The Power of a Handwritten Note

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Image courtesy of istockphoto/AnthiaCumming

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What do you get for someone who has everything?

You may naturally think that as the CEO of a book company that I am going to suggest giving a book.  Well, that’s always a great idea, but I have found something that I think is even better, even cheaper, and even more enduring.

What is it?

A handwritten note.

For many years, I have ordered a box of beautiful Crane’s cards with my name inscribed across the top.  Whenever I have the opportunity, which admittedly is not as often as I’d like, I take the time to handwrite a note to someone.  At the office, I may write a note and leave it on someone’s desk. I don’t always use a handwritten note, but I try to write at least a few notes each week.

Even better, keep the Postal Service in business longer, and send it in the mail.  What kid doesn’t get excited to have an actual letter addressed to her in the mailbox?  It’s exciting to receive something other than a stack of bills.

Notes of appreciation can be sent via email or even via Twitter.  No matter what the method, the words are always welcome.  But I would argue that there is nothing as powerful as tangible words on the page.  I’ve appreciated and saved emails, but inevitably they are deleted.  Contrast that with handwritten notes.  I have kept almost all that I’ve received.

Today there are elementary schools abandoning the study of cursive writing.  Instead, they are using the time to learn the keyboard.  Typing, it seems, has become the norm, and the attitude is, “Why bother learning cursive?”  Perhaps in the not-too-distant future our descendants will require the equivalent of the Rosetta stone to interpret script.  I can see days ahead when your thoughts are transmitted digitally in an advanced form.  And perhaps when digital advances even further, it will make what I am saying even more impactful because it will be even rarer to see something on paper.

I know it may seem odd for someone with a career mostly spent in digital businesses to encourage the writing of actual ink-on-paper notes.  Yet I’ve seen its impact.

So, go ahead.  Do it today.  Go fish out a piece of paper or a card, and send someone a personal note of appreciation or of thanks.  Just don’t be surprised if that same note endures for much longer than you think.

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