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Small Business Expenses Solution: The Moleskine Daily Planner Set

11 Jan

I’m always trying to balance the digital part of my life with my penchant for low-tech, traditional paper and pen. As a freelance writer and web content marketer, that means I’ve tried just about every system coming and going – both digital and paper.

No matter what I do, I end up at the end of the year, sorting through receipts, checking all my notebooks for scribbles on mileage and lunch meetings, and scouring my email for automatic payments on business bills. It’s humbling, if not downright depressing. It also takes three or four days and I’m in such a foul mood everyone cuts me a HUGE path. For years, “I’m working on taxes” was the only thing I could say that would actually strike terror into my children and make them quiet and cautious.

For 2013, I’m taking a new path. I’m going to use the 2013 Moleskine Daily Planner Set.

Moleskine 2013 Daily Planner Box Set on EuropeanPaper.com

Moleskine 2013 Daily Planner Box Set on EuropeanPaper.com

More to Love; Less to Carry

I like keeping a notebook with me all the time to capture ideas, snippets of conversations, and general information I may need to reference later. The problem is, I usually go out without what I need because I don’t like to carry too much when I leave the house. The smaller size of a pocket planner solves that as it is small enough to fit in my purse (so I’ll always have it with me), yet big enough for my ideas to fill it up before returning it to the binder set.

Why This Will Work

The Moleskine Daily Planner Set meets my needs beautifully by giving me a new daily planner each month with a full page per day for jotting down mileage AS it’s HAPPENING in one place, automatic payments that hit my account, automatic withdrawals to pay bills, who I meet for a business lunch and what we discuss, and I can even record those little office supplies I pick up while I’m out doing personal shopping.

I only wish each month had the expandable pocket in the back to hold those pesky little receipts that are so easy to lose. Since they don’t come with one, I’ll be adding them to each volume myself.

Once the month is over, I’ll return the book to the binder and take out a new one. At the end of the year, I’ll have a complete set outlining my year in business in one convenient place. And I’ll have a written record should I ever get audited (without having to scour my computer system and pull together old files).

My income tracking is handled online (I use Cashboard and love it). I can pull a year-end report and have all the invoicing and payment information in a flash because I do all my billing through that one online system and all my clients pay online. It’s the little expenses here and there, the daily stuff, that make me crazy. I’m confident the Moleskine Daily Planner Set should solve the problem.

Why My Other Systems Didn’t Work

I like a paper version of bookkeeping records – it’s faster to jot down expenses than to power up a computer and open a program to do it – but never could remember to carry my record book with me everywhere (and didn’t want to, since it was so big). I’d also forget to log items when I returned to the office, meaning I’d lose business expenses deductions every year to my faulty system. It also means I always felt like I was playing “catch up.”

I’ve tried phone apps and tablet apps and computer apps. They were always too time-intensive to set up, too awkward to use on the run, or too focused in their application (meaning they would only track mileage and I’d have to open another app to do meals and another to do miscellaneous business expenses like office supplies, professional subscriptions and equipment). The few that showed promise invariably crashed and lost several months worth of data that cost me more time to recover and/or research all over again than they were worth. It also made my language get a little too colorful for comfort. Granted, today’s digital systems and “cloud” backups mean this happens less, but I’ve been burned too many times, now. No thank you.

What I need is a single, portable place to dump and store all my information. I love the fact that this page-a-day format will eliminate my need to write the date of each purchase. I know that’s a little thing, but it irks me. With these monthly volumes, I’ll jot down what it was, how much it was, and where I bought it – and list the project if it’s for a specific client – then slip the receipt in the (soon to be) homemade back pocket.

I Want a SIMPLE System

I can’t wait to get my set to begin my new system. It’s currently on order so I can start the year right – and of course the planner set will be the first items listed in my business expenses for January! I’m going to be so organized and efficient this year! (And I won’t have to lug around a huge book to accomplish it – just a single slender monthly volume.)

The ONLY thing that could make it better would be a built-in back pocket per notebook and access to a set that was varying shades of purple instead of rainbow colors … but that’s just me.

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Meet the Writer: Angela Allen has been creating online content for small business clients since 1999, when she had to use a painfully slow dial-up connection. Now, she specializes in real estate topics and organic content marketing for entrepreneurs on a gloriously high speed connection. When she’s not writing for WickedWriter.com clients, she enjoys the discipline of living small in her high-tech cabin deep in the woods of Kentucky, blogging on WickedBlog, and enjoying the pure tactile titillation of going “old-school” and writing with a fountain pen on luxury paper.

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Editor’s Note: Shopping for a 2013 Daily Planner? Discover all available 2013 day-per-page datebooks here. Prefer weekly or monthly formats? We’ve got those too for 2013: All Weekly 2013 Planners and All 2013 Monthly Planners.

