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Should I type or hand write
thank you notes, cards & letters?

A type written thank you note might make etiquette experts shudder, but is it really so different to a hand written note? And what about the issue of legibility for those with poor handwriting?
If we are to believe everything we are told by manners and etiquette gurus, thank you notes, letters and cards must ALWAYS be hand written. To do otherwise, they inform us, is not only bad manners, but boorish and even insulting to the recipient. Of all the rules of good manners, this seems one of the most entrenched, and one on which there is little room for flexibility. But is a type written thank you note really such a terrible thing?

The case for hand writing thank you notes

Hand writing a thank you noteThe case for hand writing thank you notes
Writing a thank you note, card or letter by hand gives the personal touch – at least that is the general perception. It signals that you have 'made an effort' and therefore conveys your appreciation more appropriately.

It's true that for formal situations, and in particular weddings, a hand written thank you note or thank you card is considered more appropriate than a typed message. The same is true for times of loss or particularly sensitive situations – times when you especially want to reach out to the recipient. In these cases a hand written note is probably preferable.

Having said that, you really do need to have decent (if not beautiful) hand writing to write a successful thank you note. If you are lucky enough to write in beautiful copperplate, or be skilled with a calligraphy pen, then by all means hand write your thank you messages. On the other hand, if your hand writing is poor then I would maintain that typing is the way to go – the aim is for your note to stand out for its thoughtfulness, rather than because the recipient fervently wishes you had typed it so (s)he could read it!

Those blessed with fine penmanship may argue that hand writing is quicker than typing. In other words, they can write the note, address the envelope and find a stamp in less time than it takes to start the computer, open the right program, type out the text, mess around with fonts and formatting, and finally print the whole thing out. It this sounds familiar then yes, you're better off doing the whole process by hand!

The case for typing thank you notes

Typing a thank you noteThe case for typing thank you notes
For many of us, the major issue with hand writing thank you notes and letters is surely legibility. Few people these days have attractive handwriting, and a surprisingly large number have truly appalling writing that borders on the illegible. Certainly both my husband and my sister-in-law have writing so atrocious that I generally don't even try to decipher anything that they have hand written (success is uncertain and the process gives me a headache). In such cases surely typed notes are not only preferable, but actually the polite thing to do!

Moreover, if – as we're always being told – it's the thought that counts, then why does it matter whether a note is typed or hand written? Surely it is the words and sentiment of the message that matter, and these remain the same whether they are typed or handwritten. Insisting on hand written notes, cards and especially letters is honoring form before function. Surely its better to put the effort into the wording rather than the handwriting.

Where do these etiquette gurus get their 'rules' from anyway? Traditional isn't always better, and typing beats a quill pen any day. And isn't it time for them to wise up to technology?

So yes, hand written notes are lovely if your writing is not only legible but also attractive (not often the case!) and if the act of writing by hand hasn't delayed the card so long that resentments have built up. For the rest of us, typing is a godsend. It's time etiquette experts wised up to the advantages of technology and the superiority of the beautifully legible printed note over the illegible chicken scratch of the average hand-written note.

Guidelines for typing your thank you notes

1. Know your audience: a thank you note to Great Aunt Mary (a stickler for good old-fashioned manners) will probably benefit from being handwritten – however painstaking (and painful) the process. Your college friend, on the other hand, likely won't mind one bit if they receive a type written note (and may even be taken aback to receive a handwritten one). As noted above, weddings and funerals are two occasions when handwritten notes are generally preferable – and expected.

2. Personalize, personalize! If you're typing your note, make a special effort to connect with the recipient. Whereas two or three lines may suffice with a hand-written note, a typed note probably needs that little extra 'something'. Add a humorous anecdote or reminiscence, make reference to a shared interest or experience, or suggest a time to meet so that you can follow up your thanks in person.

Always sign your thank you noteRemember your signature
3. Always, always sign your thank you notes, cards and letters by hand! The final greeting ('lots of love', 'best wishes' etc.) should ideally be hand written too. Your signature is the one time that your lousy hand writing just doesn't matter (who cares if your signature is illegible!), while a type written name is unpleasantly impersonal and really does show a lack of effort.

4. It's a nice touch to begin your note by hand. 'My dear Katy' is always going to look more personal and give a better impression when it's handwritten. It doesn't take a lot of effort, and again legibility isn't such a big deal.

5. Invest in nice stationery. To convey a warmer, more personal feeling print out your note on colored paper, or paper with a pretty border or motif. Notes printed on plain white printer paper will always look impersonal and business-like.

6. Consider using a 'handwriting' font if you have one available. Cursive fonts generally convey a softer and more appreciative feel than serif and sans-serif fonts. Popular cursive fonts include Comic Sans MS, Monotype Corsiva and Lucida Handwriting. Check to see what you have installed on your computer.

7. Finally, typing your thank you note on an old manual typewriter can strike a nice balance between the 'formality' of computer printed thank you notes and the agony (for many) of hand written correspondence. It avoids the issue of legibility, while looking attractively 'retro'.

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