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I learned the art of the handwritten note from my French grandmother. She always had a petite stack of sweet letters near her. They would be placed on her writing desk, or if newly arrived, sit on the end table near her favorite chair along with her vintage letter opener. If she found them particularly enjoyable they would make a second appearance the next day alongside her breakfast ritual of tea and poached eggs. In any given week, on any given day, she would be corresponding with one of her sisters or an old friend, or even me. I can remember spending all weekend with my Mémère, who lived ten minutes away, and no later than Wednesday I would receive a letter from her in the mail. Those letters were my first impression of meaningful moments.
When I reached my teens my Mémère officially taught me her signature style of how to craft pleasant and lovely notes. For the first time ever, I am sharing her secrets. Ladies and gentleman, may I present, the art of letter writing by Solange Brochu Cote.
The opening salutation should always reference a timely event. Whether wishing someone well on a joyous occasion, noting an upcoming holiday or acknowledging gratitude for a recent gathering. Phrases like: “I so enjoyed our wonderful weekend”; “Wishing you a happy holiday”; or “Sending you sweet blessings on the birth of your baby boy.”
The next few sentences should relay a heartfelt impression you have about the person, words that express why you are grateful for the connection. Phrases like: “I have enjoyed getting to know you, you are such a kind and positive person”; “Your humor and fortitude amaze me, and give me such strength to get through this challenging time”; “You have an incredible way of making people feel at home, a trait that I am grateful for and admire.” This portion should be so lovely that it makes the recipient instinctively put her hand on her heart in reading such wonderful words.
A heartfelt impression should be followed by sentences about what the two of you share or have in common — “Almost finished with another school year, just one more month to go” or “I can’t put down the book you recommended, it is making me look at life in a whole new way.” Alternatively, it can be something you want to learn from the person. “I would love to know your secret to growing those amazing peonies.”
Continuing the Conversation
The final sentiments should evoke a request to keep the conversation going by referencing future events. Something like, “Let me know how your trip to Paris goes and definitely spend an afternoon at L’Avenue enjoying a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, baguette, and Camembert. You won’t regret it.”
A Well Written Note is Never Tardy
My grandmother once received a holiday card well into January and I remember saying to her, “Méme, I can’t believe they sent you a card a month after Christmas?” She handed me the card to read — it was a beautiful note mentioning my Grandmother’s virtues, she and her friend’s shared connections, and a request for her shortcake recipe. When I finished she said to me, “a well written note is never tardy my dear.” 🤍