Blogroll: Our Top 6 Most Fabulous & Informative Blog Posts of 2012

5 Jan

How to Write: A Letter of Resignation

  • Resigning from something – whether it’s a job or a volunteer position with a local non-profit – is an occasion that should be given some care and attention. In most cases, your letter of resignation will be kept on file permanently and is something that could potentially resurface in the future. Here are a few essential components to any good resignation letter and a few best practices as well.

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

  • Sympathy Notes really get a lot of scrutiny from the recipient. A  sympathy note is a reminder that the recipient has many people in his or her life to help fill in that empty spot. There are lots of things you can say in a sympathy note, most of which are probably fine. However, there are a few things you should avoid saying in a sympathy note and I’ll tell you why.

How to Write With a Fountain Pen

  • No matter what fountain pen you have; whether it’s a $2 drugstore find or a $1,000 special edition, it’s important to understand what the tool was designed for so you use it properly. It’s also useful to find other people who use fountain pens and ask them for their tips and advice. That said, here are my tips for how to write with fountain pens.

How to Write: Improving Your Cursive Skills

  • Cursive is a word that basically just means the letters are joined. So, whether your cursive is bubbly and wide or teeny and scratchy; as long as those letters are connected, you, my friend, are writing in cursive. Here are my best tips for improving your cursive.

How to Write: Friendship / Appreciation Notes

  • Friendship and Appreciation notes are a special kind of personal correspondence and are always treasured by the recipient. They can be a challenge to write because they require the expression of honest, heartfelt emotion and sentiment when we, at least Americans, don’t normally do that. Start to change that with this post!

How to Write: Thank You Notes

  • Thank you notes do not serve the purpose of simply naming (and sometimes also describing) a gift someone sent you. This post in the How To Write series is meant to help you write thank you notes well. And we begin by understanding one subtle difference: a thank you note is different from just a thank you. They are not one and the same.
Click the image below for even more How to Write blog posts in the series, and enjoy!
Read more of our How to Write blog post series

How to Write: Letter of Recommendation

12 Nov

How to Write: Letter of Resignation by Cole Imperi on EuropeanPaper.com/Blog The most important thing to keep in mind when writing a letter of recommendation is that you are writing to present new information; not to confirm information that is already available. Let’s go through some scenarios:

Recommendation Letters for Students

Many graduate-level education programs don’t highly consider recommendation letters that simply confirm information available in a student’s transcript. This means information like grades and test scores.

If your student has an A in your class, it’s best not to write something like:

“Student is very conscientious, arrives to class on time, has never missed a lesson and is 3 out of 67 students academically. He would be an excellent addition to your program.”

The above example is simply confirming what’s in the student’s transcript. One can easily tell this student is really good at being a student. But is that all they can do? Are they able to be anything else? The emphasis should be on their ability to apply their knowledge in the real world, and it should reference their enthusiasm and interest in whatever their course of study is.

Recommendation Letters for Employees & Interns

Your first step is to ask what the letter is for. Is this for another internship? If so, where? Or is this for admission into some sort of educational program? Your letter of recommendation will be more valuable if you are able to write it with an understanding of what its purpose is for.

Your letter should be concise and thorough. It’s actually OK to mention a weakness as long as you are emphasizing the positive. When mentioning a weakness like “She/he doesn’t always know when to ask for help,” be sure to end with a positive solution like “She/he doesn’t always know when to ask for help, but after we paired her/him with a senior-level manager to mentor them, we saw immense development of skills and ability. Their leadership skills grew as a result and their contribution to the team multiplied tenfold.”

A letter of recommendation for an employee is not a request to state that the employee showed up on time or did their job. It’s a request to understand more about the character and ability of the person. They want to know if this person is likely to persevere through difficulty, or give up. If they’re able to adjust to changes and adapt to new situations. If they can work with a wide range of personality types and still keep projects moving forward. They don’t want to hear that they took no sick days in 2012. They want to hear that the applicant is not only capable of working independently, but also able to ask if they’re unsure of something.

Recommendation Letters for Volunteers

A volunteer is special. They are giving up their most precious resource—time—to your cause or organization. Keeping that volunteer volunteering is vastly important. If they’re ready to move on from your organization, it’s your job to make sure they continue giving their time somewhere else. Volunteers are precious resources!

Writing letters of recommendation for volunteers should involve two things: statements about the volunteer’s character and information about your organization. Each organization or group that utilizes volunteer time is built differently. How your group is structured may not align with how another’s is. It’s important for the person reading the letters of recommendation to not only get a feel for the volunteer’s character, but also to understand the inner workings of your organization.

Recommendation Letters Are Not About You

It’s generally useful to provide a paragraph’s worth of information about yourself. How you know the person you are recommending and a little about how you interacted/worked with them. But that’s it. No need to get into specifics. The letter is about them, not about you.

How to Structure a Letter of Recommendation

Be formally concise. Your first paragraph is the statement of recommendation. Your second paragraph covers who you are and how you worked with the person being recommended. The next 1-3 paragraphs should each detail a specific example (all positive) of situations or events that clearly demonstrate certain aspects of the character of the person being recommended. Your final paragraph should serve to summarize: restate your strong recommendation on the basis of the person’s demonstrated strong character and positive attitude.

