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How to Write a Letter to a New Penpal

16 Jul

I remember my first pen pal, her name was Christele and she was a French student in a small school outside of Paris.  We were paired up by our respective schools to write to each other – for us to improve our French and for them to improve their English.  It has been over 20 years.  Not only are we still friends, we still write each other letters.  We have never spoken on the phone, seen each other in person or written an email to each other.  Our friendship is purely handwritten.

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I can remember my trepidation writing my first letter to her.  What paper should I use, what color ink, what would I say?! The thoughts overwhelmed me.  In the end, I decided on my favorite purple letter sheet with a matching envelope and my favorite fountain pen with dark eggplant ink.

Writing to someone you have never met is daunting.  What do you say?  How do you start and end the letter, and what do you ask?

First you must decide on the tone.  To this day, I tend to write like I speak, so my tone is fairly informal.  It works for me, so I stick with that.  I write like I am in a personal conversation; I ask questions and then answer them myself.  Nothing too personal, but just enough to get to know who I am.

Always start with an introduction – your name, where you’re from, and a little bit about yourself.  It is the jumping off point, a place where you can start building your friendship.  Then go into sharing with your new friend a few of your hobbies. For example, if you like reading, what are your favorite books and what are you currently reading? What kind of music or movies do you enjoy?  Remember to ask questions, too. Even though this is a letter, you are expecting a response – ask your new penpal what their hobbies are, what life is like in their town/city/country.

Consider also including a photo of yourself (if not in the first letter, then the second).  It is good to be able to put a face to a name!  As my friendship grew with Christele, we exchanged photos of us growing up, so I have a visual record of our friendship!  She even sent me a picture of her with her entire extended family!  I have sent her pictures of me on my most important days of my life.

My first letter to Christele led to hundreds of letters back and forth.  We talked about school, then university, then life as a young adult; we wrote through boyfriends and jobs, moves, hopes and dreams.  Now we talk about our children, our careers, our futures.  On my fridge I have a picture of her with her beautiful family, because through our letters, through that first written word, we became friends.  And it is a friendship that has crossed decades, language and an ocean.

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Meet the Writer: Akhila Jagdish is a writer and editor in the process of starting her own editorial services company, The Crafted Word. She loves making lists, collecting journals, reading, drinking wine and cooking. 

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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 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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Finding the Fountain Pen Nib That’s Right for You

22 Mar

Image provided by Cole Imperi.

A smattering of nibs to ogle. Image provided by Cole Imperi. Click to enlarge.

A fountain pen nib exists for every style of writer. Whether you press hard and dig deep into the page or prefer to elegantly draw loops and curls, there is a perfect nib waiting for you. The tricky part is looking objectively at the way you write and from that determining what style of nib is best for you.

Actually, the tricky part is probably that there is no global standardization of nib sizes. Your best bet? Become familiar with terminology, find a brand you like and work from that brand as your ‘base.’ Below, you’ll see commonly accepted definitions and descriptions for nib sizes and types (however, there is dispute within the community).

Nib Sizes

All nibs come in different sizes whether you are purchasing a flex nib, an italic nib, a stub nib or any other kind of nib. The most common width sizes include Extra Fine (EF), Fine (F), Medium (M), Broad (B), and Double Broad (BB). You can also find nibs that come in EEF-BBB, but they’re traditionally harder to come by.

Nib Types

Needle & Accountant Nibs

Sailor Desk Pen [EF Nib]

Image provided by Cole Imperi. Click to enlarge.

These are basically EF (Extra Fine) nibs. The Sailor Desk Pen in the photos would be considered by most to be a needle nib. Most people would agree that the thinnest, finest nibs come from Japan. If you’re looking for a needle nib/accountant nib, go for a Japanese-made pen in either EF or EEF.

Stub Nibs

A stub nib is like writing on a thin oval. Imagine that the tip of the nib (the part that makes contact with the paper) is an oval shape. The lines that you create from writing will show this slight variation. (A round tipped nib, which is known as a standard nib will not show variation in writing much like a ballpoint pen doesn’t show variation.)

