Letter Writing Do’s and Don’ts

I’m inspired by a clean desk and fabulous stationery. I’ve said it before but it’s worth mentioning again, few things make me happier than receiving a handwritten note. While I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to shooting off text messages and quick emails, there is something special about writing and receiving a handwritten note. Here are a few of my favorite pieces of stationery (either in my desk or on my wish list), and some tips on letter writing do’s and don’ts to get you off to a good start:

Kate Spade’s Typewriter Notes

My all-time favorite:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Correspondence Cards

And, of course who can do without a flying pig???

Engraved Winged Pig Trifold Notes by Crane & Co.

Letter Writing Do’s and Don’ts :

Do start off with a great writing pen – it doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, just a pen that is easy to hold, fun to write with and full of good quality ink. Nothing starts a letter off on the wrong foot worse than a pen that is low on ink and skips in and out while you are writing your message.

Don’t forget the date – dating the letter is an important step in the writing process, not to mention it will serve as a helpful recollection years later. Select a memory box or special place for safekeeping cards and notes.

Do find a quiet place to write – getting your thoughts together, grabbing a cup of tea and writing on a solid and level surface such as a desk or writing table makes putting your thoughts down on paper much easier. When you are trying to write a letter balancing a notecard on your lap, holding the cat with one hand and talking on your cell phone, resting the device between your ear and your shoulder, you are distracted and not doing your best work.

Do sign off with care – close your letter with a thoughtful sentiment. “My best” or “Fondly” would be perfect for some people, while “Love” is the only closing that would suffice for others. “Sincerely” is a safe choice when you are writing to someone who you don’t know well or share a friendly, casual relationship with.

Don’t overlook the importance of the envelope – pay special attention to the way you address the envelope. Abbreviate with care and avoid any short cuts that will take away from your correspondence. Misspelling someone’s name is a definite faux pas but so is getting the address incorrect and then marking through rather than starting all over. Failing to include your return address says that you “don’t care” whether the letter arrives or not.

Don’t forget the perfect stamp – I love stamps! What can I say? To me, the stamp that is on the letter I receive is as important as the beautiful handwriting (or the handwriting can be chicken scratch as long as it’s from someone I admire) inside. I like to have a variety of stamps for different occasions that complement the stationery I have chosen.

While technology is here to stay, the written is word is still very much in style.

Sincerely Yours,


Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert and modern manners professional, sought out industry leader, television personality, accomplished speaker, Huffington Post blogger, author, and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Diane is routinely quoted in national and international media including The New York Times, The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Kiplinger, Huffington Post Canada, U.S. News and World Report, and Forbes. She is the resident etiquette expert for two popular morning talk shows, SA Living and Good Day Austin. She has been seen on The TODAY Show, HLN Headline News, WGN Chicago, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies and her workshops cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media.


  1. Shalyn says

    I love getting as well as sending personal, handwritten notes. Receiving a handwritten note tells me that the person cared enough or that the reason for the note meant enough to the sender that he or she take time out of his or her busy day was worth communicating with me; likewise, sending a handwritten note makes feels like an investment in the relationship with that person, whether it’s a new or long-standing relationship or whether it’s merely a transient one. And thanks for the reminder about including a date – that may seem basic to any letter writing endeavor, but that is the element I usually forget. :)

  2. Diane says

    Hello Shalyn, I so agree! Thank you for your lovely comments and for taking the time to write :) My best, Diane

  3. Mary says

    I love Crane’s correspondence cards! The quality of the paper is an important piece of the whole package for me. After many years of sitting in front of a computer my handwriting is less than inspiring but I remind myself that while I may admire the lovely writing of a couple of friends, I don’t criticize the less than elegant hand of others.
    I always write or type out a ‘practice’ page of what I want to say before committing it to the card or note.
    I never gave much thought to the envelope until I read Kelly Browne’s book and this blog. I always made sure the address was correct, along with zip code, and legible but that was it. Now I’ll give some more thought to the stamp and overall appearance of the envelope.
    I better start addressing my Christmas card envelopes now! **wink**
    Thank you for another great blog Diane!

  4. Diane says

    Mary thank you so much for your thoughtful comment, I am so glad you enjoyed the post!

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