The Most Appropriate Notes to Send for Every Occasion
We have lost count of the amount of times we have been stumped for words when attempting to write a note to a loved one—whether it be a thank you card, a letter to send your condolences, or a congratulatory note—we want our words to express our thoughts to a tee. Etiquette expert, Anna Musson, the founder of The Good Manners Company, has revealed how to send the most appropriate note for every occasion—say goodbye to writers' block once and for all and become the queen of courtesy.
“Before the internet when we corresponded by mail and personal messenger, a well-mannered person had personalised stationery. This would have their first and last name on the paper and their home address on the back of the envelope. While this custom has been superseded by modern convenience, the written word is still more personal and seems more thoughtful than the electronic word—when was the last time you printed out an email and placed it on the mantle?
The handwritten note or card increases in value as the electronic card becomes more popular. Why? Because it takes time, effort and money for the former—the latter can all be done within 30 seconds from bed. Having said that, any card is better than nothing, even one sent on social media.
Notes should be written in your most legible hand writing, not typed, as they need to be personal. They should be signed and, if the recipient would appreciate it, feel free to add little drawings or something that is fun between you, a smiley face is perfectly acceptable.
All letters should have the date at the top and if you are writing to someone you haven’t met, signoff should be “yours faithfully”, if you know them and the tone is formal use “yours sincerely”, and if you know them and the tone is relaxed, “kind regards, best wishes and best regards” are all suitable.
Finally, write your address on the back of the envelope—home address if it’s a personal note and work address if it’s a business contact.”
Read on to find out how to write the most appropriate note for every occasion—keep these expert-approved examples filed for your next handwritten correspondence.
Choose a birthday card that represents the person you are sending it to and their sense of humour. Don’t be afraid to scrawl all over the card and make it meaningful. A card that needs to be read is so much more fun than, “Dear Mary, Happy Birthday, lots of love, the Jones’.”
We wish we were there to celebrate your 25th birthday and have loved seeing you finish university and move into working life. We see so much ahead for you and can’t wait to get together for Christmas and hear your travel stories. Put this (money) towards and night out with Tom or your girlfriends and send pictures!
Aunty Peg and Uncle Jim.
If it’s a formal message to someone you respect, keep the tone professional.
Warmest congratulations for your new role as CEO, how wonderful. I read about it in the paper this morning, Jim and I send our very best. Please let us know if we can ever be of service.
Peg and Jim Jones
If it’s not so formal, you can write in a more relaxed tone.
Mary, you are amazing! Congratulations on your new role, a well-deserved position and we are so pleased for you.
Let’s celebrate soon.
Peg and Jim
Traditionally, congratulations were extended only to the gentleman who would celebrate his proposal being accepted. If you consider a time when a young lady may receive several proposals from suitors, congratulating them both was not appropriate. Today we love to congratulate the couple together as engagements are less formal and while gents may still ask for the father or family’s blessing, other traditions have not stood the test of time.
If the couple live together, send the card to the house. If not, a card to the person you know better should be addressed to the couple, or if it’s a business contact, enquire about their postal address and either send a card there or to the office. A card to the place of business—for practical reasons—should not be addressed to the couple.
Dear John and Mary,
Congratulations on your engagement! John and I are so thrilled for you both and wish you all the best for this exciting time.
Peg and Jim
If they are close friends, a more relaxed style is perfect.
Dear Megs and Jono,
Hooray! This is the best news of our year and we could not be more thrilled on your amazing news, huge congratulations!
Can’t wait to celebrate all together in style.
Peg and Jim
N.B. It is better to make no reference to the wedding itself as it is not appropriate to assume an invitation.
A true thank you note does not have “thank you” printed on the card. A plain card is best and purchasing a variety of good quality plain cards—either personalised or not—with matching envelopes, will ensure you are able to access note paper at any time. Tip: look for envelopes that are lined with tissue for that wow factor. Your note does not need to be boring, personalise it with an interesting point from a previous discussion.
Thank you so much for the wonderful evening last week. Jim is telling everyone the elephant joke and claiming it as his own… Looking forward to having you at our place next time.
Peg and Jim
N.B. A thank you note should acknowledge the gesture (e.g. event, gift, or payrise) and refer to both the future and the past.
Shop a selection of our favourite letter sets below, and get writing!