Italic Nibs & Calligraphy Nibs

Image provided by Cole Imperi.

Kaweco Sport Calligraphy 1.1 image provided by Cole Imperi. Click to enlarge.

An italic nib is like a stub nib, but the oval is longer, thereby producing more variation in line width as you write. Many use the terms ‘calligraphy nib’ and ‘italic nib’ interchangeably. The basic gist of what makes an italic and calligraphy nib different from others is that the nib will have sharper corners. The sharper corners create very clean, crisp lines in line strokes. The stub nib does too, but those corners tend to be ground to rounded points so the stub is less likely to ‘catch’ or scratch the paper when you write quickly. Calligraphy nibs also tend to come in wider sizes. With an italic or calligraphy nib you will likely need to write slower than you do normally because they tend to catch or skip more by design.

Oblique Nibs

An oblique nib is exactly the same as an italic or a calligraphy nib, except the nib is cut on a slant (or angle), rather than straight across.

Music Nib

Music nibs (designed for the purpose of writing music) traditionally have two slits in the nib rather than just one, but not always. They are made so the user can produce lines crosswise and longwise easily.

Flex Nibs

Image provided by Cole Imperi.

Prosperity Pen, Medium Flex Nib image provided by Cole Imperi. Click to enlarge.

Flex nibs have some amount of ‘flex’ in the nib itself so when the user presses down on it variation in the width of the stroke is produced. Flex nibs can be found in various amounts of ‘flexiness,’ from slight flex to super flex. Vintage flex pens produce some of the greatest flex around. What makes flex nibs unique is that they can be combined with other types of fountain pens. You could find an Italic Flex Nib for example, or a Needle Flex Nib. Flex nibs have a bit of a learning curve but produce lovely, unique results. The flexibility of the nib highlights the natural nuances of each person’s handwriting.

This brief overview of the most common types of nibs should help you on your way in determining what nib might be for you. Personally, my absolute favorite nib type is a standard flex nib. Second choice is a calligraphy nib. To me, being able to highlight the unique way I naturally write is most important, especially when I write letters by hand. If you’ve never even held a fountain pen, I strongly suggest trying out multiple types first. Just pick the pen up in your hand, dip the tip of the nib in some ink (no need to fuss with cartridges or full refills here), and write a little with it. You’ll be able to immediately determine if you like one or not.

The Language of Stamps + Free Printable

13 Mar

The Victorians, at least the well-to-do variety, sure did have a lot of time to pay attention to details. They devised the use of Personal Calling Cards, the selection of flowers to send a certain message, and lots and lots of rules about etiquette. Even today, we are discovering (and reviving) Victorian traditions. For letter writing and mail enthusiasts, there is one in particular that has gotten notice in the last few years: The Language of Stamps.

Special EuropeanPaper.com stamps (not for postage use)

A few special stamps we mocked up for EuropeanPaper.com

Just as it was a Victorian tradition to select flowers based upon a message you’d like to send (the red rose equating to true love still exists today), there was a tradition of affixing a postage stamp to a letter in a certain way. Upside down, tilted left or tilted right, the direction and placement of the stamp said much more than ‘postage paid.’

Perhaps the most interesting part of the language of stamps is that there were no distinct rules. An upside down stamp might have meant one thing in the southern U.S., another in the northern U.S., and another in the UK. For all intents and purposes, the language of stamps was restricted to particular groups or regions. Even then, there is evidence that individuals and couples had their own private codes they used just between themselves.

Today, this tradition has made a resurgence (albeit a small one) with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Men and women writing to spouses serving overseas flip stamps upside down or in another direction to signify things like “I miss you” and “I love you.” The ‘codes’ in these letters are generally just between the letter writer and the recipient and there is by no means a true system out there today.

There is also a section of the US population that are avid letter writers who see value in reviving traditions like these. Major newspapers and popular websites have covered this very topic in recent years which has helped to draw more interest (and participation).

