Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Put down your laptop and pick up a pen

Mark Twain demonstrates.
When is the last time you sent a handwritten note on, you know, paper? Or received one?

The Post Office says that the average home received a personal letter only once every seven weeks in 2010, down from once every two weeks in 1987.

What about in business? Are you relying on email "blasts" to reach your customers? So is everybody else. A recent study indicated the average corporate email account sent or received more than 100 emails per day, and Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 nowsend or receive nearly 100 texts per day. What if you did an end run with a piece of paper?

Author John Coleman notes several things about handwritten communication.
  • Handwritten notes mean more because they cost more. Emails, tweets, texts, or Facebook messages are essentially costless.
  • Electronic communications are rarely notable. But handwritten notes are unusual. They take minutes (or hours) to draft, each word carefully chosen with no "undo" or "autocorrect" to fall back on. Drafting one involves selecting stationery, paying for stamps, and visiting a mailbox. They indicate investment, and that very costliness indicates value. 
  • That conveyance of value is amplified by the fact that personal messages are often notes of gratitude, civility, and appreciation that reach beyond the conventional thank-you. Because handwritten notes are so painstakingly slow — to draft, to send, to assure delivery — they're often a poor way to ask for things. Instead, they're more frequently used to remind others that you value your relationship.
  • Handwritten notes have permanence. How many of us have our old high school yearbooks in a closet somewhere? Email is "permanent" in its own way; our electronic messages are easy to keep and search in huge volumes. But they aren't tangible and enduring in the same way those old notes are. We don't print emails and display them on our desks, refrigerators, and mantles they way we do with letters and notes from friends. The physical notes are more memorable.
It has not escaped me that I wrote this post on a screen and that you are reading it on a screen.

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