When NOT to Write a Letter of Recommendation

Simply, don’t write a recommendation letter for someone if you don’t mean it. You will waste their time and yours. If you need a way to decline writing a letter of recommendation, you can simply say that you do not have enough time to write an adequate letter.

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Editor’s Note: This article is part of the How to Write series. Read the others here:

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

How to Write: Ideal Business Correspondence Notes

How to Write: Friendship / Appreciation Notes

How to Write: Thank You Notes

How to Write: With a Fountain Pen

How to Write: To a New Penpal

How to Maintain Your Pen Collection

How to Write: Improving Your Cursive Skills

How to Write: A Letter of Resignation

How to Write: A Letter of Resignation

10 Sep

How to Write: Letter of Resignation by Cole Imperi on EuropeanPaper.com/BlogResigning from something – whether it’s a job or a volunteer position with a local non-profit – is an occasion that should be given some care and attention. In most cases, your letter of resignation will be kept on file permanently and is something that could potentially resurface in the future. Here are a few essential components to any good resignation letter and a few best practices as well.

1. Formatting

Format the resignation letter formally. If you use a word processor like Microsoft Word, you can use one of the pre-installed templates. There are several that will work; one in particular is called ‘Formal Letter.’ Use a heavier, decent paper when you print it off as well to add a more professional look.

2. Keep it Simple

There is no need to detail any specifics in a resignation letter. You might want to describe a situation or take time to write something a bit lengthier – don’t. Save that for your exit interview if you wish. If there is no exit interview, perhaps offering up those additional details would be better delivered in person verbally or through a thoughtful email. Ask yourself if anything more really needs to be said.

3. Include Basic Information

Make sure your full first and last name, current mailing address, date, the name of the company or organization you are resigning from, their address and your signature (in ink) are all listed in the letter.

4. List Your Resignation Date

It’s very important that you list the date your resignation will be effective. Whether you already told your employer in person is no matter, you need to have it in writing. If your employer has requirements for giving notice (the standard is two weeks), this letter will serve as proof that you gave enough notice.

5. Be Positive

Even if you are leaving on bad terms, it’s important to not be negative in your resignation letter. Imagine if a future employer saw this letter. Would they be left with a bad taste? If you are finding it hard to be positive, at the very least thank the company or the organization for the opportunity and leave it at that.

6. Offer to Help

Offer to assist in finding a replacement or to train your replacement. It’s important to show that you are a team player and are trying to avoid leaving the company in a lurch.

7. Clarify Final Duties

It is good practice to not only list your date of resignation, but to note that you need clarification on your final duties and any other final matters before you go. This helps the company or organization know that they need to figure out what is left as well. If you’ve already discussed your final duties and responsibilities, it would be appropriate to list those out in writing in your resignation letter.

Here’s the thing about resignation letters. You never know when – or how – you’ll cross paths with your former boss or coworkers in the future. The fact is, you may never, but the world is a very small place sometimes. If you leave anything in writing, make sure it’s positive and professional.

Below is a basic example of a resignation letter (click to enlarge). What experiences (positive or negative) have you had with resignation letters?

How to Write a Resignation Letter via EuropeanPaper.com/Blog

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Editor’s Note: This article is part of the How to Write series. Read the others here:

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

How to Write: Ideal Business Correspondence Notes

How to Write: Friendship / Appreciation Notes

How to Write: Thank You Notes

How to Write: With a Fountain Pen

How to Write: To a New Penpal

How to Maintain Your Pen Collection

How to Write: Improving Your Cursive Skills

How to Write: Improving Your Cursive Skills

7 Sep

How to Write: Improving Your Cursive Skills on EuropeanPaper.com/Blog

Cursive is a word that basically just means the letters are joined. So, whether your cursive is bubbly and wide or teeny and scratchy; as long as those letters are connected, you, my friend, are writing in cursive.

Having a solid cursive writing style at your fingertips is useful. Cursive is nice to bring out for special occasions, like birthday cards and letters, and once you really get it down, it can become a beautiful style of day-to-day writing.

What tends to be most frustrating about this style of writing is that things can look a bit uneven. If you look at your own natural cursive and you aren’t happy with something, can it be attributed to uneveness? In my experience as a long-time letter writer, penmanship and calligraphy instructor, and type designer, this is exactly the case. Here are my best tips for improving your cursive.

 Slow Down

Whether you are printing or writing in cursive, this tip will always ring true. Take something you’ve written in cursive and set it down next to you. On another sheet of paper, write the same exact thing but slow down when writing it. Compare the two. Is there a difference? When we slow down to write, it gives our hands time to create smoother strokes and more consistent connections. Get used to writing slower and you’ll soon be able to speed up without losing any quality in your penmanship.

 Same Angle, Same Position

When you are writing in cursive, take note of the angle of the pen and the angle of your hand. Whatever angle you start with—keep it throughout the entire piece of writing. You see, when we change the angle of writing mid-stream that’s when we have problems.

