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Category Archives: That’s Helpful

How to write a thank-you note for a crappy gift

December 31, 2014 | Leave a comment

how to write a thank you note for a crappy gift

Well, Christmas is over (although I’ll keep my tree up as long as I can thankyouverymuch) and chances are you got at least one gift you plan to stick in your closet and never look at again. Maybe it was the 14th orange and green scarf knit by Aunt Mildred. (How does she not know that scarves make you feel as if you’re slowly being strangled?) Or the fruit cake from that sweet little lady at church. (How, exactly, did this abomination get to be a holiday tradition? Choking seems to be a theme here on this year’s bad gifts because that fruit cake is dry, dry, dry.)

The key to writing a gracious thank-you note for a gift you genuinely hate is to remember the thoughtfulness behind the gift. While the present itself may not hit the mark — really? a stapler? for Christmas? — the kindness involved in wrapping, mailing, and giving a gift is what it’s all about.

When you’re writing a thank-you note for a crappy gift, make sure the gift-giver feels appreciated and loved, without ever knowing that their gift is going to be 1) hidden 2) donated or 3) re-gifted. (Of course, re-gifting requires that you know someone who could actually use an orange and green scarf – a University of Miami fan, maybe?)

Here are a few phrases you can use:

• Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness in sending me (insert gift here).
• What a wonderful holiday surprise to open your gift!
• (for a handmade item) I’m honored that you took the time to knit that scarf/bake a fruit cake.
• It was nice to arrive home and find your gift on my doorstep. Thank you for being so kind during the holidays and always.

Focusing on the kind inspiration behind the gift, and not the gift itself, allows you to be genuinely grateful and appreciative as you pen your thank-you card.

It would also be a nice gesture if you included a photo (perhaps the best use for a selfie?) draped in the new scarf.

So we know you hate it, but in the interest of the holiday spirit, just be nice — and grateful.

Need more ideas? Check out our post on how to write a thank-you note — and if you got cash or gift cards for Christmas, here’s how to write a thank-you note for money.

How to select the perfect gift

November 28, 2014 | Leave a comment

how to select the perfect gift


Thanksgiving has come and gone and now it’s the time of year devoted to Christmas, when millions of people will be searching for the perfect gifts for their family and friends. How can you make sure your gift won’t be tossed in the back of the closet (or worse, regifted) as soon as you leave?

Here are a few tips that will help you be an awesome gift giver:

Pay attention – all year. Almost inevitably, your friends and family will mention a favorite wine, or kind of chocolate, or the fact that they can’t get enough of that mandarin orange-scented lotion they have to order off the internet. If you have a memory like Swiss cheese, stick a small notebook in your car or purse, or start a list on your phone, that will let you take notes to make shopping easy.

Don’t wait until the last minute. When you’re under pressure, buying a gift within a short window puts you straight into “that’s a great gift because it’s still on the shelf and in my price range” mode. Avoid that place. In fact, if you can shop all year, it’s easier on the budget and your nerves. Just make sure you have a good hiding spot!

Make a phone call to someone even closer to your friend or loved one than you are. A spouse might have an idea of something to buy, or a sister might be able to offer an idea like, “She was just complaining the other day that she never gets to go to the movies.” And a movie ticket gift box, complete with candy and popcorn, is born.

Check out the handmade sites online, like Etsy. Not only are gifts from these sites supporting artists and small businesses, they’re amazing because they offer ingenious ideas you probably never thought about. If your friend loves something even as wacky as sweet potatoes, you can search and find sweet potato pie candles or sweet potato chips. Input your loved one’s favorite things — marshmallows, Paris, funky necklaces — and you’ll have a terrific list of unique gift ideas.

Something handmade by you shows you put a lot of effort into the gift. You don’t have to be crafty, either. You can write a heartfelt letter tucked into a perfect card that will be guaranteed to touch your loved one’s heart. Even a batch of favorite fudge or a pan of brownies can be a perfect gift.


• And speaking of cards, always include a card with your gift. Take these special moments that we carve out of the holidays and let your love show in a way that can be kept, treasured, read and re-read. I have cards stashed in a box that remind me of people and times in my life that I love to revisit.

Think in terms of experiences, rather than gifts. How about a day at the paintball range for a group of friends? Find a nearby tea shop that will be a treat for a friend dreaming of visiting England. Maybe a favorite musician is having a concert soon. Time is a precious commodity, and scheduling a day to spend together, shopping, eating and laughing can be a great gift.

