There are occasions when written correspondence is required, but e-mail should never be the method of choice. Yes, e-mail is certainly more timely – immediate as it is – but the nuance, the impact of the message carried is diminished because it is e-mail and not a hand-written letter or note. The following circumstances are situations for which your response must be sent by a handwritten note or letter, on paper written with a pen, in order to have the correct impact and message.
- Condolences on someone’s passing. A death in the family is hard enough. Receiving an email from a friend is better than no recognition of the sad occasion but to truly express your heartfelt condolences, a handwritten note is necessary. A short note that says, “I am truly sorry to hear about your loss. Please know that you and your family are in my(our) thoughts at this time.” is all that is necessary to write. We just want to know that you care enough about us that you would find paper and pen and a stamp to express it.
- Telling someone that you love them. OK, if you are in a committed relationship for a long period of time, a quick e-mail every once in a while saying, “Love you” is nice to receive. However, if you are still in the wooing stages of your relationship, or trying to make up for something that has gone awry, e-mail is cold, impersonal and flippant compared to a handwritten note. After all, you can’t hold an e-mail, press it close to your heart, kiss it (yes we sometimes kiss the message as well as the messenger), put it in that special place, pull it out to re-read it again and again the same way a love note on paper written in your lover’s handwriting is handled. Additionally, it has been proven consistently that we take much greater care with the words we choose to write when we write them with a good pen on good paper. They have a sense of permanency that e-mails will never gain.
- Expressions of gratitude. While a thank-you for lunch sent by e-mail as soon as you return to your office is admirable (only because most people don’t bother with even the smallest gesture of gratitude for being hosted by another), it is also seen as “better than no thank-you at all.” by those who expect a bit of gratitude for putting themselves out on others’ behalf. To truly show your gratitude and set yourself apart from your competition and the rest of society in general, put good pen to correspondence card and write three lines of text expressing your appreciation for the gesture just bestowed upon you. After all, your host not only spent money, they spent some of their precious time with you because they thought you are worth it. Prove it to them that you are.
- Celebration of a special day. I like e-cards. I like the music, the animation, the colors, clever sayings and all of that. But, for special days, from special people, if that was all I received from them, I would feel like I somehow was losing standing in their life. E-cards are too easy! A couple of buttons to push, a few words of Happy Birthday or Congratulations and hit Send. Plus… after a couple of days or weeks, they aren’t available to see anymore. When I receive a celebration greeting card, I think… “This person cares enough about me that they went out, took time to choose a card they thought fit me and the occasion, wrote more than their signature on it and mailed it. I must be at least a little special in their life.” Don’t you want that kind of reaction from your friends, colleagues and clients?
- Invitation to a party. It is becoming more common every day to receive party invitations by email, e-Vite and other on-line sources. But as a veteran event and meeting planner, I know that the invitation sets the stage for the event. The invitation starts the event with expressing the theme, design, or formality. When someone receives an written invitation in the mail to a party, it immediately makes them feel special for being invited. You as the host also receive more “yes” responses to a written invitation than to an on-line invitation for this reason. Also, there is the problem of privacy for the invited guests using the on-line resources. Many people don’t appreciate that others can see whether they have been invited or not, have responded or not, and what their response was. I personally include myself in that group. I don’t feel that it is anyone’s business other than the host’s and my own whether I have been invited to an event and whether I have chosen to attend for whatever reason. I will share that information personally with whom I want if I want.