A lot of work goes into choosing the perfect, meaningful gift for someone, but the accompanying card is often an afterthought, scrawled as you’re heading out the door. It can be a little overwhelming to stare at a blank card and try to think of something to write, but it doesn’t have to be difficult! Next time you receive a birthday invitation or the calendar tells you it’s a special occasion, ask yourself these questions to avoid the struggle.
What is the occasion?
The message in a card will, of course, depend greatly on what the occasion is. The most common occasions for gifts and cards are:
- Mother’s Day
- Father’s Day
- Valentine’s Day
- New baby
- Thank you
- Get well soon
- Christening or baptism
It might seem obvious, but you need to remember to mention the event in question and to choose your language to match. Think about what the occasion represents and talk about that. For example, instead of leaving your card at ‘Happy birthday!’ you can talk about the milestones and memories of the last year or give wishes for the year to come. If the card is on the occasion of a funeral, you might express your concern for the individual and their family, and share a kind memory of the deceased if you have one.
Whatever the occasion, try to put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. How are they feeling at this point in time? What would they like to read? How can you be kind, genuine and make them smile?
Sometimes one card will note more than one occasion, which is perfectly okay! With so many occasions throughout the year, it makes total sense that they will sometimes fall around the same time. Feel free to mention both, but be careful to put the emphasis on the more important event. If someone’s getting married on their birthday, focus on the wedding and mention the birthday in a secondary way.
What is your relationship to the recipient?
The way you talk to someone is completely different depending on the context of your relationship. You might be writing a card for a:
- Spouse or Partner
- Boyfriend or girlfriend
Choose your tone based on the relationship you have with the person you are writing to. As a guide, think about how you talk to this person in real life. If most of your communication is in the context of meetings or professional interactions, speak in a similar tone in your card. If your everyday interactions are full of jokes and teasing, feel free to put that into your card. If in doubt, go for the more serious option (jokes don’t always translate well in writing!), but don’t be afraid to let your personality and relationship show. A serious card from someone who is always a joker can come across as insincere and awkward.
Tips and tricks:
- For someone you are close to on a happy occasion, try to include at least one favourite memory together and one thing you are looking forward to with them.
- For a professional contact, an acquaintance, or a stranger, keep the card brief and to the point. If the card is not meaningful, there is no need to drag things out just for the sake of length.
- Bereavement and sympathy cards can be tricky. It’s usually best to keep it simple: offer your sincere condolences and tell the person you are thinking of them. Avoid saying things like ‘I know exactly how you feel’ or ‘this reminds me of the time something bad happened to me’ as statements like this can come off as highly insensitive.
- Always be sincere but kind. If you don’t like somebody much, don’t gush about them. Keep things polite but genuine.
- If you’re struggling to fill space on a card, consider finding a related quote to include. Great quotes from history and literature are easy to track down online, and can add some extra meaning to your own words.
Next time you’re trying to find the words to go along with that perfect gift, think about these things and you’ll have the perfect gift card in no time.
This was a guest post by Maddison Wallace from Paperlust. Maddison is head of content at Paperlust. She is a communications professional, postgrad student, part-time librarian, and occasional wedding photographer. She loves words and drinking cups of tea.