Tag Archives: letter writing

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

5 Apr

Sympathy Notes really get a lot of scrutiny from the recipient. The words inside a sympathy note carry a lot of weight; it’s like they are magnified. These notes are sent when someone we know and care about has experienced pain. The pain of loss. Whether that is the loss of a parent, a pet or otherwise, loss is still loss. It is feeling empty when before you were whole.

What words are ever appropriate at a time like that, right? I don’t know about you, but every time I sit down to write one of these notes, I always think that there are really no words that exist that will actually bring comfort.

And then I remember, that statement is true. A sympathy note is not actually intended to make the situation better because it really can’t make the situation better. Instead, a sympathy note is a way to say ‘Hi, I’m here, and I’m thinking of you.’ It’s a reminder that the recipient has many people in his or her life to help fill in that empty spot.

There are lots of things you can say in a sympathy note, most of which are probably fine. However, there are a few things you should avoid saying in a sympathy note and I’ll tell you why.

Just Call

“If there’s anything I can do, let me know,” or “If there’s anything I can do, just call.”

Those are both very nice sentiments and anyone who says them means well. However, what you are really saying is: “I’ll help, but you have to call me first.” When someone is grieving, the last thing they need is another ball in their court, so to speak. And honestly, they’re not going to call. It’s better to say something like “I’m going to call you next week to check on you” or “I’m going to email you next week to check in with you, in case you need anything.”

When I discovered this tip, I was a little shocked. I said this all the time to people. I’d even post it on Facebook. And I was not the only one. Someone might post that they were sick, and there’d be eight Facebook comments of people saying “If you need something, just call!” It’s just another way of not really saying anything at all.

A Better Place

“They’re better off now,” or “They’re happy now,” or even “They’re in a better place.”

Even if the person you are writing to has said one of the above statements to you, it’s still best not to say it yourself. Honestly, maybe they’re not better off. Perhaps things happened you’re not aware of. The issue with this statement is that it’s not really a comfort to the person that was left behind. The person who died is still dead. They’re still dead whether they’re better off or not. And, the person receiving your sympathy note is probably not better off, definitely not happy now, and likely not in a better place. How can a dead person be better off than the living person you are writing to?

“I Understand”

Be careful when you say you understand or you know how the person feels (particularly when you’ve never been through the same situation). Let me give you an example. When a friend loses a parent, I will usually include a statement like this:

“While I can’t understand what it’s like to lose a parent, I can understand what it’s like to be loved by a parent. I know how much your father loved you. I remember in high school how he’d pick us up after track practice and he’d always kiss you on your cheek, give you a hug, and ask you how your day was when we’d get in the car. I vividly remember how much love your Dad had for you.”

Everything I said was completely and totally true. I didn’t say I knew or I understood when I really don’t know and I really don’t understand. Plus, I was positive. I wasn’t talking about death, I was talking about life.  Be considerate of this when you sit down to write a sympathy note.

Take the Time

Most anything written in a sympathy note has good intentions behind it. However, if you are going to take the time to write one, really pay attention to what you are saying versus what you are meaning. They can be different. If you want to actually do something for the bereaved, say what it is and commit to it. Don’t put anything back on the bereaved. Don’t comment on where the deceased has gone or how the deceased may be doing. Focus on the person you are writing to, the person who is still alive and dealing with the aftermath.

Death is a funny thing. It happens to all of us, and will happen to everyone we know. Yet, many of us struggle with how to act or what to say when it happens. If you stay positive and commit to doing something for the bereaved you’ll stand a much better chance of sending a note that is meaningful, memorable and a true comfort.

Advertisements

The Language of Stamps + Free Printable

13 Mar

The Victorians, at least the well-to-do variety, sure did have a lot of time to pay attention to details. They devised the use of Personal Calling Cards, the selection of flowers to send a certain message, and lots and lots of rules about etiquette. Even today, we are discovering (and reviving) Victorian traditions. For letter writing and mail enthusiasts, there is one in particular that has gotten notice in the last few years: The Language of Stamps.

A few special stamps of EPC 🙂

Just as it was a Victorian tradition to select flowers based upon a message you’d like to send (the red rose equating to true love still exists today), there was a tradition of affixing a postage stamp to a letter in a certain way. Upside down, tilted left or tilted right, the direction and placement of the stamp said much more than ‘postage paid.’

Perhaps the most interesting part of the language of stamps is that there were no distinct rules. An upside down stamp might have meant one thing in the southern U.S., another in the northern U.S., and another in the UK. For all intents and purposes, the language of stamps was restricted to particular groups or regions. Even then, there is evidence that individuals and couples had their own private codes they used just between themselves.