 Be Cognizant of Connections

Cursive is all about connections. If you have uneven connection points, those can be fixed by either slowing down or keeping a consistent angle. If you find yourself having to draw longer connections sometimes, you probably have changed your angle. If you find yourself with short and rough connection points, you need to slow down. These connection strokes in cursive are what make cursive cursive. They are what make this style of penmanship beautiful. They make it this way because they provide rhythm and repetition. Do you know what happens in a song where the drummer can’t keep a consistent beat? It doesn’t sound right. Same with cursive, keep that consistent stroke and connection going on.

 It Takes A Little Time

Slowing down at first will give you some ‘breathing room’ in properly developing your style of cursive. If you don’t slow down at first, it’s like building the walls of the house before the foundation. Slowing down does not mean you are not a good writer or you are not capable of writing faster, it just means you are taking time to really master something well so that in the future, when you do speed up, you’ll be prepared and will be producing something that is the same quality as what you produced at a slower speed.

Your Cursive Will Be Different Than My Cursive

If you’re like me, you were taught cursive in second grade. We all were taught based on the same model and were graded on how close we were to that model. Don’t approach your penmanship the same way.

How I write cursive will not be how you write cursive. It can be helpful to look at other writing samples for ideas or as ways to diagnose connection problems (i.e. how others connect an ‘r’ to an ‘s’), but you should really work on developing your cursive independently. Go into it with the mindset that you are honing your own cursive; not that you are honing someone else’s cursive.

Find a Rhythm

One thing that may help you improve your cursive quickly is to find a rhythm in the way you write. Have you ever sat down to write and you noticed that words you were writing were flowing onto the page with ease? Did you notice that your hand might have fallen into a ‘rhythm’ of upstrokes and downstrokes? If you can write in a way where your upstrokes and downstrokes take the same amount of time, your writing will reflect this style. Because this tip is a bit abstract, I’m going to explain a simple exercise so that you can actually ‘hear’ your cursive. All you need is a felt tipped pen of some kind (or any pen that will give some squeak or scratch), any kind of paper and some quiet. Write in your natural cursive and ‘listen’ to your letters. Listen for your upstrokes and your downstrokes as you write. Does it sound smooth and consistent? Try writing in a way so that you ‘hear’ a rhythm in the way you write.

I’ve included an image of the ‘traditional’ model of cursive for you to take a look at. Chances are, you naturally do not write your capital Z like shown. That’s OK. Write how you write.

Traditional-Cursive-Image - How to Improve Your Cursive on EuropeanPaper.com/Blog

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Editor’s Note: This article is part of the How to Write series. Read the others here:

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

How to Write: Ideal Business Correspondence Notes

How to Write: Friendship / Appreciation Notes

How to Write: Thank You Notes

How to Write: With a Fountain Pen

How to Write: To a New Penpal

How to Maintain Your Pen Collection

5 Tips for Effective Travel Planning With Your Academic Planner

15 Jun

With hectic home lives and crazy work schedules, planning a trip can seem like a daunting task. However, an academic planner can help you do all the legwork well in advance – so all that’s left to do is enjoy the journey! Plus, since an academic planner is built to accommodate summer, it’s the perfect planner to outline summer vacation plans.

Block Out Dates

The first step to using your academic planner to plan your travels is to pick the dates and block them out on your planner. Because you’re able to work far in advance with an 18-month planner, you can plot out all the trips you’re planning and prevent accidentally double booking yourself. Cross out the dates or highlight them in a specific color so that you don’t overlap commitments.

Schedule To-dos

Once you have your trip dates blocked out, use your planner to schedule the entire trip’s to dos. Start with the date of the trip and back up. For example, if you want to start pricing flights four weeks before you travel, flip four weeks before your departure date and write, “Price out flights.” If you want to wait to book the flight until two weeks before (for enough time to check for that last-minute screaming deal), flip two weeks after you put the pricing note and write, “Book flights.” Follow these same steps for each task – booking a hotel, renewing your passport, buying traveler’s insurance, and so on.

Track Your Budget

You know how much you have budgeted for your trip. Jot that amount down on the day you depart. Each time you spend money on the trip – paying for the flight, buying a new bathing suit, or picking up sunscreen – subtract that amount from the total. You can even calculate estimates for your expenses as you plan the trip. For example, back up to the date you decided to start pricing flights. Use that page to write notes on how much the flight will be on various airlines so that when you go to purchase the tickets, you have a budget reference. Bonus: If you don’t spend as much as you anticipated in the planning stages, you’ll have a balance to use for extra souvenirs!

Create Lists

In addition to planning your dates, to dos, and budget, you can use your academic planner to create lists for each aspect of your trip. If you jot the lists on the day you need to do them, you’ll stay organized and won’t forget crucial information. On your planner page for the day before you depart, start a packing list. Even if the trip is eight months away, if you think of something – don’t forget extra camera batteries – write it down.