And our No. 1 tip for being a great gift-giver?

Remember the gift is for THEM. What will they love? Don’t just assume that because you like it, they will too. Really take the time to use the tips above to make it special for them.

Happy gift hunting. See you in the crowds.

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Special news for Black Friday,
Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday

1. Newsletter subscribers are getting a special discount code in their inboxes, and if you want one too, all you have to do is sign up!

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3. Select Christmas cards on are on sale! No coupon code needed. These designs are being discontinued, and when they’re gone they’re gone for good, so get yours now!


Five quick tips for an error-free card

June 25, 2014 | Leave a comment

You guys know I’m a stickler for grammar and editing, so today Shayla of Curiouser Editing is stopping by with a few tips to self-edit your writing and your writing process.

- – – – – – -

If you’re looking for a quick way to ruin a beautiful, handmade card, look no further than poor grammar, forgotten apostrophes, and awkwardly slanted words.

It’s easy to get in a rush when letter-writing, only to scribble out the improper use of they’re and hope it doesn’t ruin the look of the card. (It does.)

While there’s no backspace button for letter-writing, there are two things that might help: patience and preparation.

Instead of a card full of errors and scribbles, try these five tips for writing a memorable, clean letter every time:

5 quick tips for an error-free card

1. Sit down at a desk instead of using your car’s steering wheel. The pen won’t press down correctly, and you’re usually at a weird slant, thereby creating a head-tilting, awkward read. And let’s not forget that embarrassing hole you poked through the card when you pressed down too hard.

2. Think through your message and jot it down on a separate sheet of paper instead of using the pristine card as your guinea pig.

3. Edit your test letter. Did you place a comma after “Dear Jane”? Did you capitalize proper names and places? Don’t forget that ‘s after James. (“James’s cat is doing just fine, just fine.”) What about your spelling? Donut furgit to cheek ur spealing.

4. Use your good pen — not a pencil, crayon, or stolen bank pen that runs out of ink in the middle of your writing. Two almost-the-same-but-not-quite ink colors in the body of your letter aren’t pretty, plus a “Sorry, my pen ran out!” note is unpleasant, takes up space, and is avoidable.

5. Once you’re sure your words are near perfect, slowly, thoughtfully write them down. For real this time!

Now you’re ready to write a clean, grammatically correct, and visually appealing note in your Red Letter Paper Company card!

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Shayla is a writer and editor for Curiouser Editing. Her services cover web content, books, blogs, short stories, lyrics, résumés, menus, and anything with words. Keep up with her on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Need more grammar tips? Check out this post on stationery vs. stationary and how to remember which is which.

How to write a thank you note for money

April 29, 2014 | 1 Comment

how to write a thank you note for money

Writing thank you notes for cash can be tricky, so today we’re gonna look at how to write a thank you note for money and gift cards.

You should always send a thank you note when people give you gifts, so here’s how to write a thank you note for money and gift cards in 7 easy steps.

1. Use their name. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Including the gifter’s name in your note makes it personal, and that’s what you want.

2. Call it a “generous gift.” Don’t say, “Thanks for the money!” It sounds much better to say, “Thank you so much for your generous gift!” If it’s a gift card, you can say generous gift, or call it a gift card.

Thank you card

3. Tell them what you used/plan to use it for … Did you buy new fuzzy slippers with your gift? Or the last gravy bowl on your wedding registry? Tell them.

4. … And why you love it. Explain that your tile floors can get cold and you’ve been wanting fuzzy slippers to keep your feet warm. Explain that the gravy boat will help you make your house a home and will get great use when you entertain friends — and the person who gave you the money!

You're sweet thank you card

5. Wrap it up by saying you appreciate them or can’t wait to see them again. Tell them you’re thankful they celebrate with you every year on your birthday, or that they were able to be with you on your wedding day.

6. Thanks again! Never hurts.

7. Sign it. Use “love” or “sincerely” or whatever you’re most comfortable with, or you could even combine 6 and 7 and use “thanks again” as your signoff.

I hope this helps you note writers with your thank-yous. If you need to pick up a couple thank you notes to have on hand, head on over here, and if you’re looking for how to write a thank you note for things that aren’t money, check out this post.

