How to write a meaningful greetings card

How to write a meaningful greetings card

I’m the sort of person who says it with a card. Not just for birthdays and anniversaries, but also for every other event life might throw at people (and also whenever I send a parcel in the post). I send cards to celebrate and commiserate, and because I also find it easier to write things down than to say them in person. Still, it’s often hard to find the perfect words. Here are some ideas to help you write the most meaningful messages.

Address the recipient by name

This might seem blindingly obvious, but if you know the person’s name, use it! We have a relative who only ever signs their own name at the bottom of a card, and lets the pre-printed message do all the talking, which can feel somewhat impersonal. In the same vein, it can mean a lot to people if you remember the names of their partner, children or even pets. I conduct a quick social media search of my old university friends every year to make sure I get the details right in their Christmas cards. This shows that you’ve taken time to think about them and the people they love.

Start with the reason for sending the card

Be as warm and personal as you can, letting your relationship to the person flavour your words. While a simple ‘Happy Birthday/Anniversary/Mothers’ Day!’ is a fail-safe, you could let them know a specific wish you have for their year ahead: ‘May this next year of marriage be your most fruitful yet’, or ‘I hope this coming year is packed with adventure’.  For close family and friends, I often refer to a favourite memory or in-joke. 

Write about a shared experience

or something you particularly value about the recipient. Over the last year of lockdown, most of the cards I’ve sent have remembered the last time I saw that person and expressed how much I’m looking forward to the next time we can meet again. Sometimes the whole reason I am sending a card to someone is because I ‘saw this and thought of you’, which is a particularly lovely reason to pop something in the post. Cards for occasions are much appreciated but getting something totally unexpected can turn someone’s day around.

You don’t have to use sophisticated language to be meaningful

If you’re writing a thank you card, tell them what their gift or action has meant to you. For example, ‘Thank you for the flowers, they brighten up the room and remind me of you’, or ‘Thank you for your friendship, it really helps to have your support’. Even if you’re writing a card to mark an occasion, there’s always opportunity to thank people for the difference they make in your life. 

If you feel you are struggling to fill the space in a card or are not sure how to convey sympathy for a loss, you can always use other people’s words that have been meaningful to you: you might get inspiration from poetry, the Bible, or from other well-known quotations. Try searching the internet for lists of quotations suitable for your occasion. 

Know when to keep it short

If you are writing a sympathy card for someone you don’t know very well, keep it short and simple, but be as genuine as you can. Perhaps make a specific offer of support. It can be more helpful to someone in a crisis to tell them what you can do for them, like cooking a meal, babysitting or sending a care package, than saying ‘let me know if there’s anything I can do’. 

Sometimes simple is best

Sometimes people are facing circumstances for which there are no easy words. Send a card anyway, even if you feel you have nothing to say. A message of support, like ‘sending love at this difficult time’ will let someone know they’re not alone. Think about the words that would mean the most if you were on the receiving end. A simple message of truth and love will always be meaningful to the person who needs to read it. 

Author Naomi Marklew lives in the North East of England. When she isn’t playing cars with her two young boys, or managing her house renovation, Naomi is a creative copywriter and poet. You can find her work and get to know her better on her website, on Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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