Get Creative

Use the notes pages in your planner to get creative. Paste images of your destination on the notes pages to motivate and inspire you. During your trip, use the pages to journal or scrapbook about your adventures. And when the trip is through, add your favorite pictures from the trip and archive the planner.

Using your 12 or 18-month planner can help you plan your trip down to the details in advance. You won’t be scrambling around the night before your flight leaves, trying to remember everything you wanted to bring!

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 Meet the Writer:Maggie Marton is a freelance writer who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with her husband and their three darling dogs. View more of Maggie’s work at MaggieMarton.com

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Top 5 Places to Keep a Notebook for Moments of Inspiration

1 Jun

Moleskine Classic Large Ruled Notebook (5 x 8.25) on EuropeanPaper.com

Moleskine Classic Large Ruled Notebook on EuropeanPaper.com

Bedside – The Classic Location

The bedside table is an obvious location for many, but its importance just can’t be overlooked. Leaving a notebook at your bedside is perfect to remind you to write and reflect at the end of every day. Record late-night thoughts, sketches, plans for the week, overall goals, or love letters in a Moleskine Classic Large Ruled Notebook to hold your deepest thoughts in one place.

Coffee Table – Community Notebook

A notebook on the coffee table can be a reminder to write instead of (or during) watching TV. It is also the perfect place to leave a notebook that everyone can write in. Leave reminders, messages, and respond to the media, or write down quotes of friends and about the good times you’ve had! The Paperblanks Saddleworn Small Wrap Journal is a good option because it is sturdy, plus a great decorative item. Encourage guests to pick it up, look at it, and write in it as a memento. It also has a back pocket where you can store photos and other memorabilia.

Leuchtturm1917 Pocket Soft Cover Plain Notebook (3.5 x 6) on EuropeanPaper.com

Leuchtturm1917 Pocket Soft Cover Plain Notebook on EuropeanPaper.com

In Your Pocket – Journalist Style

The pocket notebook is common among journalists and other professionals on-the-go, but is really useful to artists, writers, and designers of all kinds. Once you get used to it, you’ll start to notice ideas everywhere and jot them down in the moment (instead of trying to recollect it all at the end of the day). A Leuchtturm1917 Pocket Soft Cover Plain Notebook is perfect as it’s not too bulky and you can jot down notes or doodle with the complete freedom of the plain pages. Keep track of ideas, reminders, phone numbers, spending, schedules, and to-do lists in one convenient book that’s always with you!

Shampoo Shelf – Spontaneous Thought

Many ideas come in times of meandering thought. The shower is a perfect example. Usually, we shower first thing after waking up in the morning or for others, after a long day to wash off the daily stress. When your mind is turning on or off, anticipating or reflecting on the day, ideas flow freely without the confines of the hourly schedule. This is the perfect random-idea-generating time so don’t miss out – record lyrics, article ideas, and reminders with a Rite in the Rain Soft Cover Universal Notebook and All-Weather Pen in the shower … because you can!

Rhodia Premium Staplebound No. 16 Notepad (6 x 8.25) on EuropeanPaper.com

Rhodia Premium Staplebound No. 16 Notepad on EuropeanPaper.com

Glove Box – On the Road

It is important to always have a notebook when traveling, and a lot of us get to new places (physically and mentally) by driving. Keep a Rhodia Premium Staplebound No. 16 Notepad in your car and you’ll always have something to write in. Important for remembering random ideas on the road, it will also assure that you have a place to write down directions, keep a travel log, review restaurants, or keep a daily journal. Once you hit the road, you never know where you’ll end up, but you’ll also know how you got there!

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Meet the Writer: Anthony Pagaza was EuropeanPaper.com‘s stellar Spring 2012 intern from the University of Colorado. When he catches a moment between school and work, Anthony enjoys deep sleeps, good eats, and epic drum solos.  After the completion of a Journalism degree in August 2012, he plans on pursuing a career in the advertising industry. 

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How to Write: Thank You Notes

17 May

Thank you notes do not serve the purpose of simply naming (and sometimes also describing) a gift someone sent you. More often than not though, that is exactly what we send out, if we manage to send anything at all:

“Dear Friend, thank you so much for the beautiful red silk scarf. I love it.”

Not so great, right?

This post in the How To Write series is meant to help you write thank you notes well. And we begin by understanding one subtle difference: a thank you note is different from just a thank you. They are not one and the same.

Four Tips for a Proper Thank You Note

First, one should always acknowledge the specific item you received. The reason this is important is because it shows you paid attention to the specific gift the giver chose for you. This is especially important in group giving situations; like a party where someone receives a significant number of gifts. You want to thank each person for the specific gift they gave you and show that you paid attention to who gave what.

Second, it is very good practice to mention why you love the gift, or why the gift was meaningful to you. If you received a beautiful red silk scarf and you appreciate its quality, mention that aspect of it. If you received something like a gift card, something appropriate and apt to say is that you are so glad the giver gave you that option.