Today, this tradition has made a resurgence (albeit a small one) with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Men and women writing to spouses serving overseas flip stamps upside down or in another direction to signify things like “I miss you” and “I love you.” The ‘codes’ in these letters are generally just between the letter writer and the recipient and there is by no means a true system out there today.

There is also a section of the US population that are avid letter writers who see value in reviving traditions like these. Major newspapers and popular websites have covered this very topic in recent years which has helped to draw more interest (and participation).

Communicating an additional message with a stamp is all about details. Not only is the letter writer taking time to write a letter, put pen to paper, fold it up, put it in an envelope and mail it, but they are going the extra mile in selecting the way the stamp is adhered to the envelope.

And, in case you ever wondered, if you place your stamp somewhere other than the upper right hand corner of your envelope, it will still get delivered. (However, if you do choose to place the stamp elsewhere on the front of the envelope, the letter might be slightly delayed due to the postage machines not able to scan it normally and therefore it will have to be handled manually.) In fact, this is the reason the original process of the recipient paying for the postage of a letter changed to the sender paying the postage. Senders would affix a stamp a certain way or put some other code on the exterior of the envelope or letter, and many times the recipient would get the message and decline paying postage on the note. Needless to say, word spread and the system was abused to the point that it was changed to where the sender pays the postage.


To encourage you to partake in the Language of Stamps tradition, attached to this article is an editable letterhead document you can download and print! Click the following link for a letterhead made specially for you to download and use –> EPC-Stationery-Hot-Air-Balloon-Editable

It is a PDF and features a hot air balloon in the bottom right hand corner. This particular image was lithographed in the Victorian era and is a rather appropriate subject for the sending of ‘air mail,’ no? After you download the letterhead, open it up in Adobe Acrobat (free) and click where the text appears. You can enter your own name or details for truly personal stationery. It prints two sheets to a standard sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper. Just cut right down the middle.

Interested in more reading? Here is a selection of articles and posts on the Language of Stamps you might be interested in:

From Love to Longing to Protest, It’s All in the Tilt of the Postage [New York Times article from 2005]

Blog post with lots of vintage ‘language of stamps’ postcards [by Rio Wang]

The Language of Stamps [post by Letter Writer’s Alliance]

The Language of Stamps [article on Philatelic Database]

Why Stationery is Important + Free Printable

29 Feb

Whether you write a quick note or a full-blown letter to a loved one or friend, any paper product will do. Truly. However, if you take the time to consider what you are writing on and with, you’ll see that you are creating an experience for the recipient. You are also creating an experience for yourself. The act of writing a letter was (and still should be) a way to connect with the recipient and to allow the recipient to connect with you. When you opt for stationery that has been customized, you are opting for a deeper experience.

Personal stationery became popular in the Victorian era and we still have remnants of this tradition today. It is most common in business situations; however, a revival of personal, customized stationery seems to be taking place, at least in the USA.

Stationery selection is really an art form. When you are writing a letter to someone, whether it be a thank you note or a letter for pleasure, one should select the stationery based upon the recipient and the purpose of your writing. The stationery should also be a reflection of who you are as well.

Choose your stationery in relation to the importance of your note. If you are sending an important letter; choose classic, important stationery. Traditionally, avoid using day-to-day paper (like notebook paper or computer paper) because it is everywhere, it is cheap and it is associated with other tasks, like homework and printing out reports and documents. You do not want your recipient to associate your special letter with homework or a work project!

Choose your stationery with the same amount of care you give to the words you put on the page.

To get you started, I’ve included a downloadable PDF of stationery you can customize! Click the following link for a letterhead made specially for you to download and use –> EPC-Stationery-Pomegranate-Editable

Click to enlarge.

The image that appears on the upper right corner of the letterhead is a Grenadier Punica (aka Pomegranate) and was illustrated in the early 1800s. Fruits were a common addition to personal stationery and they would often appear in borders or as full-blown illustrations. The pomegranate represents fruitfulness and growth. This is a great choice for congratulatory letters or letters bearing good news.

The printable stationery set is customizable if you so choose. The file prints two sheets to one, 8.5” x 11” piece of paper. Fold it in half and cut it right down the middle. Each half-sheet folded in half fits perfectly into an A2 envelope.

To customize your stationery with your name and address, just open the PDF and click on the areas that have text. If you don’t want any text, just delete it and click save, then print. If you want to customize it with your name and contact information, simply click on the text and type what you want, save it and print it! The font and color of the font are already programmed in so it matches the image perfectly.

