Hand Written Notes Are a Rare Commodity

Hand Written Notes Are a Rare Commodity
They’re Also More Important Than Ever…

John Coleman….Harvard Business Review

Personal handwritten notes grow rarer by the day. According to the U.S. Postal Service’s annual survey, the average home only received a personal letter once every seven weeks in 2010, down from once every two weeks in 1987. And The Wall Street Journal recently lamented the “lost art of the handwritten note.” Some might claim that in a wired world— where emails, tweets, and text messages are more accessible than handwritten notes— this is the natural evolution of communication. Who has time for stamps, stationery, and “manual” spell-check, after all? But I think it’s premature to write off the importance of handwritten notes. They remain impactful and unique in several ways.

Handwritten notes mean more because they cost more. Emails, tweets, `texts, or FaceBook messages are essentially costless. They’re easy to write and free to send, and you and I produce hundreds of them every day. A recent study indicated the average corporate email account sent or received more than 100 emails per day.

But 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.

The value is amplified by the fact that personal messages are often notes of gratitude, civility, and appreciation that reach beyond the conventional thank you. Because handwritten notes are so painstakingly slow— to draft, to send, to assure delivery— they’re often a poor way to ask for things. Instead, they’re more frequently used to remind others that you value your relationship.

While saying “thank you” is important, the beauty of a well-craft handwritten note is that it can show deeper investment and appreciation than a simple thank you can. It can follow up on a conversation, remind someone they’re not forgotten, raise new issues, or even include a gift that varieties its own meaning. And, in a world where so much communication is merely utilitarian, thee simple acts of investment, remembrance, gratitude, and appreciation can show the people who matter n your life and business that they are important to you.

As an added bonus, studies show that those who express gratitude also benefit by experiencing better health and sleep, less anxiety, and more life satisfaction. They benefit giver and receiver alike.

Finally, handwritten notes have a permanence. How many of us have our old high school yearbooks in a closet somewhere? How many keep shoeboxes with old letters or short notes from former colleagues or friends? Email is “permanent” in its own way, our electronic messages are easy to keep and search in huge volumes. But they aren’t tangible and enduring in the same way those old notes are. We don’t print emails and display them on our desks, refrigerators, and mantles the way we do with letters and notes from friends.

—Ben Case Chief Executive Focused On Fundraising