Communicating an additional message with a stamp is all about details. Not only is the letter writer taking time to write a letter, put pen to paper, fold it up, put it in an envelope and mail it, but they are going the extra mile in selecting the way the stamp is adhered to the envelope.

And, in case you ever wondered, if you place your stamp somewhere other than the upper right hand corner of your envelope, it will still get delivered. (However, if you do choose to place the stamp elsewhere on the front of the envelope, the letter might be slightly delayed due to the postage machines not able to scan it normally and therefore it will have to be handled manually.) In fact, this is the reason the original process of the recipient paying for the postage of a letter changed to the sender paying the postage. Senders would affix a stamp a certain way or put some other code on the exterior of the envelope or letter, and many times the recipient would get the message and decline paying postage on the note. Needless to say, word spread and the system was abused to the point that it was changed to where the sender pays the postage.


To encourage you to partake in the Language of Stamps tradition, attached to this article is an editable letterhead document you can download and print! Click the following link for a letterhead made specially for you to download and use –> EPC-Stationery-Hot-Air-Balloon-Editable

It is a PDF and features a hot air balloon in the bottom right hand corner. This particular image was lithographed in the Victorian era and is a rather appropriate subject for the sending of ‘air mail,’ no? After you download the letterhead, open it up in Adobe Acrobat (free) and click where the text appears. You can enter your own name or details for truly personal stationery. It prints two sheets to a standard sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper. Just cut right down the middle.

Interested in more reading? Here is a selection of articles and posts on the Language of Stamps you might be interested in:

From Love to Longing to Protest, It’s All in the Tilt of the Postage [New York Times article from 2005]

Blog post with lots of vintage ‘language of stamps’ postcards [by Rio Wang]

The Language of Stamps [post by Letter Writer’s Alliance]

The Language of Stamps [article on Philatelic Database]

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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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Why Stationery is Important + Free Printable

29 Feb

Whether you write a quick note or a full-blown letter to a loved one or friend, any paper product will do. Truly. However, if you take the time to consider what you are writing on and with, you’ll see that you are creating an experience for the recipient. You are also creating an experience for yourself. The act of writing a letter was (and still should be) a way to connect with the recipient and to allow the recipient to connect with you. When you opt for stationery that has been customized, you are opting for a deeper experience.

Personal stationery became popular in the Victorian era and we still have remnants of this tradition today. It is most common in business situations; however, a revival of personal, customized stationery seems to be taking place, at least in the USA.

Stationery selection is really an art form. When you are writing a letter to someone, whether it be a thank you note or a letter for pleasure, one should select the stationery based upon the recipient and the purpose of your writing. The stationery should also be a reflection of who you are as well.

Choose your stationery in relation to the importance of your note. If you are sending an important letter; choose classic, important stationery. Traditionally, avoid using day-to-day paper (like notebook paper or computer paper) because it is everywhere, it is cheap and it is associated with other tasks, like homework and printing out reports and documents. You do not want your recipient to associate your special letter with homework or a work project!

Choose your stationery with the same amount of care you give to the words you put on the page.

To get you started, I’ve included a downloadable PDF of stationery you can customize! Click the following link for a letterhead made specially for you to download and use –> EPC-Stationery-Pomegranate-Editable

Free printable with a pomegranate from EuropeanPaper.com

Click to enlarge.

The image that appears on the upper right corner of the letterhead is a Grenadier Punica (aka Pomegranate) and was illustrated in the early 1800s. Fruits were a common addition to personal stationery and they would often appear in borders or as full-blown illustrations. The pomegranate represents fruitfulness and growth. This is a great choice for congratulatory letters or letters bearing good news.

The printable stationery set is customizable if you so choose. The file prints two sheets to one, 8.5” x 11” piece of paper. Fold it in half and cut it right down the middle. Each half-sheet folded in half fits perfectly into an A2 envelope.

To customize your stationery with your name and address, just open the PDF and click on the areas that have text. If you don’t want any text, just delete it and click save, then print. If you want to customize it with your name and contact information, simply click on the text and type what you want, save it and print it! The font and color of the font are already programmed in so it matches the image perfectly.