10 fun fonts to use instead of Comic Sans

March 13, 2014 | 4 Comments

It’s only fair that if I tell you all the reasons why Comic Sans is a terrible font that I should tell you some fonts to use instead right? Here are 10 free fun fonts to use instead of Comic Sans, but keep in mind, a little goes a long way. Overuse is how Comic Sans got on the naughty list.

fun fonts to use instead of comic sans

comic zine // prism // little bird // impact label // spilt ink
red moon rising // fish fingers // crushed // inspira // pocket

*All fonts free for personal use; please check commercial licensing.

And just for giggles, there’s this font. Not even kidding. It’s called…

i hate comic sans font

I hate comic sans.

But you already knew that. ;)

Comic Sans hate: A designer explains why it’s a terrible font

March 4, 2014 | 6 Comments

comic sans hate

If you want to make a designer cringe, there are a few fonts you can ask for in your project that will likely make them look at you cross-eyed. But by far the most egregious font, the one that designers wish never existed, is Comic Sans.

If you follow a designer on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen them pin jokes about just how awful Comic Sans is. Here are a few I’ve pinned in the past:

every time you use this font a designer loses their wings

via 9gag // pinned here

comic sans walks into a bar

via BuzzFeed // pinned here


The other day, a friend sent me this video. (Fellow designers, fair warning — you may feel violent after watching this.)

After I told him that this induced extreme anxiety and made me want to wash my eyeballs, he asked me what exactly is so awful about Comic Sans. I just told him it’s terrible and to leave it at that, but it got me thinking — what IS so awful about Comic Sans?

And here’s the surprising answer very few designers will admit …

The truth is, nothing is inherently wrong with Comic Sans. Just like you can go to the museum and like a piece of art that your friend totally hates, Comic Sans is the same way. It’s art (cripes, that’s hard for me to say), and whether you love it or hate it is up to you.

But here’s why DESIGNERS hate Comic Sans (and Papyrus and Zapfino and Curlz MT): overuse.

See, back when your computer came with only a handful of fonts, Comic Sans was the only “fun” one. And so with limited options, it became overused. And then people didn’t know when to stop. It is used A LOT in MANY different places, most of which are nowhere near appropriate. There is not much worse in design world than something that’s supposed to be serious that uses Comic Sans. It just doesn’t compute. It’s inappropriate. As a journalist, I equate it to writing punny (yes, punny) headlines on stories about death and destruction. You just shouldn’t do it.

And so we’ve come to hate it. Because there are very few uses — although they do exist — in which Comic Sans is actually appropriate. If you’re not sure, better to just steer clear and use something more … normal.

Personally, I subscribe to this theory:

image by Anneke Short

by Anneke Short // click image for more of her work

So that’s why designers hate Comic Sans. What do you think? Terrible font? Not so bad? Shocked that a designer has said it’s actually a legitimate font, albeit with few uses? ;)

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If you feel like you’re not sure what font to use now, here are 10 fun (and free) fonts to use instead of Comic Sans. Just remember, a little goes a long way!

2014 Valentine’s Day card + gift guide

January 23, 2014 | 1 Comment

I did this last year and you guys are still pinning it, which is awesome, so I figured I’d update it with a few different cards from our collection and some new gifty gifts for your giving pleasure that are all handmade. Enjoy!

Valentine's Day card + gift guide for your better half Card: Thank you for the way you love me

1. Love wood block by Bubblewrappd
2. “Love is freezing in bed in the middle of the night because you hijack all the covers”
art print by Yellow Heart Art
3. Love heart hand-embroidered hoop by Milo and Molly

Valentine's Day card + gift guide for your best friendCard: One card isn’t enough to say everything

1. Hand-painted color-dipped dangle earrings by Acute Designs
2. iSanctuary chevron silver necklace from Paisley Print Boutique
(all products bought from Paisley Print Boutique are making a difference in the world — giving women jobs in Africa or empowering survivors of human trafficking, among other causes)
3. DIY succulent terrarium by 7StyleGuides

Valentine's Day card + gift guide for coffee loversCard: Love has caffeine

1. Cup of Love latte mug by NS Pottery
2. Cappuccino lip balm, vegan and made from scratch by The Gnarly Whale
3. Let’s have coffee together forever hand-stamped vintage silver spoon by JessicaNDesigns

Valentine's Day card + gift guide for the techieCard: {not sent from my iPhone}

1. Real wood iPhone case by axMen
2. Circuit board heart necklace by Circuit Breaker Labs
3. Design-your-own iPhone wallet by BetterLifeBags

