The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard

Welcome to Savoir Faire, the Junior League of New Orleans’ Etiquette Column. With this column, our aim is to help navigate through the oftentimes puzzling world of manners and propriety with an eye towards modern issues. In our inaugural edition, we are tackling the topic of hand-written versus digital communication.

It’s a wonderful feeling when someone takes the time to put pen to paper and express their gratitude. Still, with modern technology so easily accessible, email can be a viable alternative as well. How are you to decide which medium to use?

When it comes to thank you cards, purists will argue a handwritten note is the only way to go. It adds the human touch an email can’t convey. On momentous occasions such as weddings, births or graduations, it’s de rigueur to follow the old fashioned rules; however, rules can be bent. Junior League Sustainer Anne Milling noted, “I frequently say thanks by email when I want someone to know I appreciate their attending a meeting, a community event, a casual community lunch or even a dinner party hosted by close friends.” It’s important to note that the primary benefit of email is its efficiency. “If it’s important that the recipient gets the thank you immediately, then an email can be effective,” added JLNO Active member, Allison Plaisance.

What about a business transaction? That’s tricky. It used to be common practice after an interview to write a thank you letter to your prospective employer. Unfortunately, many hiring managers don’t have time to devote to a handwritten letter. Email has become an acceptable form of communication in the business world, so long as it is sincere. Jennifer Bernard-Allen, the Senior Tax Manager at Laporte CPA & Business Advisors, said, “I often receive electronic thank you notes from candidates going through the formal accounting recruitment process, and it is a very nice and genuine touch. It feels less personal and more professional and is always appreciated.”

Okay. Let’s talk about l’éléphant in the room: birthdays. Facebook is passé. A text is so everyday. This is their once-a-year-it’s-all-about-me day! Send a handwritten note or a personalized greeting card via snail mail. If you’re feeling intrepid, go for the gusto. Enclose your favorite photo together from the past year or include a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. You can even draw a sweet sketch on the envelope.

Finally, one step that can stump even the most seasoned scribe is the signature. “Love” should be reserved for family or close friends while the most universally accepted sign off for professional correspondence is “Best Regards.” If you’re still stumped, JLNO Sustainer Katie Crosby advised, “How to close the note depends on your relationship with the person and your individual level of comfort.”

No matter which technique you opt for, write from the heart and your kind words will always be cherished.

P.S.: If this column has inspired you to catch up on your correspondence, here are a few stores in NOLA that are a writer’s delight!

5423 Magazine St, New Orleans

Two Sprouts
102 Metairie Heights Ave, Metairie
Southern Letterpress
3700 St. Claude Ave, New Orleans

Betty Hunley
6057 Magazine St, New Orleans

The Stationer
(inside Wedding Belles Boutique)
3632 Magazine St, New Orleans



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