I’ll have another download for you in a few weeks. Let us know what you think of this resource and if you’d like more!

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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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Valentine’s Day Inspiration Collection

1 Feb

Bloggers have lit up the web with Valentine’s Day inspiration before your New Year’s resolutions had time to dry in your journals. Now that we’re in the “month of love” we feel a bit more comfortable adding to the fray. Below is a random smattering of some of our most adored products sold on EuropeanPaper.com to aid you in writing love letters and sweet notes (or writing out your angst with the season). Below that we’ve got a fine selection of blogger’s links to pique your Valentine’s Day interest even further.

Moleskine Volant Pocket Ruled Notebook (Set of 2)

Brause Calligraphy Gift Set

Rhodia Large Webnotebook

Fisher Translucent Bullet Space Pen

Paperblanks Foil Embossed Large Wrap Journal

Mudlark Eco Lola Memento Boxed Note Cards

Jan Petr Obr Red Bicycle Boxed Flat Note Cards

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Oh So Beautiful Paper has had multiple Valentine’s Day collection posts that will warm your heart as you scroll through them. Check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and a splendid Part 5.

Similarly, Paper Crave shared tons of Valentine’s Day card designs to get your creative juices flowing. See her round-ups here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4, and Part 5.

The Sweetest Occasion has a sweet & simple DIY printable for Valentine’s Day; MJ Monaghan offers an interesting twist to the classics in his Valentine’s Card – 6 Special Options post; and Julie of Penpal of the Week did a round-up of some very sweet handmade cards.

Will you be doing anything special with pen & paper for Valentine’s Day? Share with us in the comments!

 

10 Letter Writing Tips

31 Jan

Writing a letter might seem like an art that no one follows anymore, like speaking Latin or doing the jitterbug (and where else can you find a comparison between those activities but here at EPC?), but there are many enthusiasts still out there. You’ll recognize us if you look closely. We sit in coffee shops with pens and paper in front of us instead of laptops. We walk into office supply stores and head over to the fountain pen ink refills instead of the printer ink refills.  We know how much an extra ounce costs, the price of an international stamp, and how much we can squeeze into a first class priority box before it explodes.

G. Lalo Verge de France Correspondence Sets on EuropeanPaper.com

G. Lalo Verge de France Correspondence Sets

Yes, I am one of them (and proud of it!), and I write hundreds of letters every year. My free time is spent with pen in hand talking with friends near and far. When I walk out to the mailbox every day, I know more than bills and advertisements are waiting for me.

Of course, to GET letters, you have to SEND letters. So, here are the 10 best letter writing tips I know, based on hundreds of letters written (and received) every year. These tips refer to both personal and professional correspondence.  The first six tips are must-do’s; the second four are options to consider.

  1. When you are going to write a letter, make sure you have enough time to do so. A rushed letter feels like a rushed letter, and typically, handwriting takes longer than you remember. If you aren’t sure you can find a free half hour or hour, combine your writing with other activities like watching a movie, waiting for the dryer to finish or sipping that morning cup of java.
  2. As you begin writing, refer to your last visit, conversation or letter with that person. Mention where you were, something that was said, or another statement that reconnects the two of you.
  3. Date the letter. I know that might not seem very important, but when the person reads the letter, re-reads it, and keeps it for ages, that date is very important. I recently dug through some old boxes and found all of the letters my mother wrote me while I was in college. She is no longer living, so these letters are truly precious to me. I organized them in the order she wrote them and put them in folders. The dates were essential.
  4. Write legibly. I know, I know. Duh, right? But you wouldn’t believe how many people have almost illegible handwriting. They either try to be fancy or they simply haven’t dusted off their penmanship skills in a long time.  If you have trouble with cursive, print. If that doesn’t work well, type. Make it easy on your reader.
  5. Ask the person questions.  A letter that just tells a person all about you-you-you and then says goodbye at the end is not much fun to read and often very difficult to respond to. Ask the person questions, such as: How is work? How are the children? Where have you traveled? What are you reading lately? They can be as simple or complex as you want to make them, but obviously keep your reader in mind regarding the type of personal questions you may ask. This will inspire the person to want to sit down and write back to you.
  6. Follow the simple rules of good writing. Always double-check that you spelled their name correctly and make sure you have the right address for the envelope. You aren’t being graded here, so you don’t need topic sentences and appropriate transitional phrases between paragraphs (yes, I used to be an English teacher!), but make sure you aren’t writing in such a manner that others can’t understand what you’re saying.

