I recently received a handwritten note from an old friend that was accompanied by an article which he thought would be of interest to me. The note, written in real ink on high-quality card stock with his name engraved at the top, caught my eye because I don't get many elegant notes of this type any more. Most notes are sent by e-mail — if a person even thinks of writing a note of any kind.

Of all the notes I've received over the last year, this was only the second one that was handwritten; the rest were e-mail messages. While every year we receive thank-you notes from about 60 percent of the people to whom we send gifts, it always amazes me that the thank-you note has practically disappeared as a communication form for many.

Accepted wedding etiquette dictates that newly married couples have one year to send their thank-you notes. The sad thing is that some don't make that deadline. This is ridiculous when you think about it. How special could we feel when the thank-you note for our present is received 14 months after being sent to the happy couple?

About three weeks ago, we got a call that an old friend had died. My wife's condolence note was in the mail within 24 hours of that call. Mary has always set the example in our family for timely notes and has passed along this habit to our children.

The personal handwritten note can also go a long way in strengthening our business and personal relationships.

One of the basics I preach all the time is what I call the “rule of frequency”, which means there is a direct relationship between the number of times you are in touch with your clients and the strength of your relationships.

While you can only call them on the telephone and visit them so many times, you can supplement these calls with personal notes and cards for a variety of reasons:

  • Holiday wishes;

  • Thanks for kindnesses they extend to you;

  • Condolences at time of loss;

  • When you find something that will be of interest to them — hobbies, business news, news about their college;

  • Congratulations for a promotion or business success.

Short notes are fine and don't take much time to write. There are a number of ways to write a note:

“Howie, it was great to visit with you and to hear about your success.

All the best,


“Jean, Thought you might be interested in the enclosed article.

All the best,


Handwritten notes stand out as thoughtful reminders. Rather than just write boring e-mails, I'm going to get some new engraved note stationery, dust off my fountain pen and start sending more handwritten notes to my clients. I'm sure they will help to strengthen our relationships.

Tom McCarthy, CHME, CHA, spent half his career with Hilton and Marriott in sales, advertising and public relations and half in his own training and consulting business, Hotel Professional Education and Consulting of Falls Church, VA. He is a past president of Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and is a member of the HSMAI Hall of Fame. He can be reached at or 703-379-4488.

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