correspondence etiquette Letters traditions

The Lost Art of the Handwritten Note

Repost from our friend Yanik Silver:


Let’s face it, in today’s digitally wired society there seems to be a slippery slope of what passes for meaningful communication. Look, I’m as guilty as anyone. Actually, I used text to give condolences on a friend’s loss of her father recently. I can do better.

Going beyond a Facebook message, text or email and actually create a connection, with intention, is when something much more magical happens.

I’ve always known it. You have too.

And a handwritten note is one of those little things that makes a big difference.

I’m re-learning it starting with my kids.  I got the idea to put a drawing and note into their lunch boxes every day for school. It started in the last month of school and now it’s continued into camp. They love it. And the fact that they love it makes me want to continue to wow them with a few cute little drawings and my semi-funny (at least to me) captions.

Here’s how it started (he didn’t get the ‘groaner’ of a joke here):

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Then I got some cool sparkly gel pens and they evolved a bit. Here are the ones from the end of school:

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2013-06-13 23.55.20

It really doesn’t take me too long and I love doing it since as a kid I wanted to be a cartoonist. I just Google some cartoon characters and then use that as inspiration.

It’s that handwritten quality that really makes it stand out. If you have little kids in your life, don’t their colorful notes mean so much to you? At Father’s day I got a handmade card from Zoe with a rocket ship on front since I’m going into space. And with instructions inside the card to color the page. I love it!


And from Zack I got a hand drawn card with a picture of me about how much he loves playing hockey with me. Priceless.

Everybody would love this…

There’s no reason I couldn’t do this in a meaningful way for people I want to keep and bring closer into my life too. Think to a time when you got a handwritten note from somebody it just meant so much more, right? I’ve got some notes from sales people or others I’ve worked with and they’ve always been elevated in my mind – but only if there’s a genuine and authentic nature to them. Not some cookie cutter “Thank you for your business. It was my pleasure to serve you, blah, blah, blah.”I guess better than nothing but not really meaningful.

Handwritten love letters

I recently sent my wife, Missy, a 3-page love letter from a 3X Maverick Multiplier Retreat in Chicago. We did a session at Lifebook with the Mavericks to explore creating and deepening your relationships. It made me stretch.

So at 3 o’clock in the morning I wrote out 33 reasons why I love her. Then I bought a cool wooden greeting card and popped it into the mail. It was a really incredible surprise for her to get the card with the note inside. I was away in Toronto on another trip and she told me she cried when she got it. Mission accomplished!

I’m not going to copy all of it here but you can see a bit of it. The amazing thing was writing it out I felt even more love and gratitude for who she truly is. It’s so much more than just buying a Hallmark card and handwriting in “I love you”. Try it some time.

I’ll also leave Missy little notes every once-in-a-while now too in random places for her to find. I used to love when she did that for me on trips. I’d find little post-it notes tucked into my socks or under a shirt when unpacking.

What about business contacts?  

Well wouldn’t you want to deepen those relationships? Of course. Part of what’s prompting me to write this was actually getting a text from one of our Maverick1000 members, Shelby Larson, She had spoken at Underground and I wrote her a little thank you note afterwards. She said she still has it on her desk. That’s pretty cool! (Actually I showed Shelby a rough draft of this first post and she told me she’s been on a handwritten note campaign. She gets 5 out per week to different categories of people she cares about.)


Direct mailers have known that handwriting works incredibly well. Have you ever got a blank #10 envelope handwritten to you with a maybe a post-it note attached to an “article” that reads “Try this it works”.

These are called tear sheet mailings and there are massive mailhouses that simulate handwriting. I used to use handwritten addresses in my first mail order business and feel like it increased results. It could even be as simple as a personalized post-it note or maybe a little note on the bottom of your checks to affiliates. I still do that when I sign my own checks.

Or think about books. If you’ve ever had a book signed to you from an author don’t you get more meaning if there’s something handwritten beyond just their regular catch phrase? I love it when authors send me their books along with a little inscription if I’ve impacted their lives in some way. Richard Branson signed his latest book, Screw Business As Usual, to me with this:


There’s truly something magical about handwriting – especially if you put some of your personality and authentic heart into it. If you’re a doodler like me include some of your doodles. If you like to create bubble letters – go for it. If you’re into flowers and animals – why not add a few creative touches? Start creating more personal notes you can and see what the results are.

There’s no doubt in my mind you’d stand out using more handwritten notes– head and shoulders over anybody else. It seems overwhelming if you feel like there are 100s of people you SHOULD be writing notes to. Or feeling obligated to. Maybe it’s a hold-off from when your parents forced you to write horrible Thank You notes after your 8th birthday party or something like that but…

…Screw it.

Start with those who really touch your heart. Maybe it’s your kids or partner first. Maybe it’s to your parents or someone else in your family. Or to your most meaningful customers. Or pick a new random connection who you want to get to know deeper. Just a simple ‘Thank you’ but done with style would knock their socks off. It can be long or short. Funny or deep.

Also it’ll help if you have supplies and stamps handy at your desk, in your office, in your purse, etc. Get some cool note cards that inspire you. I bought my last set from They had quite a few whimsical designs I liked. Or if you’re a bit more formal you can’t go wrong with Smythson of Bond Street.

I just picked up a book, the The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication by Margaret Shepherd. It’s pretty good and you’ll pick a few tips from there and note starters.

Need another reason? Handwriting also provides all sorts of benefits to you aside from the reaction and impact you’ll get. Here’s a Wall Street Journal article how handwriting trains the brain.

To me it’s even more personal. I know with my handwritten journal entries there’s more meaning there than just typing on a computer. I believe your handwriting is directly wired to unite your head and heart.

Update: After I wrote this post- I sent out a handwritten note to my friend whose father passed away. She told me she read the note 3-4 times and it was extremely meaningful. That made me feel great, and I’ve been continuing with notes to people I really admire and haven’t really told. Once you start making this a habit – you won’t want to break it.

Just try it. I’d love hear what happens with your experiments and please drop me a comment to continue the conversation.

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