The Handwritten Note
As public school districts drop instruction in cursive handwriting, and young bloggers reflect with amazement that “there was a time where [sic] just about everything was handwritten,” it’s easy to believe that no one under the age of 105 would dream of sending a handwritten note to a friend, colleague, or client.
Don’t you believe it.
Far from belonging to the analog past, the handwritten note has found a place in the high-tech world of business.
Forbes, the Huffington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as lesser publications and business sites, feature articles on the value of the handwritten note.
In a time when people are deluged with emails and junk mail, the handwritten note stands out like a raven in the snow.
In the business world, standing out is good. Business consultants and CEOs don’t simply recommend the use of handwritten notes to prospective clients; some require it.
In an article at Forbes, Jessica Kleiman mentions a colleague who requires his sales staff to turn in photocopies of the thank-you notes that they send during the week; he wants to know they aren’t relying on email alone. She also cites a magazine editor who won’t hire a job applicant who doesn’t send “a real note” following the interview, “no matter how impressive they were in person.”
Handwritten notes are not only good business, but good human relations, little candles shining in a naughty world. In an increasingly impersonal world in which telephones are answered by robots, and the mail brings piles of glossy junk, a handwritten note says, “Hello, I know you’re there; I like and respect you enough to take some time to let you know that you matter.”
John Coleman says that part of what makes a handwritten note so valuable is that it costs more than digital communication:
[Unlike email] handwritten notes are unusual. They take minutes (or hours) to draft, each word carefully chosen with no “undo” or “autocorrect” to fall back on. Drafting one involves selecting stationery, paying for stamps, and visiting a mailbox. They indicate investment, and that very costliness indicates value. If, as the U.S. Postal Service notes, we only receive a handwritten letter once every two months, each of those letters likely means more to us than the “cheaper” communication we receive each day. –Harvard Business Review
Sometimes people are so startled to receive a handwritten note they send a thank-you note in reply.
The occasion of a handwritten note can even be newsworthy:
[John F. McKeon, a New Jersey assemblyman,] was surprised to receive a handwritten note from Mr. Christie, telling him that he had heard the comments, and that he didn’t like them.
[President Obama] has sent a handwritten note to one art historian apologizing for his “off-the-cuff remarks,” which he said were intended as a commentary on the market, not the value of art history.
No doubt about it–handwritten notes get attention.
Next time you’re in the office supply store replenishing your toner, you might want to add some quality notepaper and a nice pen to your order.
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