Handwritten notes matter in business and love

By Greg Dardis / Guest Editorial

According to lore, the first valentine was from a doomed man to a blind girl.

A third-century Roman emperor – believing married men made poor soldiers – jailed a Catholic priest for disobeying orders not to perform marriages for military-bound men. The priest was named Valentine. As the story goes, he befriended his jailor’s daughter, a blind girl, and miraculously healed her blindness. Before his execution, he wrote her a note and signed it, “from your Valentine.”

The Catholic Church named the priest a saint, and thanks to an epic poem by Chaucer, his honorific feast day became the universal day of love.

It seems to me that there’s something worth noting (forgive the pun) about the valentine’s historical perseverance. The most enduring connection to the first valentine is not its connotation with romantic love, but the fact that it was a handwritten note.

The takeaway: There’s still power in having something to hold in your hand.

This is worth emphasizing in a digitally driven world. While many of us have worked to be more effective via email and have cast a wider net through social media, we also realize that, in the push for faster electronic outreach, something has been lost. So I encourage you to reclaim it. Write notes – especially ones of thanks.

According to a story published last April in The New York Times, the handwritten note is not only the most traditional way of showing gratitude, it’s also regaining a fashionable status. In “The Found Art of Thank You Notes,” writer Guy Trebay quotes a Dallas stationary store owner, who said “If you want to stand out, to be more polished, probably the easiest thing you can do is write that thank-you note.”

The article includes the anecdote of a young woman who, upon being named New Orleans’ Queen of Carnival last year, ordered custom stationery to thank well-wishers.

“I actually enjoyed writing the notes,” she told the Times, “because in the process of opening a note, feeling the paper, seeing the imperfection of the writing, reading the message in another person’s voice, you actually feel like you have a piece of that person in your hand.”


That’s the personal connection and added detail that we at Dardis Inc. emphasize. It’s the extra step that makes a difference in your business interactions, and the appropriate gesture after a business dinner, client meeting or even a thought-provoking conversation. There’s an intimacy, permanence and time requirement perceived in a simple card, and that’s why it works as well for business as it does for romance.

So how to do it? Hallmark – who I think we can recognize for a certain expertise – recommends remembering who, what and when.

For the “who,” make sure you’re spelling the name correctly and greeting them appropriately. For the “what,” just get to the point: Thank you. “Thank you for such a lovely gift.” “Thank you for the opportunity to learn more about you and your company.” “Thank you for sharing your ideas about our current campaign.”

Next, add details with examples of how you’ll use the gift, knowledge or time they’ve given you, then look ahead to indicate that you hope to spend time with that person again in the near future. Finally, restate your gratitude.

The “when” – as in when to send it – is as soon as possible. Hallmark recommends within a month, but in the fast-paced whirl of business, I recommend a week or two. (Remember, the note can be brief; it doesn’t take long to pen.)

As the Victorians, with their elaborate valentines, could tell you, a note makes an impression with more than its words. It’s also the quality of the paper, the penmanship and the timeliness. Get good stationary and consider having it personalized with your initials or name. Use a good pen. Write carefully, and note if improving your handwriting should be added to this year’s resolutions.

But no matter what, don’t delay in adding thank-you writing to your weekly to-do list. Who knows what difference a small note could make? I’m betting St. Valentine had no idea.



Greg Dardis is the CEO of Dardis Inc., located at 2403 Muddy Creek Lane in Coralville. For more information, visit www.dardisinc.com.