I’ll have another download for you in a few weeks. Let us know what you think of this resource and if you’d like more!

The Birth of the Book Letter

16 Feb

Two of my favorite things on the planet are books and letters. About two years ago, I created a way to combine them—a Book Letter. It sounds simple enough, and it can be as elaborate or straightforward as you’d like to make it, but I promise it will be something treasured forever by the recipient of your choice.

What is a Book Letter?

I love writing letters and far prefer the long missive that goes on for some pages, like a long, in-depth conversation with someone you enjoy spending time with. Short notes have their place, of course, but long letters are definitely more of a treasure to hold onto and re-read. However, long letters take time and thought, and in this busy age of quick text messages and emails, it is quite rare for people to write extremely long letters, especially in one sitting.

Enter the Book Letter. Basically, you take a small notebook (2 by 4 inches, or pocket-sized, which is 3.5 by 5.5 inches), dedicate it to one person, and start writing letters in it whenever you get a chance. They can be long or short, and once the book is filled up, it’s time to send it off to the lucky person. This is the first iteration of the Book Letter—simple, efficient, and practical.

If you’d like to develop a more complex Book Letter, give it some depth. Keep an eye out during your daily routine for items the recipient would like. Perhaps such items like a newspaper clipping of a review for a play they like; snippets of a friendship poem you came across online; a quote that reminded you of the person, some funny cartoons and other small paper “tuck-ins.” These can be glued into the small notebook, taped onto a page, or just tucked in.

Once you get the hang of it, each Book Letter will be easier and quicker to create. Start deciding ahead of time what else will go in your Book Letter other than just your handwritten letters. Keep a small collection of items to tuck in the next Book Letter, as well as some small notebooks whenever the feeling grabs you to start a new one.

My Book Letter Process

Personally, when I start a new Book Letter to someone, the first thing I do is decorate the inside page with the name of the person I am sending the letter to. I typically use calligraphy pens and stickers to do this and often add the date.

Next, I choose a theme for the book letter—anything from Victorian elegance or going “green” to highlighting a specific season or holiday.  (I use scrapbooking supplies for much of this.) Once I’ve chosen the theme, I go through the notebook, page by page, and add stickers and borders. If I was remotely artistic, I would add sketches and drawings. So if you are artistic, this is a great place to show off your talent.

Now it’s time to decide what “tuck ins” will go with this letter. Maybe it’s pictures of my kids opening their Christmas presents or watering the plants in the garden. Maybe it’s a newspaper article or a magazine column of interest. It might be a funny cartoon that made you laugh or a copy of a quote from a book that had an impact on you. Truly, there are no limits. Just choose something that reflects who you are and who you are writing to.

Finally, I start writing the letter itself, skipping around the tuck-ins and filling up the pages.  I write a few pages and then put the letter away for a day or two before adding more words. Eventually the Book Letter is ready—a true gift for whomever it is sent to.

Ready to try your own book letter? Start by choosing a small notebook. Some great examples include Apica’s CD-10, 11 and 15 Series, Moleskine’s Volant Notebooks, and Rhodia’s Pocket Unlimited Notebooks. These notebooks come in all sizes, with as few as 10-12 pages or as many as 150. They can be lined or unlined. What kind you choose is up to you, but remember that filling up much more than 30 pages or so can be challenging. I recommend starting small.

This is a book letter Leah (the editor of this blog) is working on for her beau right now!

Book Letter Tips

Next, add stickers, pictures, drawings/illustrations, whatever you would like to decorate your pages. Finally, start writing. You might write two pages today, put it away for a week and then add a few more. I’ve been known to complete a book letter in one sitting—and take almost a month.

Remember that a book letter is like an art project – there is no right or wrong way to do it. There is simply YOUR way of doing it. It will reflect your thoughts and your time and there are few gifts as worthwhile as that.

10 Letter Writing Tips

31 Jan

Writing a letter might seem like an art that no one follows anymore, like speaking Latin or doing the jitterbug (and where else can you find a comparison between those activities but here at EPC?), but there are many enthusiasts still out there. You’ll recognize us if you look closely. We sit in coffee shops with pens and paper in front of us instead of laptops. We walk into office supply stores and head over to the fountain pen ink refills instead of the printer ink refills.  We know how much an extra ounce costs, the price of an international stamp, and how much we can squeeze into a first class priority box before it explodes.

Click the image to buy this product on EuropeanPaper.com

G. Lalo Verge de France Correspondence Sets

Yes, I am one of them (and proud of it!), and I write hundreds of letters every year. My free time is spent with pen in hand talking with friends near and far. When I walk out to the mailbox every day, I know more than bills and advertisements are waiting for me.