Third, anytime you can make the note about the giver, you should. Even in just a small way. For example, if your incredibly artistic friend whom you admire so much gave you a gift, you could write something like, “Thank you so much for the beautiful red silk scarf. I have always admired your eye for beauty and your ability to create it, too. This scarf will serve as a great reminder to me of your talent I so admire and our friendship.”

Sometimes, we receive gifts from people we aren’t exactly fond of. Sometimes, people give gifts not by choice, but by obligation. Hopefully, those instances are rare for you, but how do you thank someone who gave you a gift you don’t like? And you know they don’t like you? The answer is simple: you do the same way as above.

However, that brings me to my fourth tip: tell the truth. If you love the gift, you want to express that sentiment. If you didn’t like the gift, don’t hype it up, just say thank you in a short and sweet note. Don’t include any untruths in your note.

An example of a Thank You Note in an office setting.

Appropriate Timing

When do you send thank you notes? Anytime someone gives you a gift valued at about $5 or more is a good practice. If someone gives you something, no matter how small, and includes a tag or card, then 100% of the time should you send a written thank you note.

If you are ill and people stop by, leaving you things to make you feel better or perform some other act of care and concern, you should write a thank you note. If someone close to you passes away, you should write a note to anyone who came to the funeral or visitation, left flowers or made a donation. But as with all notes, send a thank you note anytime you intuitively feel you should or anytime you just want to.

Thank you notes are a simple and elegant thing. They serve as powerful acknowledgement of our appreciation and respect, and they allow us to take time to really, truly offer thanks to someone else.

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in the How to Write series. Read the others here:

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

How to Write: Ideal Business Correspondence Notes

How to Write: Friendship / Appreciation Notes

 

How to Write: Friendship / Appreciation Notes

3 May

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and the mail arrives. A few bills, some junk mail and … oh, what’s this? A small handwritten note. You open the envelope and read what’s inside:

To my friend,

Today, I was reminded in conversation with a colleague at work about our friendship. This colleague was sharing some difficult news related to recent events in her life and said she had found she had no ‘true’ friends.

I count you among my blessings. You and I have been friends since we were in our teens and while we may not talk every day or see each other all that often, I am so grateful for our friendship. I know I can call you or reach out whenever I need to and you’ll always be there.

Thanks for being a part of my life,

In friendship,

Your Friend

Wow! Imagine getting something like that in the mail. What would that mean to you, to hear from a friend out of the blue. Especially when there was no real ‘reason’ for it; no gift had been given, no favor had been done.

A Personal Challenge

Friendship and Appreciation notes are a special kind of personal correspondence and are always treasured by the recipient. They can be a challenge to write because they require the expression of honest, heartfelt emotion and sentiment when we, at least Americans, don’t normally do that.

Culturally, Americans express honest emotion in times of grief: “I am so sorry for your loss. It made me cry when I heard the news. I love you so much and I’ll do whatever I can to help.”

And in times of happiness: “Congratulations on the job! I knew you’d get a position like this–you totally deserve it. I’m so happy for you! I’m so excited for you!”

But what about just in regular times; in day-to-day life? We don’t really do that kind of thing. Herein lays the reason why Friendship/Appreciation Notes are not so common.

Get Started:

  1. Think of a friend. Whoever comes to mind first is probably a great candidate. Or, think of someone that has been on your mind lately for whatever reason, even if you haven’t spoken to them recently.
  2. Answer the questions, “Why do I appreciate them?” and “What made me think of them specifically?”
  3. Draft your note on notebook or copy paper first. A basic written formula is:
    1. Greeting
    2. Why you are writing
    3. What you want to say
    4. Closing, positive statement
    5. Sign off
  4. Once it looks how you’d like it, slowly write the final words onto a nice card or stationery.
  5. Seal and send off.

Here’s a sample you could write to someone who has been a lifelong friend.

Break It Down:

Greeting:

Dear Name

Why You Are Writing:

You and I have been friends for about 20 years. I remember when we met and how quickly we became close! In these past 20 years, you’ve seen me get married, get fired from a job, find a new job, have a child, buy a house, move out-of-state, and a whole lot in between. You have truly been a constant in my life; in fact, we’ve been friends for more than ½ the time I’ve been alive.

What You Want To Say:

I just wanted to write to thank you for your friendship and for sticking by me the whole time. You are someone I not only enjoy spending time with, but someone I greatly admire.

Closing, Positive Statement

See you at the annual Turkey Bowl Game this Thanksgiving

Sign Off

Your Name

Friendship/Appreciation notes can be hard to write because we’re not used to thanking people for being your friend. In reality, what you’re doing is acknowledging the friendship and thereby, acknowledging the friend. Acknowledgement like this is a powerful thing. Write a note to a friend this week. They will cherish it, and feel happy knowing they have a friend like you that would take the time to write them.

