How To Write a Handwritten Note That People Will Keep and Reread

I often ask attendees in my workshop sessions how many have kept a handwritten note or thank-you card. Most of the participants have kept at least one notecard.

Then I asked them how many reread that notecard. Again, a large majority of people acknowledged they’ve done this. I think it surprised them they weren’t the only ones who did this.

This caused me to research this phenomenon further and see if I could identify the elements that made a handwritten notecard a keeper.

Here’s what I found out. 

Why Employees Reread Notecards?

Why do we love to reread handwritten notecards? What motivates this interesting behavior? 

I conducted a survey to find out the reasons and asked my blog subscribers, “Please indicate the MOST important reason for why you reread certain Thank You cards over others.”

The options I gave people to choose from were: (1) I want to recall the relationship between themselves and the sender, (2) I want to recall the level of performance given, (3) I want to recall the feeling of being acknowledged, and (4) I want to recall the action being acknowledged.           

Hooked On A Feeling 

The highest choice was recalling the feeling of being acknowledged. In fact, 59 percent of respondents rated this as the most important factor, while 26 percent said recalling the relationship of the sender. Only nine percent wanted to relive the memory of the action being acknowledged, and a minor six per cent want to recall the level of performance they gave. 

Authentic Recognition has always shown that while performance reigns, feelings rule. 

How To Make Your Notecard A Keeper 

Now you know why people reread your thank-you note and special notecards. But what exactly qualifies a notecard to become a keeper, especially over a long time period? What can you do to replicate this experience? 

I listed various factors for people to choose from. Here’s what subscribers felt were very important for keeping kept certain thank you cards over others. 

With an amazing 84 percent, the top selection was the sender writing the notecard versus having an assistant write it. You might think that this should be obvious. However, I experienced a time where someone did not understand this.

It came from a CEO who attended several workshop sessions I conducted on employee recognition. I presented these presentations at their annual company conference. Afterward, the CEO had their assistant send me an email thanking me on their behalf for the great job I had done. After all that I presented over those two days, this CEO still didn’t get it right!

Next on the list with 67 percent was the sender of the card or note should handwrite versus type it. It shows you care and took the extra time to write the thoughts included in your note. Employees will note this special action. Of course, it needs to be readable. 

The Right Words Are Essential 

After handwriting the thank-you card and not delegating it to someone else, what else guarantees a recipient keeps the notecard and reads it over and over again?

Over half of respondents (58 percent), stated the specific wording that was used to write the acknowledgement or expressed thanks. What you say in your notecard makes a tremendous difference.

This is where I recommend you use my “Two-Part Specificity Rule™.”

The first part of the rule is to write specifically what it was the person did you are thanking them for. What ACTION did they perform that stood out for you? Second, tell them specifically the IMPACT their action made on others. Write why what they did made a difference to you personally, to your customers, or to the company. 

Build Positive Relationships

Check out those thank you cards that you have kept and see if there isn’t something else.

Who are those notecards from that you have kept? Does the relationship with the sender bear why you posted it on your wall or stowed it away in that special place in your top desk drawer? 

Apparently, the relationship between the person who wrote the thank-you card and why you are still hanging onto the card is an important factor. It seems 52 percent of respondents said the positive relationship you have with the sender will determine making your card a keeper or not.

That is why it is critical to make time to connect and develop positive relationships with your peers and the employees you are responsible for.

Additional Pointers To Consider 

There were a few other, but lesser, points to also consider, such as the timeliness of the card being sent (48 percent), and the ease of being able to read the sender’s handwriting (40 percent).

The nature of the task or action being acknowledged also had a small influence (37 percent). And it doesn’t matter what kind of card you use, as only 28 percent stated the sender’s choice of card was an important factor. Mailing to the home or through the office mail mattered to just 5 percent.

Those are some elements you need to focus on when writing a notecard that employees will keep and read again and again. 


It is both an art and a science to writing a thank-you card, or a handwritten note, that people will actually keep and reread. 

1. Develop positive relationships with everyone you work with. That way when you send a notecard to someone, they will be excited to open it. After they have read your kind words, you can almost guarantee they’ll keep it.

2. Write the card yourself and never delegate this responsibility to anyone else. It can sound so obvious, but there are still people who don’t understand this. Doing it yourself is what adds half the meaning and specialness of your note.

3. Take the time and effort to personally handwrite the note. There is something that recipients of notecards go through when they read your words. It’s like it immediately personalizes the message to them.

4. Tell people specifically what you are thanking them for. I recommend that people specifically describe the action or positive behaviors the person did. Next, share how their wonderful action impacted or helped others.

Recognition Reflection: Why do you keep certain notecards from people over others?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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