Those were the “must-do’s” of letter writing. Here are four more tips to consider implementing as you write more.

  1. Click the image to buy this product on EuropeanPaper.com

    Mudlark Eco Hayden Leigh Memento Boxed Note Cards

    Use attractive paper and cards for your letter. The European Paper Company carries many lovely options, including boxed notecards, a wide selection of eco stationery, and much more. Sure, lined notebook paper is nice, but it can be dull. A letter on fine stationery is often much appreciated, but if all you have is lined notebook paper dress it up a bit to make it special.

  2. Include fun little tuck-ins. Getting a letter is fun – getting a letter with surprises tucked inside it is even better. It can be photos, newspaper clippings, comics, bookmarks – whatever you want. These little extras can make letter writing even more enjoyable.
  3. Respond to letters quickly, but not TOO quickly. If your letter is in response to one sent to you, don’t let it sit around for more than two to four weeks before answering it. If too much time goes by, the person may forget what he wrote or think you have decided not to respond at all.  If I haven’t heard from someone in more than a month, I also send a quick postcard making sure all is well with them. On the flip side, it might sound crazy, but I wouldn’t recommend responding to someone the day or day after you get a letter. That might be so quick that it makes the receiver feel pressured.
  4. Finally, if all of this sounds wonderful but you’re stumped on who to write to, do some homework and check out organizations. If you don’t have family and friends that would be interested in writing letters, go to the The Letter Writer’s Alliance and The Letter Exchange online. They both offer wonderful connections to other crazy letter writers like me. EPC also lists web sites for letter writers to connect (check out the blogroll in the right column of this blog). Believe me—we are out there and waiting by our mailboxes. Write!

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 Meet the Writer: Tamra Orr is a full time writer and has written more than 300 books for readers of all ages. She is also mom to four and writes an average of 50 letters or more a month.

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Love Letters of Great Men

26 Jan

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we wanted to throw a little inspiration your way. Take a note from the great men and women heralded on these embellished Paperblanks journals, and create a love letter for the special one in your life today. Granted, all the quotes may not have to do with “love” directly, but that’s why they are here for “inspiration.”

Charles Dickens

Click the image to buy this journal on EuropeanPaper.com

Paperblanks Embellished Charles Dickens Manuscript Wrap

“Tis love that makes the world go round, my baby.”

“A loving heart is the truest wisdom.”

“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”

“Never close your lips to those whom you have already opened your heart.”

“I hope that real love and truth are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Click the image to buy this journal on EuropeanPaper.com

Paperblanks Embellished Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby Manuscript Wrap

“If I knew words enough, I could write the longest love letter in the world and never get tired.”

“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.”

“I’m a romantic; a sentimental person thinks things will last, a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t.”

“I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and it is the beginning of everything.”

“Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.”

Charlotte Bronte

Click the image to buy this journal on EuropeanPaper.com

Paperblanks Embellished Charlotte Bronte Manuscript Wrap

“I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.”

“I have little left in myself — I must have you. The world may laugh — may call me absurd, selfish — but it does not signify. My very soul demands you: it will be satisfied, or it will take deadly vengeance on its frame.”

Shakespeare

Click the image to buy this journal on EuropeanPaper.com

Paperblanks Embellished Shakespeare Manuscript Wrap

“They do not love that do not show their love. The course of true love never did run smooth. Love is a familiar. Love is a devil. There is no evil angel but Love.”

“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.”