Of course, to GET letters, you have to SEND letters. So, here are the 10 best letter writing tips I know, based on hundreds of letters written (and received) every year. These tips refer to both personal and professional correspondence.  The first six tips are must-do’s; the second four are options to consider.

  1. When you are going to write a letter, make sure you have enough time to do so. A rushed letter feels like a rushed letter, and typically, handwriting takes longer than you remember. If you aren’t sure you can find a free half hour or hour, combine your writing with other activities like watching a movie, waiting for the dryer to finish or sipping that morning cup of java.
  2. As you begin writing, refer to your last visit, conversation or letter with that person. Mention where you were, something that was said, or another statement that reconnects the two of you.
  3. Date the letter. I know that might not seem very important, but when the person reads the letter, re-reads it, and keeps it for ages, that date is very important. I recently dug through some old boxes and found all of the letters my mother wrote me while I was in college. She is no longer living, so these letters are truly precious to me. I organized them in the order she wrote them and put them in folders. The dates were essential.
  4. Write legibly. I know, I know. Duh, right? But you wouldn’t believe how many people have almost illegible handwriting. They either try to be fancy or they simply haven’t dusted off their penmanship skills in a long time.  If you have trouble with cursive, print. If that doesn’t work well, type. Make it easy on your reader.
  5. Ask the person questions.  A letter that just tells a person all about you-you-you and then says goodbye at the end is not much fun to read and often very difficult to respond to. Ask the person questions, such as: How is work? How are the children? Where have you traveled? What are you reading lately? They can be as simple or complex as you want to make them, but obviously keep your reader in mind regarding the type of personal questions you may ask. This will inspire the person to want to sit down and write back to you.
  6. Follow the simple rules of good writing. Always double-check that you spelled their name correctly and make sure you have the right address for the envelope. You aren’t being graded here, so you don’t need topic sentences and appropriate transitional phrases between paragraphs (yes, I used to be an English teacher!), but make sure you aren’t writing in such a manner that others can’t understand what you’re saying.

Those were the “must-do’s” of letter writing. Here are four more tips to consider implementing as you write more.

  1. Click the image to buy this product on EuropeanPaper.com

    Mudlark Eco Hayden Leigh Memento Boxed Note Cards

    Use attractive paper and cards for your letter. The European Paper Company carries many lovely options, including boxed notecards, a wide selection of eco stationery, and much more. Sure, lined notebook paper is nice, but it can be dull. A letter on fine stationery is often much appreciated, but if all you have is lined notebook paper dress it up a bit to make it special.

  2. Include fun little tuck-ins. Getting a letter is fun – getting a letter with surprises tucked inside it is even better. It can be photos, newspaper clippings, comics, bookmarks – whatever you want. These little extras can make letter writing even more enjoyable.
  3. Respond to letters quickly, but not TOO quickly. If your letter is in response to one sent to you, don’t let it sit around for more than two to four weeks before answering it. If too much time goes by, the person may forget what he wrote or think you have decided not to respond at all.  If I haven’t heard from someone in more than a month, I also send a quick postcard making sure all is well with them. On the flip side, it might sound crazy, but I wouldn’t recommend responding to someone the day or day after you get a letter. That might be so quick that it makes the receiver feel pressured.
  4. Finally, if all of this sounds wonderful but you’re stumped on who to write to, do some homework and check out organizations. If you don’t have family and friends that would be interested in writing letters, go to the The Letter Writer’s Alliance and The Letter Exchange online. They both offer wonderful connections to other crazy letter writers like me. EPC also lists web sites for letter writers to connect (check out the blogroll in the right column of this blog). Believe me—we are out there and waiting by our mailboxes. Write!

National Letter Writing Week 2012

11 Jan

Happy National Letter Writing Week! We’re jazzed that so many people choose to celebrate this “holiday” of sorts. Here’s a short round-up from the blogging community:

Dana on Save Snail Mail has a lovely post explaining a bit more about this week. See her post here.

Many bloggers have short posts mentioning this week, like Scribbling Glue, Pen Thief, and 365 Letters.

Create Write Now has a few letter writing prompts if you need them.

Honey and Cheese has a great round-up of letter writing posts of hers in her shout-out for the National Letter Writing Week.

