The Art of the Handwritten Letter Part 2

The Art of the Handwritten Letter: Part Two

Style and Tools

Letter writing, like poetry, is an art. In fact, etiquette expert Emily Post even suggested that, “the letter you write…is always a mirror which reflects your appearance, taste, and character.”

Now content is more important than form, but if you want to truly delve into tradition and use the correct format, keep reading. For a personal letter there are five basic parts:

The Heading:

With any art form there are the basics and then there is the personal touch. Business letters have a very strict form that includes addresses and a formal greeting.   In a personal letter the address is not essential, but a date is always helpful. Just imagine how delightful it is to read old letters from your great-great-great grandmother.

The Salutation:

Most letters will begin with “Dear first name”. We are just less formal nowadays and if you are taking the time to write a letter, you are going to write to someone you know on a first name basis. But if, by some chance, you are writing to someone you don’t know as well or want to channel your inner Jane Austen, begin your letter “Dear + (Mr. Mrs. or Miss) + Last Name.”

The Body:

This is where you write. Remember, you are not a journalist, but writing a personal letter so put a little bit of yourself in the message. If you are writing a thank you note, be sure to be specific in referencing the kindness of your addressee’s gesture. Why are you thankful? A thank you note is most successful when it’s warm and heartfelt. Your note should convey genuine appreciation, and details always help express that sentiment. So if you are writing to thank someone for a gift, you might make mention of how you expect it to be incredibly useful, or how you’ll think of the gift-giver each time you make paella, or drink Bordeaux, etc… To thank the hosts of a dinner party, you can emphasize how much you enjoyed a particular dish, or recall how interesting you found the dinner conversation. Be personal.

“You deserve a longer letter than this; but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve.” ― Jane Austen

The best kinds of letters are the, “I just was thinking of you and so I wrote for no reason at all letters” and of course, love letters. These letters are in a whole different category—they are the ones you keep for years and read over and over.

The Closing:

The closing is always the part I dread. I think it is the most difficult part.

Sincerely? I could, but that is so overdone.

Love? Yes, when appropriate, but I don’t tell everyone I love them.

You can get creative with “very sincerely,” “warmest regards,” “cordially,” “affectionately,” “gratefully,” or something similarly inspired.

Some more great ideas here and here.

“More than kisses, letters mingle souls.” ― John Donne

Sign the letter. If you began with a formal beginning, end with your full name. If it is your friend, sign with your first name or nickname.

When to Send

You should aim to mail your thank you note as soon as possible, preferably within a week’s time. If you’re sending out a large number of cards, such as after a wedding, up to three months is considered acceptable. But, should you delay, better late than never is the rule, here.

Of course, knowing when you should send a thank you note is requisite. Plan to do so any time a present is received, even if it has been opened in front of the gift-giver; after attending a dinner party; when you’ve received a handwritten sympathy letter for the passing of a loved one; to guests of your wedding, bridal, or baby shower; when you’ve been hosted for an overnight stay; and, of course, as a follow-up to a job interview. It’s also great practice to send a handwritten thank you whenever friend has done you a special favor.

The Tools

A plain white piece of paper, pen, and envelope will do, but where is the fun in that?

Tools always help set the mood so if you feel like trying your hand at a writing with a feather and ink; Go for it! I have to tell you that it is a bit messy. I love finding just the perfect fine tipped pen.

Below, we’ve provided a few of our favorite stationery and writing items, so that your thank you notes will be as chic and stylish as you are:

Ladyfingers Letterpress



MaeMae Paperie

Rifle Paper Co

Mrs. John L. Strong


What are some of your favorite tools? Tell me!


Till Part Three,