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Editor’s Note: This is the third article in the How to Write series. Read the others here:

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

How to Write: Ideal Business Correspondence Notes

 

How to Write: Ideal Business Correspondence Notes

19 Apr

Writing thank you notes and get well soon cards are easy compared to ‘professional’ correspondence (also known as business correspondence). At least, most people would tell you this. Writing a quick thank you note to grandma is way less complex than writing to thank an interviewer for their time in interviewing you for a job you still hope to get.

Professional correspondence is different from personal correspondence in that personal correspondence refers to writing between family or friends while professional correspondence refers to writing between people who interact professionally (at least primarily). Imagine you have a colleague that works for a competitor. You both know each other and get along great and have met at a few lunch events. If you put that person on a ‘friend’ or ‘colleague’ scale, what side would weigh heavier? That is how you know where to write from; a personal zone or a professional zone.

However, written correspondence in a professional setting can be tricky. Here’s why:

  1. You may not know the person that well. For example, you don’t know if they would appreciate a more casual tone or a more formal tone.
  2. The occasion that is motivating you to write may not be a familiar one. Many of us sit through only a handful of job interviews a few times in life. Raises and promotions are also less common. What do you say in unfamiliar waters?
  3. You are writing because you know you should … and you don’t know what to say. You know you need to thank your boss for letting you leave two hours early every Friday, but what do you say beyond ‘thank you for letting me leave two hours early every Friday”?
  4. There’s pressure. You want everything to be perfect, but if you write something and it is taken the wrong way, or you spell something wrong, it’s hard not to let it gnaw at you afterward.

In professional cases, more often than not, you’ll find you need to write whether you’re looking for a job, have employment, or own a business. This means you should write after an interview; a promotion or raise; you find some potential new business and want to turn it into actual business; a client or colleague does something for you; or you gain a client or customer.

These are all examples of positive correspondence situations. Negative correspondence is another beast entirely and there are different guidelines there. An example of negative professional correspondence would be a letter of complaint.

My guidelines for positive professional correspondence:

  1. Use nice paper. No notebook paper here. You always want to make a good first impression right out of the envelope.
  2. Write as close to the ‘event’ as possible. For example, if you have a job interview in the morning on a Wednesday, your thank you note should be in the mail Thursday.
  3. Be your professional self. If you are very laid back, very relaxed, very casual and funny person, there’s no need to ‘hide’ any of that behind formal language. Be exactly who you are, but through a professional lens. For example, a colleague of mine is a complete class clown. He’s very adept at what he does for a living, too. His stationery of choice? Each beautifully engraved note card tells a classic joke. It’s his way of being himself, but professionally.
  4. It’s generally better to err on the side of more formal than casual. Imagine that you are the note’s recipient. How would you react?
  5. Better to write a little less than too much. When you write to someone you may not know very well, less is often more. Plus, the more you write, the more chance there is something can be misinterpreted or misunderstood.

Finally, how does one write what needs to be written? Your best bet is to write a few drafts on notebook paper first (save your good paper for when you know exactly what you’ll be writing). And as for what to write, the simplest formula is to start by stating why you are writing, explain what that means to you, and end on a positive, upbeat note. Once you get the words right, write them out neatly and slowly on your professional stationery.

Here’s an example of a note written to thank someone for an interview, but they don’t yet have the job:

I hope this How-To was helpful. Professional correspondence might be a new area for you or an old friend; either way, please leave your own advice and any questions in the comments!

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Editor’s Note: This is the second article in the How to Write series. Read the other here:

How to Write: Sympathy Notes

 

How to Put Stationery Leftovers to Good Use

12 Apr

It never fails: You near the end of a box of your favorite stationery only to discover that you’re left with several pages but no envelopes. Or a stack of extra envelopes and no notecards. Throwing out the extras seems wasteful, especially if you love the stationery. So what can you do with your stationery leftovers?

Vision Board

Combine those leftover pieces of stationery with inspiring images torn out of magazines and catalogs. Gather up all your favorite scraps, a big sheet of craft paper, some glue, and markers. Collaging is a great creative outlet and can be done just for fun or with a theme in mind. Identifying a focus for your vision board and putting it down on paper will literally help you envision achieving a specific goal or what you hope for the future.

Kids’ Crafts

Collect all your stationery leftovers in a folder for your kids to use in their arts and crafts. To avoid itty bitty pieces of scrap paper everywhere, challenge them to make something specific. For example, folding envelopes into a bouquet of flowers, create a mail art letter to Grandma, or allow their imaginations to run wild with sculpting a new toy out of paper.

Donate to Schools

Did you know many teachers spend their own money to stock their classrooms with art supplies? Help a teacher while helping local kids be creative. Take your scrap stash or pile of envelopes to an appreciative teacher. If you don’t personally know a teacher, call the elementary school near you and ask for the name of their art teacher. He or she will know exactly how to put those scraps to use!

Journal Makeover

Spice up your Moleskine by taping colorful or printed stationery scraps onto the border of your journal or calendar pages. If you have a large amount of scraps to use, grab a blank journal and start an art-specific journal to house your inspirations and make it your ideal creative outlet. Don’t stop there – use stamps, fun tape, and anything else you’ve got to jazz it up.

