Writing Meaningful Sentiments
Finding The Right Words
In centuries past, people had to write. There were no greeting cards or phones. And maybe without realizing it we miss that exchange of the hand written word today. We all start out feeling, "I can't think of a thing to say." Yet when you put a pen to paper—and resist the urge to judge the results—very valuable words spill out. Isn't there someone you know who would love to hear them? Why not take a chance today?
Tips on Finding the Right Words
1. Identify your feelings about the person and event. Ask yourself, "What do I really want to say?" and "What does this person—and occasion—mean to me?" Then write down your thoughts "as is." Remember, there are no "grades" and spontaneity counts. You can polish, if necessary, afterward. (If it feels more comfortable, try writing on scrap paper first.)
2. Tailor the message to the occasion or gift. Being lighthearted doesn't hurt. When her best friend's husband received an important promotion, one woman wrote, "Cream always rises to the top. With admiration."
A second-time bride keyed her "thank you's" to each wedding present. To someone she barely knew, who sent a painted wooden duck, she wrote: "Marriage is ducky—just like your gift."
3. Consider the person's hobbies or interests. Is he or she interested in sports, books, carpentry, real estate, shopping, food, wine, travel, music? Use the subject as a device for a message. When an avid doubles player was hospitalized, I wrote, "Are you in the wing with tennis court?"
4. Use clippings or photos. Clip and send appropriate articles (on hometown news, for example) to a child away at college or a friend who has moved away. Add a handwritten line or two for a quick, easy, yet personal way to keep in touch.
Send a picture of the kids, the whole family, your home, the dog for almost any occasion. Add a suitable message, such as, "Happy anniversary from everyone at our house."
5. Share a memory. In a condolence note for the death of someone you knew personally, include a mention of any encounter that sticks in your memory. Even the smallest reminiscence will be received with gratitude.
6. Keep an inventory of lines that say a lot. Just four words, "I'm thinking of you," speak volumes and can be used over and over again for everything from sympathy and get-well notes to birthday messages. Use the words "What a" to precede a range of items or activities, as in "What a delicious dinner" or "What a thoughtful gift."
One wife recalls the note she received from a new relative after her wedding. It read, "Welcome to the family. What a wonderful choice Ben has made." You can imagine the glow that gave her. You can do the same for someone you know. All it takes is a pen and paper.
Florence Isaacs is the author of the best-selling Just A Note To Say...The Perfect Words For Every Occasion; Business Notes: Writing Personal Notes That Build Professional Relationships; Here's To You! Creating Your Own Meaningful Toasts And Tributes For Any Occasion; and My Deepest Sympathies: Meaningful Sentiments For Condolence Notes And Conversations Plus A Guide To Eulogies. She is a past president of The American Society of Journalists and Authors. Her website address is:florenceisaacs.com.