How to choose good stationery

Handwritten communication is nearly a lost art. Most of us email, text or just use the telephone these days. This makes a handwritten note extremely special, and there are occasions when nothing less will do.

Since we do send handwritten notes so infrequently nowadays, there’s really no reason not to use good stationery when you do. You’re writing a note because there is a special reason–emphasize this by penning your message on good stationery.

What makes good stationery good?

high quality stationery from William Arthur

Good stationery can be understood a couple of ways. If I were to tell you that William Arthur sold really good stationery, I could be talking about the superb quality of the paper and the printing:  hand-engraved, 96 pound cardstock. (The quality ought to be good–these beautiful notes run over $4 a piece!)

Or, if I told you I found good stationery to use for my birthday thank you notes, I may mean that I found note cards that were fun, adorable and reasonably priced, and that everyone from my best friend to my Great Aunt Edna would enjoy receiving in the mail.

You don’t have to choose just one or the other. There are endless stationery options, in stores and on the web, and you can find all sorts of designs on paper that is low-end, high-end and everything in between.

Good stationery is whatever kind of stationery carries your message the best.

More about high quality stationery

Traditionally, good stationery is made of heavy cardstock.  For formal occasions, white and ivory are most common, but pale blue or grey are also classic choices. Crane is a classic and traditional brand, and they have many options that run a touch more than $1 per card.  (I’m sure the good deal hunters out there will be able to do better than that, even for such a nice brand!)

If you’re sending a thank you note for a job interview, you want to write that note on a neutral, high quality stationery with nothing more complicated than a monogram, with a matching envelope.

It used to be that good stationery was either left plain or was engraved by hand.  Thermography has largely taken the place of engraving, because the end result looks nearly identical and it costs much less. (I called a printing press several years ago to order more letterhead for my workplace. The stationer came to our office, looked over the paper we were currently using, and told me it would be quite expensive to replace since it was hand-engraved. He called me later to say he was wrong–he’d looked our old order up on the computer and found it was actually thermography.)  If a professional can’t tell the difference, don’t pay extra for engraving!

Lined envelopes are a nice–although expensive–touch.  This extra flourish can cost anywhere between an extra 25¢ to about a dollar per card.

The folded note card style or flat correspondence cards are the most versatile.  The following examples are available from Crane & Co.

More about stationery design

Note cards can be found in zillions of styles. Plain, printed, simple, fancy, striped, polka-dots, florals, animal prints, monograms–you can find anything you’d like. (And if I’m wrong and you can’t find it, you can order it or have someone make it for you.) Note cards can be made of high-quality paper, or they can be really inexpensive and flimsy. It’s okay to use notecards that are made of cheap paper–as long it’s suitable for the occasion.

When you’re trying to decide what kind of note card would be appropriate, there are two important things to think about:

  1. What kind of note are you sending?  (Thank you, thinking of you, condolence, congratulations?)
  2. Who are you sending it to?  (I would pick a different card style for my father-in-law than I would for a female friend.)

A note with a serious or somber tone shouldn’t be written on a pink and purple polka dotted note card. (My father-in-law probably wouldn’t care for that, either.) Also, some people adore fine stationery, while others just aren’t into that kind of thing. Think about these things when choosing a card. (If you’re flummoxed, just go for neutral, high quality stationery, or for a very simple but inexpensive monogrammed style.)

The following examples are available from Hallmark. They strike a nice balance between good design and high quality.  The quality is obviously not as nice as the cards that cost $4 a piece, but the paper would never be mistaken for copy paper.  Many cute cards come in at about 50 cents a piece.

Target often carries really cute cards with trendy themes at prices closer to 30 cents each.  And of course, the web has endless choices for stationery at a wide range of price points.

Plan to be thoughtful.

Find some stationery that you like that meets your needs and stock it at home.  A couple of boxes in different styles would be ideal if you can lay out the cash. Buy some stamps and have them ready. There have been many, many times when I have had the best intentions to write someone a thoughtful note and haven’t followed through. Sometimes I’ve even written the note, but never make it to the post office to get a stamp. There is no need for this! My grocery store even sells stamps in the checkout lane!

I love opening a desk drawer that is stocked with nice stationery.  (You may want to get some nice pens while you’re at it!)

Handwritten notes are so special–it’s worth it to plan ahead so that you can jot off a thoughtful note when the time arises–or for no reason at all!

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Leave A Comment
  1. Puppy says:

    If a professional can’t tell the difference in engraved and thermography, he isn’t a professional. I don’t mean this to be nasty, but I have both stationery created by engraving with a copper plate and stationery created by thermography. While it may look very similar on the front, the back is the giveaway. the back of thermography is flat, while the back of engraved has an obvious indentation where the paper was pressed onto the copper plate. So if a professional didn’t have the good sense to look at the back of the paper to quickly and easily know if it was engraved or not, I wouldn’t consider the person much of a professional.

  2. Puppy says:

    But I agree that Crane is a lovely brand. It’s one of my favorites. Some people think there are better/more high-end stationery brands, and I guess that could be debated, but I love the history of Crane. More American than apple pie, IMO.

  3. Evelyn says:

    Timely article. I have been searching for affordable actual sheet stationery for a long while. I am too verbal for notecards! Nice article.

  4. BLU Trading says:

    Such a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m so happy that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  5. It sure was nice when you said that you can consider buying boxes of stationery in different styles that you can use when you thought of writing a thoughtful note. With this in mind, I will be sure to shop for monogrammed note cards. I want to spread positivity wherever I am by giving words of encouragement to the people around me. I would imagine writing funny and motivating on cards. Thanks!

  6. It made sense to me when you said that you don’t have to choose just one stationery or the other since there are endless options both in stores and on the web. My husband and I will hold a party two weeks from now to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. I want to give all our visitors stationery with hand-written letters to express my gratitude for their love and support, so it will make sense to shop stationeries with different designs.

  7. Roger says:

    “Use your finest stationery,” is what my English instructor had said to me after reminding me to thank the person(s) responsible for the $75 financial aid I’d recieved after graduating salutatorian from high school. I had no idea what she meant by “finest stationery.” That was 60 years ago, and I basically used the logic given here, purchasing some expensive pink stationery with appealing flowers around the top and sides. Then, in my finest penmanship, I carefully crafted a well thoughtout thankyou letter.

    A few weeks later, my English instructor’s eyes burning into me, she addressed the whole clsss, saying something on the order, “Today we shall learn how to prepare a non personal thankyou letter.” I was surprised to learn that “Use your finest stationery” meant type the letter with zero corrections and errors on appropriate letter paper.

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