Valentine's Day card + gift guide for the guyCard: Hubba hubba

1. Gift set with shaving soap cubes and aftershave lotion by Red Leaf Bath and Body2. Bamboo wallet by BoundTight Wallets
3. Red heart cufflinks by Gémeaux Designs

10 ways to display Christmas cards

December 17, 2013 | Leave a comment

10 ways to display your christmas cards

You’re probably getting Christmas cards by the armloads by now. But what to do with them so you can see and enjoy them instead of just having them pile up on the table? Here are 10 ways to display your Christmas cards:

via HomeLife

via Our Nesting Place


via Songbird Blog


via Spotted Ink


via Shanty 2 Chic


via Sweet C’s Designs


via iVillage



via UsefulDIY.com


via Eline Pellinkhof


via MarthaStewart.com


If you’re still busy writing your own Christmas cards but are worried your friends and family won’t be able to read them, check out these 5 ways to quickly improve your handwriting.

Merry Christmas!

Does the mail run during a government shutdown?

October 1, 2013 | 1 Comment

does the mail run during a government shutdown

You might have woken up this morning to the news of a government shutdown and wondered if you’ll still get mail today. Well…

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night — nor government shutdown — stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

The government may be shuttered for now, but the Post Office isn’t! The US Postal Service relies on revenue from stamps — and you sending mail — for its income and doesn’t get tax dollars for regular operations, which means it’s exempt from the shutdown. Which means you’ll keep getting mail and packages.

So keep sending cards and writing letters. Because who couldn’t use a little pick-me-up during a government shutdown, right?

i'm glad you're always there for a pick-me-up

How to Repost on Instagram

August 15, 2013 | 2 Comments

Ever see images on Instagram that say to repost and win something awesome? That’s great if you know how to respost on Instagram. If you’re not sure how to do it, well, that causes a sad face and no prize.

how to repost on instagram

So here’s how to repost on Instagram: Take a screen shot of the image, then upload the image from your photo library.

Not sure how to do a screen shot? Here’s how to on a few popular model phones.

iPhone: Press home button and power button briefly at the same time. Screen will flash white.

Samsung Galaxy S4: Press home button and power button briefly at the same time.

HTC One: Press power button and volume down button at the same time.

Nokia Lumia: Press the power button and the start button at the same time.

Still not sure? Try googling your phone brand and the word “screenshot.” That should do it!

Once you’ve got your screenshot, open Instagram. Choose the camera button in the middle, then on the next screen, click the little square to the left of the camera button — it should be showing the last image you put into your photo library. Choose your screenshot image. Crop as desired, and go from there! And don’t forget to add any hashtags you need to participate in the giveaway!

Hope that helps you participate in Instagram sales and giveaways!

How to write a love note

April 29, 2013 | 5 Comments

Most of us are past the heart-doodling and dreamy-new-last-name-writing in our Trapper Keepers. But once you fall in love, or have been there for a while, there’s no reason to quit with the love notes. Here are a few thoughts on how to write a love note.How to write a love note

1. Choose the right card.
If you’ve only been dating for two weeks, it might be too soon to go super mushy. If you’ve been together for a long time, you can choose cards that express how much you’ve grown together, how thankful you are for the other, and it can even be cute to send cards you might’ve chosen way back when. (I mean, who doesn’t want to hear “I like you” after years of being together?)

2. Use their name or a nickname.
Maybe this seems like a “duh” statement, but leaving out the personal touch of their name means this card could’ve been written to anyone.

Thank you for the way you love me

3. Say why you love them.
“I love you because you walk the dog in the rain.” “I love you because you make the best hot chocolate.” “I think you’re cute.” This can be as simple as one sentence, or you can base your whole note around a list of reasons why you love them.

4. Say thanks.
What’s something they’ve done for you that really made you feel special? Does he work two jobs to take care of you and your family? Does she always lay out the right tie before your big meeting? Does he bring you Starbucks after a long day? Nothing wrong with a little thanks.

Love has caffeine

5. Dream about the future.
Maybe you can’t WAIT to get married in a month. Maybe you hope to be just like his cute parents someday. Maybe you just went out but you can’t wait to see her again. What’s something you look forward to as you grow together?

6. Sign it.
That name thing again. Own up to everything you just said!

Obviously there are lots of different types of love notes and there’s no one right way to do it. Maybe your note is just one sentence. Maybe your note is a novel. Maybe your note is a list. Maybe your note is a tease. Do what feels right for you and say what you need to say.