And Lucas Writes looks like he’s rolling in it with letters and packages from other bloggers. Read his post here.

~~~

We love reading through all the blog posts and keeping up with the community, but to tell you the truth, we want more. We want to be a part of this amazing community instead of just looking in. And what better way than to write a few letters this week. 🙂

So if you’d like a letter from the European Paper Company, send an email with the subject line “NLWW 2012” to leah[at]europeanpaper[dot]com and don’t forget to include your address. You can also send us a letter first at the address below and we’ll pop a response in the post as soon as we can.

European Paper Company
4775 Walnut Street Suite C
Boulder, CO 80301

We can’t guarantee they’ll be the most exquisite letters you’ll receive (or the neatest sometimes), but they’ll be real and in the spirit of the National Letter Writing Week for 2012. Cheers!

 

Giveaway: Fabriano Medioevalis Box

7 Dec

Fabriano Medioevalis Folded Cards : click for more.

Giveaway Alert! We’ve got a lovely box of Fabriano Medioevalis Reception Folded Cards (200 x 300 mm) that is so lonely; it needs a new home!

From our site: “Built on the foundation of quality and tradition, Fabriano’s elegant Medioevalis Reception Folded Cards have myriad uses. The luxurious soft feel of the 260 gsm cards is sure to inspire for any event. Combined with the Reception Envelopes, they are perfect for letterpress, offset, inkjet, laserjet, ink, pencil, charcoal, pastel, light washes, stamping, rubbings, stencils, engraving and printmaking.” … Or really anything else you can come up with!

Fabriano Medioevalis Folded Cards : click for more.

This beautiful Cartiere Milliani Fabriano Decorative Box includes 100 moulde-made cards to be used any way you like. Plus, you can use the box afterward to hold other paper, letters, or mementos. **Disclaimer: This box does have one corner we repaired (there was a slight tear), but the paper inside is pristine.**

To enter: Leave a comment on this blog post with an accurate email address & what you would use the Fabriano paper for … that’s it! You’ve got 48 hours – we’re announcing the randomly chosen winner at 9 a.m. (MST) on Friday, 12/9!
(Sorry, but this giveaway is only open to those in the U.S.)

Bad News Round-up for the USPS

5 Dec

By now, we’re sure everyone’s heard the news. As the links below show us the problems of USPS are still big news it seems, the comments by readers are pretty laissez-faire about the whole issue. Some people are focusing only on the economic hit of a massive layoff by USPS; others are positing that communication and transactions are naturally all online now, so it doesn’t matter if USPS slows 1st class mail; and honestly, if you skim the number of comments on these articles, you just don’t see many people talking about it.

CNN Money: Postal plan: Slower delivery, 28,000 jobs lost … “As a part of the cost-savings plan, Postal Service proposed in September to cut 252 mail processing plants. Generally, they’d like to bring the number of mail processing facilities down to under 200 from the 463 that exist today.”

BBC article: US Postal Service facing 28,000 job losses

NYTimes.com article #1: Planned Postal Service Cuts to Slow First-Class Mail

NYTimes.com article #2: U.S. Postal Service Seeks to End Next-Day Mail

Mashable: Could Postal Service Budget Cuts Affect Netflix?

Washington Post: Facing bankruptcy, US Postal Service plans unprecedented cuts to first-class mail next spring … “The agency already has announced a 1-cent increase in first-class mail to 45 cents beginning Jan. 22.”

Time Magazine: USPS to Slow Delivery of First-Class Mail

Do you think you’ll be affected by the changes come next spring?

Friday Blogger Tuck-ins

2 Dec

1 –> Margana over at Inkophile gave some great advice regarding buying pens, paper or ink and when to trust online reviews. Read it here.

~~~

2 –> The Letter Writers Alliance gives great instructions on how to host your own letter-writing social here, and also gives the main U.S.P.S. dates for holiday mailings to arrive on schedule here. (LWA also provided the link to the USPS website that provides more holiday details for international, military, and domestic shipping and mailing. Here’s the link.)

~~~

3 –>  Kim at Tiger Pens did a nice, short review on the Pilot V4 Disposable Fountain Pen. And TonyB at Tiger Pens had a great Blog Review & Interview of Rhonda Eudaly, which you can read here. (Rhonda’s blog link is here, plus you can find it in our blogroll in the right-hand column.)

~~~

4 –> Karen D. posted about the Problem of Shipping Charges on the Quo Vadis Blog and we’re so glad she did! It’s an issue customers bring up to us all the time as well and we do our best to please you all. That’s why we have shipping offers like our current one, which is free standard shipping on orders of $50 or more.

~~~

5 –> And to end on a really cool video of How Ink is Made, we have to thank Azizah of GourmetPens.com for sharing it first! (It was originally posted in 2010.)

%d bloggers like this: