Your Old-Timey Etiquette Questions, Finally Answered

by Lan Truong


In this paperless e-world of ours, it’s fun, retro, and just plain courteous to send an actual thank-you note, emblazoned with a stamp and everything. (And no, a text that reads “kthanxbai” does not count as a thank-you note.) According to Nancy Sharon Collins’ book, The Complete Engraver: Monograms, Crests, Ciphers, Seals, and the Etiquette of Social Stationery, it’s a practice that we should keep up. “A thank-you note is always appropriate. Any act of thoughtfulness, kindness, or recognition should be reciprocated promptly with a handwritten note.”

The Complete Engraver follows the history and etiquette of engraved stationery, and though the book sometimes comes off a little dry, it’s filled with beautiful images–original specimens of social stationery, calling cards, and monograms–that help make up for that.

Some of the notes on etiquette are pretty amusing (step four in The Writing of a Personal Note or Letter is “wash your hands,” and did you know that “monarch sheets [stationery that is 7 1/4″ x 10 1/2″] are perfect for writing a polite inquiry to the neighbor about why the new dog, or nanny, acts so strangely”?), and some are actually quite useful (it is “improper to use a card preprinted with ‘thank-you’ as a follow-up to an employment interview” and “a letter of condolence should be written by hand with a black or dark blue ink pen”). Also, it’s kinda cool to know the difference between a cipher and a monogram (the letters in a cipher don’t have to connect while the letters in a monogram do, FYI).

Pick up a copy of The Complete Engraver at to learn more stationery etiquette, then geek out to your friends about it. And there’s a bonus: two free fonts based on engraver’s style typefaces are available for readers to download via a weblink in the book. Who doesn’t like free stuff?





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