Easy DIY Wall Art

If you love the design of your stationery, upcycle it into easy wall art. Simply frame the notecard or page and hang. Depending on the design, you can also cut out portions to frame. Or, trim a single design into thirds, frame each third separately, and hang them together as a group. If you don’t want to shell out for a new frame, use spray mount to adhere the scraps to a piece of posterboard or even construction paper. For the super eco-crafty, super glue scraps of wood or PVC to make your own reclaimed frame.

Mix-and-match

If you have leftover envelopes from one set and stationery from another, try to fold the stationery in a clever way to fit the envelopes. For instance, instead of folding stationery in thirds by width, fold it in thirds lengthwise to fit a narrower envelope. Or if you want to get really creative, try out some basic origami shapes.

Messages

Trim leftovers down to the size of a standard sticky note, or roughly 3 by 3 inches. Place the stack near the telephone, and use them for taking and delivering messages – so much prettier than a dry erase board! Use the same scraps as idea scratch paper or to scrawl a love note that you can slip into your partner’s coat pocket or in between the pages of a book he or she is reading. Adjust the trim size to long and thin, and write inspirational quotes to put on your fridge or bulletin board.

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 Meet the Writer:Maggie Marton is a freelance writer who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with her husband and their three darling dogs. View more of Maggie’s work at MaggieMarton.com

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How to Write: Sympathy Notes

5 Apr

Sympathy Notes really get a lot of scrutiny from the recipient. The words inside a sympathy note carry a lot of weight; it’s like they are magnified. These notes are sent when someone we know and care about has experienced pain. The pain of loss. Whether that is the loss of a parent, a pet or otherwise, loss is still loss. It is feeling empty when before you were whole.

What words are ever appropriate at a time like that, right? I don’t know about you, but every time I sit down to write one of these notes, I always think that there are really no words that exist that will actually bring comfort.

And then I remember, that statement is true. A sympathy note is not actually intended to make the situation better because it really can’t make the situation better. Instead, a sympathy note is a way to say ‘Hi, I’m here, and I’m thinking of you.’ It’s a reminder that the recipient has many people in his or her life to help fill in that empty spot.

There are lots of things you can say in a sympathy note, most of which are probably fine. However, there are a few things you should avoid saying in a sympathy note and I’ll tell you why.

Just Call

“If there’s anything I can do, let me know,” or “If there’s anything I can do, just call.”

Those are both very nice sentiments and anyone who says them means well. However, what you are really saying is: “I’ll help, but you have to call me first.” When someone is grieving, the last thing they need is another ball in their court, so to speak. And honestly, they’re not going to call. It’s better to say something like “I’m going to call you next week to check on you” or “I’m going to email you next week to check in with you, in case you need anything.”

When I discovered this tip, I was a little shocked. I said this all the time to people. I’d even post it on Facebook. And I was not the only one. Someone might post that they were sick, and there’d be eight Facebook comments of people saying “If you need something, just call!” It’s just another way of not really saying anything at all.

A Better Place

“They’re better off now,” or “They’re happy now,” or even “They’re in a better place.”

Even if the person you are writing to has said one of the above statements to you, it’s still best not to say it yourself. Honestly, maybe they’re not better off. Perhaps things happened you’re not aware of. The issue with this statement is that it’s not really a comfort to the person that was left behind. The person who died is still dead. They’re still dead whether they’re better off or not. And, the person receiving your sympathy note is probably not better off, definitely not happy now, and likely not in a better place. How can a dead person be better off than the living person you are writing to?

“I Understand”

Be careful when you say you understand or you know how the person feels (particularly when you’ve never been through the same situation). Let me give you an example. When a friend loses a parent, I will usually include a statement like this:

“While I can’t understand what it’s like to lose a parent, I can understand what it’s like to be loved by a parent. I know how much your father loved you. I remember in high school how he’d pick us up after track practice and he’d always kiss you on your cheek, give you a hug, and ask you how your day was when we’d get in the car. I vividly remember how much love your Dad had for you.”

Everything I said was completely and totally true. I didn’t say I knew or I understood when I really don’t know and I really don’t understand. Plus, I was positive. I wasn’t talking about death, I was talking about life.  Be considerate of this when you sit down to write a sympathy note.

Take the Time

Most anything written in a sympathy note has good intentions behind it. However, if you are going to take the time to write one, really pay attention to what you are saying versus what you are meaning. They can be different. If you want to actually do something for the bereaved, say what it is and commit to it. Don’t put anything back on the bereaved. Don’t comment on where the deceased has gone or how the deceased may be doing. Focus on the person you are writing to, the person who is still alive and dealing with the aftermath.

Death is a funny thing. It happens to all of us, and will happen to everyone we know. Yet, many of us struggle with how to act or what to say when it happens. If you stay positive and commit to doing something for the bereaved you’ll stand a better chance of sending a note that is meaningful, memorable and a true comfort.

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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