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What Facebook and Twitter Can Teach You About the Handwritten Note

Social Writing Tips

social media apps

Greeting cards have an inherent problem.

They limit your telling of the story to a predefined amount of space.  The size of the card dictates the length of your sentiments.

You’re forced to choose one of three paths:

  1. Pick a bigger card
  2. Write smaller
  3. Say more using less (we’ll pick this one)

Packing concise, brilliantly written, engaging content into a limited amount of space has become the holy grail of online marketing.

You can use these same marketing strategies to write killer prose in your handwritten notes.

First, a few stats

Stats Reveal Strategies for Engaging Facebook and Twitter Posts

Time is precious.  Brevity engages.

The Facebook status update character limit is somewhere around 60,000!

But Facebook knows very few of us will ever read a post that long.  They’ve done extensive user engagement research resulting in their own imposed limit on all paid ads to only 90 characters.

A 140 character Tweet may even be considered long winded.

An online article over at discusses the research behind what works on popular social media sites:

  • Tweets shorter than 100 characters get a 17% higher engagement rate.
  • The ideal length of a headline is six words.
  • Facebook posts with 80 characters or less received 66% higher engagement.
  • The perfect paragraph has 8-11 words per line.

But how do you adapt writing for social media engagement to a handwritten note?

Keep reading, and you’ll be writing concise, thought-provoking sentences with these simple strategies.

Use concise wording.

Writing killer sentences begins by focusing on word choice.

Using a single word that evokes the mind to fill in the rest.  The goal is to condense.  Shorten.  Awaken.

The Strunk and White Elements of Style states that brevity and detail need not be removed from writing.  Only that “every word tell.”

Don’t use 17 words, when 7 will tell the same story.  Here are some examples:

Before: The best part of our visit was due to the fact that your dinner was so delicious.
After: Your delicious dinner made our visit unforgettable.

Before: I was very excited to hear about your recent promotion at work.
After: I’m elated for your promotion.

Before: Please accept my sincerest thank you for the gift which was simply my favorite.
After: Your gift was my favorite.  Thank you.

Eliminating unnecessary words is a start.

Say what you mean.  Leave the rest for an in-person chat.

Just don’t forget who the note is about.

Break the rules of grammar.

If you text, then you understand.

Grammar is not necessary to convey meaning.  Sometimes it even gets in the way.

To be brief, you must write brief.  Short words.  Short sentences.

WARNING!  Don’t write like you text.

But there are some basic principles of writing that can be bent a little.  Writers do it all the time.

Guidelines to bending the rules of grammar for the sake of brevity:

  • Drop the paragraph indent.
  • Use short sentences.  Really.
  • Forget transitions.  Just start.  Say it.  Then end.
  • Use digits.  12 instead of twelve.
  • Cram with lists.  They’re short, concise, easily bent, full of details, roll off the tongue and eliminate unnecessary words.

The smaller your card, the more you can bend the rules.

But the biggest secret to crisp handwritten notes appears in an unlikely place.

Start with a bang.

The first line matters.

Online engagement studies show that the beginning is crucial to the success of the rest.

Headlines.  Titles.  That first sentence.

It’s called the hook.  The little unique twist that get’s the reader’s attention from the start.  That keeps them wanting more.

You already have their full attention.  You personally mailed them a card.  But you’ll want to live up to the excitement.  The anticipation of what’s written inside.

So, here are 5 great hooks to open your handwritten notes that will capture the reader’s imagination and pull them deeper into your card.

1. Start in the middle.

No lead up.  No introduction.  Start your story in the middle.  Give your reader an immediate sense of time, place, and action.

2. Invoke the mind’s eye.

Painting mental imagery with your words is a powerful way to draw in your reader.  Specifically engaging the imagination is a great way to start.  Activate the mind’s eye with words like “Imagine”, “Picture this”, or “Do you remember when”.

3. Be amazing!

Put your best event, story, or thought first.  Blow them away.  Don’t give them a chance to wonder why you are writing.  What you are thinking.  Amaze them with something they were not expecting.

4. Ask a question.

Open your note with a rhetorical question.  They can’t really answer you, but it get’s their mind thinking.  Thinking equals active engagement.

5. Quote someone famous.

Use an internet search to help with this one.  Associate yourself with someone famous and people are bound to remember what you write.  Especially if you use their favorite famous person!

Now it’s your turn!

Drop the long sentences.  Write short.  Grab their attention and tell more of your story.

Free yourself from card space constraints.  Say more with less.

Grab a pen, a note card, say something inspiring, brighten their gloomy day and shatter their perception of you in an unexpected way.

They’re waiting!


Flickr creative commons image courtesy of Jason Howie.

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