“Time is very slow for those who wait
Very fast for those who are scared
very long for those who lament
Very short for those who celebrate
But for those who love time is eternal”

Vincent Van Gogh

Click the image to buy this journal on EuropeanPaper.com

Paperblanks Embellished Vincent Van Gogh Manuscript Wrap

“Life has become very clear to me, and I am very glad that I love.  My life and my love are one.”

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”

“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”

“Love is eternal — the aspect may change, but not the essence There is the same difference in a person before and after he is in love as there is in an unlighted lamp and one that is burning. The lamp was there and was a good lamp, but now it is shedding light too, and that is its real function. And love makes one calmer about many things, and that way, one is more fit for one’s work.”

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Paperblanks journals feature striking printed images on their durable, hard covers. Beautifully made, each high-quality journal is sewn rather than glued. The pages open nicely and lie flat for ease of writing … no lost pages in these journals. Instead, delight in a truly well-made object and let it remind you that the finest things in life are the ones that last.

Inspired to write a love letter? Check out all the stationery on EuropeanPaper.com from brands such as G. Lalo, Jan Petr Obr, Quotable Cards, and more!

 

Penmanship & Calligraphy: Reader Spotlight! + Swashes & Flourishes

12 Jan

Hopefully, Library Hand was a bit of a challenge for you. (Read the 4th post in the series all about Library Hand here.) Sure, it looks simple, but it can be difficult to actually put the components of Library Hand into practice.

In this final installment, I’m going to share two reader submissions, make a few suggestions and introduce you to the wonderful world of swashes and flourishes.

The first sample comes to us from reader Stephanie and she did an excellent job. I only have one suggestion here and this is actually the most common tweak practitioners may need to make in their own writing: angle!

Click to enlarge.

Hopefully you can see my red lines; do you see the variation? We have straight up and down, leaning to the right and a few characters that lean to the left. Take note of the angle you are writing at and make sure it is consistent throughout.

This next submission comes from Sandra of Life Imitates Doodles. An excellent submission – see her original post here. The suggestion I have here is to slow down in the print form. Printing will likely take this user a little longer than cursive as I’m guessing that might come more natural to her.

If you still have something for me to look at, please just leave a comment with a link to your sample and I’ll take a look!

Now, on to the fun stuff. Swashes and flourishes!  (Click on any image to enlarge it; then you can use it for practice.)

Most use the terms interchangeably, but the main difference is that a swash is an embellishment on a letter (like an exaggerated serif) while a flourish can be totally separate from a letter or word.

Let’s take the letter N to start with. You’ll see I take it through the basic letterform, add a swash and then add a flourish. You can do the same!

The J got a flourish up top:

We are not limited to just letters. You can embellish shapes too and use them in your letter writing or journaling.

One of my most-used flourishes is extremely simple to learn. This is a great place to start.

You can tweak the ‘bubbles’ in the simple flourish to get this effect:

And then you can take this flourish and use it! I almost always turn it on its side and shimmy it up against my addresses on outgoing mail.

Another easy flourish comes from the curlique:

There are no rules in swashes or flourishes. There are more traditional designs, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be more modern ones! Take a look at my ‘flourish girl’ and my ‘flourish fish.’

One quick note to help you get the most out of swashes and flourishes: use the right tools! A flex nib or calligraphy tip works wonders. In the samples above, I used a Kaweco Sport with a Medium nib (purple ink) and I used a Kaweco Calligraphy Sport with a 1.1 nib (blue ink). You can see subtle differences in the line work.

Finally, stay aware of the angle you hold your writing utensil at. Try changing it to create different effects.

Thanks to everyone for reading (and participating) in this 6 part series. I’ve really enjoyed writing it and I hope it’s been useful!

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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 Article #6 in a series of 6 on the topic of penmanship & calligraphy by Cole Imperi. Read the others here:
Article #1 “Where to Start
Article  #2″Where it all Started & Where it is Today
Article #3 “A Look at Several Calligraphic Styles
Article #4 “
Library Hand + Call for Submissions
Article #5 “Tips & Resources