12 tips for writing sweet notes

Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, thank yous - so many occasions call for writing a nice note, and Hallmark keeps coming up with new ones. But if you don't find your feelings pre-printed and filed on a rack at the stationery store, you'll need to express them yourself. Read the tips below and find out how Mrs. Bell spreads sweetness and light through pen and paper.

Refer to something special about the person or your relationship
Even though there are massive numbers of cards for sale, targeted at every possible demographic and then some, people prefer to feel unique and understood - not sorted and labeled. And in any type of writing, specific works better than general. If you want to tell your teacher, “Your English class rocked,” then be sure to add, “Who knew I could identify with both Chaucer and Alice Walker?”
Be honest
Say what you mean. If you're at a loss for what to say, take a moment to think about what you really feel. Sincerity basically writes its own material. Here's an example I just thought of that I could write to Mr. Bell: “I'm so comfortable and happy when I'm around you. You always find a way to make me laugh. Thank you for being you.”
Don't shy away from corniness
Our true feelings may not be fashionably ironic or hip. So? If the recipient of your card can't handle the sappy truth, that's a sign that she or he doesn't appreciate the reality of your unvarnished, unmediated self. That said, don't feel you have to be corny, either. If you'd like to send the equivalent of a friendly punch in the arm, go for it. Depending on the audience, “Hey man, congrats on making it to 30. Enjoy it, cuz it's all downhill from here!” could work just as well as “Sweet stuff, I can't believe we've been together five years. I hope it goes on forever. You're the best.”
Be kind
All my talk of honesty shouldn't give you the idea that it's okay to say something mean or damn with faint praise. Even if you honestly feel that “It was nicer spending Christmas with you than I thought it would be,” find something else to say. Try “I had a good time getting to know you better” or “I really enjoyed making the sugar cookies - thanks for the recipe; I will try them at home.” You don't have to gush, but you do have to be nice.
Don't make reference to money
If someone has given you money, thank them for their “kind gift” and tell them that you appreciate their thinking of you. If you have done something special with the gift, such as put it in your savings or bought yourself a present, you may want to share this, but don't bother if it went into your groceries. If you are giving money to someone, either say nothing about it or talk more about what the money means: “I want you to know you have my full support,” “You make me proud,” or “Here's a contribution to your bright future.”
Make joyful reference to the future
I usually like to express some hope about the future, or say that I am looking forward to something. For example, I might write, “Hope to see you again soon,” or “Looking forward to our next visit,” or “You. Me. Snuggles. Tonight.” You can also try, “Can't wait to hold you in my arms,” or “Save me a spot next to you.” It's nice to imagine something delightful in the near future.
Make a reference to some aspect of the card
If you're writing in connection with a card that is interesting in some way, whether paper or electronic, it can be fun to make a reference to the card. For example, a recent birthday card I sent featured a little bird on the front wearing a party hat. I wish I had come up with the caption, “Happy Birday” - but anyway I found it quite endearing, especially since the person receiving the card really likes little birds. In general you may want to share with the recipient why you chose that card in particular, the special something that spoke to you.
Mention any gift
If the card accompanies a gift, and you still have room to fill after saying everything else on your mind, then you may want to mention why you think the recipient will enjoy the gift. Again, this shows that you are thinking about this person, and even if you turn out to be wrong about what he or she enjoys, people always like to know that someone is thinking about them.
Be brief
Unless your note is substituting for a long-overdue letter full of your news, don't worry if you don't have much to say. Short and sweet is good.
Don't repeat yourself
If you have a tendency to use the same words and phrases over and over, then try writing a draft of your note first and check for repeats. If you find some, think of other ways you could say a similar thing. For example, “nice,” “lovely,” “wonderful,” “delightful,” etc., could all be used, as could “wish,” “hope,” “look forward,” and “can't wait.”
Sign off
One of my favorite parts of writing notes comes right at the end. I like the old standards: “Love,” “Hugs,” “Big hugs,” “With love,” “Your friend,” as well as the formal expressions of cordiality, “Best,” “All the best,” “Wishing you the best,” and the somewhat flippant send-offs “Cheers,” “Cheerio,” and “Pip pip.” I also like all the variations on “Yours”-“yours truly,” “your lover,” “your one and only,” “yours forever,” and so on.  Use whatever fits your mood.
Embellish
If you have the time and are using pen and paper, you can make a card look very fun and friendly by drawing pictures or putting stickers on it. No need to be Rembrandt to scribble some smileys and flowers and hearts. I particularly like to put balloons or confetti and fireworks on birthday cards. Here is my easy smiley technique: draw two little circles, just touching. Put dots in them looking this way or that. Add another circle (small, big, or long) for the nose just below the eyes. Draw a smile - even, lopsided, squiggly, with a tongue hanging out, with or without cheeks.
Don't use smelly cards
Unless the recipient really likes them, I guess. Okay, this is just my personal taste. Though in general, people may be sensitive to smells and perfumes, so try not to use heavily scented paper.
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