26 Jul 2022

Putting Pen to Paper

The UK is currently experiencing a stationery renaissance  – specialist shops are opening up in many high streets, selling carefully-curated collections of notebooks, writing paper, woven envelopes, fountain pens, and an eclectic range of inks.

In a digital age, when we are meant to be heralding the arrival of the elusive paperless office, this nostalgia fest may seem charmingly niche. But as letter-writing, calling cards, correspondence cards, At Home cards, and the whole panoply of Victorian-style correspondence disappears, a substantial minority of us are still clinging on to the satisfyingly stylish remnants of a lost age.

The Unique Power of Handwriting

As we all become increasingly keyboard-savvy it feels as is handwriting is rapidly becoming a dying art. We grip the pen uncertainly, our fingers unaccustomed to the position, our movements stiff and unwieldy. Many of us no longer possess a quality fountain pen – once it was the gift of choice for graduations, school-leavings, 18ths and 21sts, but now it seems increasingly irrelevant, its pre-eminence supplanted by laptops, tablets and mobile phones.

But it is vitally important that you do not succumb entirely to the march of the keyboard. Useful as a keyboard is for the tedious minutiae of daily life – the forms, emails, texts and messages – it doesn’t really pass muster when it comes to truly meaningful, personal communications. An important letter, whether it is congratulations on the birth of a new baby or condolences on a death, simply must not be typed. Typewriting carries with it the cold hand of officialdom, the impersonal atmosphere of bureaucracy, the taint of administrative efficiency. Handwriting, on the other hand, is spontaneous, personal and heart-felt.

Even if your handwriting is execrable, illegible or embarrassingly babyish, you must never shy away from the obligation to use handwriting for personal correspondence – thank yous, letters of congratulation, condolence, important news updates. Your handwriting is deeply individual, instantly recognisable, and sends strong subliminal messages about your personality  – the complete antitheses of a bland text message.

Try your best to inject some style into your calligraphy; throw away the cheap biros and felt tip pens, and invest in a good quality pen – you could even choose a distinctive and stylish coloured ink from the huge range now available. Embrace the act of writing with enthusiasm and, even if your scrawl is beyond redemption, your correspondents will be grateful for your efforts.

If you have taken the trouble to purchase a pen and ink, and have made an attempt to brush up your handwriting style, it would be a shame to sabotage your efforts with cheap and nasty writing paper. The writing paper you choose, like the clothes and fragrance you wear, is a reflection of who you are. From the weight and weave to the colour and dimensions, stationery is a deeply personal style statement, so think carefully about what you want to convey.

What your Stationery Says About You

For many people the simplest option is the traditional. They opt for reassuringly thick paper or card (white or cream) and, if they are venturing down the bespoke, headed route, elegant typography (a classic serif like Baskerville or Garamond, or a flowery italic). Nobody could question your social credentials with such solid stationery on your side. You will be seen as a pillar of society, an upholder of traditions, and deeply conventional.

For some people this option is simply too boring. In their eyes, it lacks originality and personality, conveying only cautious conservatism. They choose the flamboyant – brightly coloured paper, zany typography. This stationery is the equivalent of comedy ties, eccentric hair colours and wacky hats. It takes real aplomb to carry if off.

There is a middle way – slight adjustments in colour (dove grey or duck-egg blue instead of white or cream for example) and typography (there are millions of fonts to choose from) will convey assured individuality, without forcing the message. After all, you may be using your stationery to write difficult things – letters of condolence, regrets for non-attendance, news of illness – and you wouldn’t want a sombre message to be undermined by comedy writing paper.

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