,” and the classic, “Sincerely.” The important idea in the closing is that you choose something that represents you and the relationship you are trying to develop through the note. You would not want to sign off “Love” when “Respectfully” is more appropriate (or vice versa!).
You also don’t want to be somebody you are not. Are you a “Cheers” kind of person? A dentist might sign off with “Smile.” A pastor might use “Prayerfully.” If you’re doing business with a musician, “Rock On” might be just the thing. If your recipient smiles after reading the card, and has a good memory of you and your note, you win.
Putting the Note in the Envelope
Can you believe there is a right way to fold your note and put it in the envelope? In fact, the question should be, “Can you believe there is a generation that does not know the right way to fold a letter or put it in the envelope?”
The easiest way to fold a letter is to fold the BOTTOM of the letter up two-thirds of the way to the top. Crease the bottom. Then, fold the top of the letter down to meet the bottom crease; crease at the top.
The letter should be placed in the envelope with the top up and the letter opening to the rear of the envelope. If a card is being sent, the front of the card faces the back of the envelope. This way, when your recipient opens the flap, the first thing they see is the design on the card.
Personal notes should not be written on copier paper or letterhead. They should be written on stationery. Granted, many people would take a note written on a sticky note if it meant getting a letter of praise from their boss, but doesn’t that go to show the extent to which people are missing and desiring the lost art of the personal card or letter?
Consider two gentlemen sending flowers. One gentleman sends a bunch of week-olds he picked up at the store because sending flowers is standard protocol. The other personalizes a bouquet and adds a nice card. Both sent flowers, but which do you think will make the best impression?
Don’t just go through the motions; take the time to do it right. Those few moments spent picking out the right stationery, writing instrument, and stationery embellishments really can make all of the difference. If you are not sure what your options are, just ask. American Stationery has been in the personalization business for over 100 years and can set you up with exactly the right tools for your trade. All you’ll need are the words.