And do it often.

One card isn't enough to say everything


This concludes our how-to series for National Letter Writing Month. Time to get writing!

How to write a thank you note
What to write in a sympathy card
How to write a love note

What to write in a sympathy card

April 23, 2013 | 5 Comments

No one likes writing sympathy cards. It’s a sad time. And it’s hard to know what to say. You want the recipient to know you’re sorry and that you’re there for them, but it’s a fine line between a sweet note overstepping your bounds.

Before you write anything, it’s important to pick the right vessel for your message. Personally, anything that’s really flowery and says “sympathy” on the front makes me cringe. You don’t need a lot of words for this card. Let’s let the inside do the talking. Use something simple, or even a blank card with a nice image on the front will work.What to write in a sympathy card

What to write in a sympathy card:

– I’m so sorry.
– I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your grandmother.
– I know I don’t have all the right words to say, but I want you to know I’m here if you need me.
– You’re in my thoughts and prayers.
– I’m praying for you.
– I love you.
– We’re praying for peace and comfort for your family.
– May God comfort you with his peace and strength.
– My heart goes out to you.

If you have a fond memory of the person who has passed, it’s ok to include it. If it’s a funny memory, use your best judgment on whether or not it’s appropriate to include it in your note.

If you’re in a place to offer help and feel comfortable doing it, then you should. Offer to bring dinner, watch the kids, rake the leaves while they focus on their family. Be specific, though, on what you’re willing to do. Just saying “let me know if there’s anything I can do to help” can seem insincere.

rain notecard

What NOT to write:

– I know how you feel.
– He’s in a better place now.
– Feel better soon.
– It was just her time.
– Time heals all wounds.
– It’s part of God’s plan.

I asked a few friends for their thoughts on what they’d like to see in a sympathy card, whether they were the writer or the recipient…

“I think our gut reaction is to give hope. But I HATED IT when people said (well-intentioned) things like, “all things work together for the good of those who love God.” That’s true, but all I thought was … how about you not trivialize my emotion and my hurt? I think that hope is offensive in the very beginning, hope is important, but it comes AFTER comfort. In the beginning, if you offer hope to a hurting person, it seems to them like you aren’t really seeing their hurt. I’ve found “I’m sorry,” “I love you,” and “Can I help?” are NEVER EVER bad.”
— Kate Conner, kateelizabethconner.com

hope after comfort

“Best advice ever from one of our son’s NICU nurses in the middle of his diagnosis: take time to grieve. Even though he was alive, we had to grieve the loss of the “healthy baby” we thought we were getting.” — Kelli Hays, eatprayreadlove.com

“In death, saying kind things about the person who is gone is very nice to read in the card. Fond memories of the person, and “I’m sorry for your loss” were very meaningful to me. Nowadays, just the fact that people took the time to send a card, is a step above and beyond in my opinion (especially for our generation).” — Amy Hudson, creativekidsnacks.com

“Simple is key. Does anyone read those paragraphs on sympathy cards? When my father-in-law died this past year, my eye went straight to the personal note.”
— Rebecca Barth, She Shares Ministries

“After my brother’s accident we were getting cards and food and sweets and gifts and hugs and even toilet paper. But the only thing that really stuck out was a letter I received from one of the brothers in my hubs’ fraternity. ‘Life is too short, too unfair, and we don’t even get to know what will happen next. Sometimes we are handed great sorrow out of nowhere, for no reason. And life seems a bit dimmer – maybe a cloud is no longer beautiful, or a favorite song is ruined. Even delicious cupcakes might seem pointless. But the world goes on, stubbornly unaffected by its latest painful maneuvers. The sun still rises at the same time, and we are dragged along with it, whether we are willing to face the day or not… It is this randomness that gives us life. We wake up in the morning not knowing what the day will bring, and while some days bring us tragedy, other days bring us great accomplishments, joy, friendship, love- all of the things that make us beautiful, that make us human.” The letter goes on to encourage me to look ahead at the things I can celebrate.'”
— Aleks Slocum, aslocumstory.com

Do you have any go-to tips for writing sympathy cards? What would you like to hear if you had to receive one?


Did you know April is National Letter Writing Month? I’m doing a short series on Tuesdays for the rest of the month on how to write a few of the notes we’re most unsure how to write.

How to write a thank you note
What to write in a sympathy card
How to write a love note