I had an idea for a blog post that I figure I would share. I'm currently in the market for new stationery. An article explaining the different types of stationery and their usage would be excellent! Perhaps recommendations for a 'starter' set of stationery. If not too much trouble, the inclusion of a few recommendations for where one could purchase his/her stationery. Thank you.
Your query is so refreshing for Etiquetteer, who continues to pine for the days when handwritten correspondence was the norm. Crane, of course, remains the top American stationer, and you'll find their guide to the different sizes of letter paper most helpful. You'll find even more information than you thought possible about North American paper and envelope sizes here.
Business stationery is 8.5 x 11 inches and fits into a #10 envelope. Monarch size is smaller, and for more informal personal correspondence. Monarch size folded in half is what we now think of as note cards, and Crane's offers an excellent selection. Foldovers are notecards engraved with your name or monogram. Then there are informals, flat cards 4 1/4 x 6 3/8, which can be used for all sorts of brief social correspondence just as note cards are.
Now let's talk about some dos and don'ts for Perfectly Proper stationery:
Obviously pale colors are best for stationery because it's easier to read dark letters on pale paper. (One occasionally sees black paper with white or metallic ink; please don't - not even for a novelty.) White, cream, and ecru are the most Perfectly Proper choices; you're walking right up to the border if you choose pale blue or pale gray, and pale pink is simply not an option unless you are a girl under the age of 16. (Etiquetteer has had to restrain That Mr. Dimmick Who Thinks He Knows So Much more than you can imagine to keep from getting bright orange stationery. Every day is not Hallowe'en.) Please note that this refers to the color of the writing paper, not the color of the paper lining the envelopes. Envelopes for note cards and informals are often lined with colored paper, sometimes with fanciful patterns. Remember, simplest is best.
All that said, the environmentally conscious miss Crane's Old Money stationery, a beautiful smooth green paper made from recycled American currency. It's also worth noting that red is a tricky color for envelopes that might be run through a postage meter (obviously not for social correspondence!); the red ink simply disappears.
For engraving, simplicity is best. One school of thought says that one's name should be spelled completely (Chauncey Percival Pauncyfoot, for instance), another that middle names may be abbreviated (Chauncey P. Pauncyfoot). Honorifics should not be used for personal stationery.* Once upon a time it was not considered Perfectly Proper to include the ZIP code, but even Etiquetteer realizes how impractical that is; include it! The font you choose should be severely simple and easily legible. Etiquetteer admits a strong preference for Caslon Open Face, but certainly Times Roman gets a heavy play. Devotees of sans serif fonts might want to stick with the classic Helvetica. And for those who might get all Uppity about being able to express their individuality and that they should be able to do whatever they want: good Heavens, your name will be on it! What could be more individual than that?
As you review different stationery websites and shop at various stationers, you'll notice a lot of note cards with the words "Thank You" on them. Technically this is not Perfectly Proper, the idea being that no one should be so lazy that they cannot write those Two Important Words by hand in a Lovely Note. Etiquetteer tends not to use thank-you cards, but there are also Those People who (wrongly) believe that they aren't properly thanked if the card doesn't have those Two Important Words engraved on it. Etiquetteer thinks that's petty; with the current state of handwritten correspondence, gratitude for any Lovely Note is most Perfectly Proper.
Then there are special Life Events. Mourning is probably the Life Event which has the most requirements for handwritten correspondence, and Etiquetteer has already written about it. Birthdays, on the other hand, are almost always expected to include a novelty birthday card (usually humorous) from one of the big greeting card companies and not on engraved stationery. Etiquetteer likes to shop for birthday and other greeting cards when traveling.
So, what does Etiquetteer recommend as a Perfectly Proper stationery wardrobe? Here are some suggestions; choose a quantity based on your anticipated usage.
- Business size, with matching #10 envelopes (for your most professional/serious letters).
- Monarch OR foldover note cards OR informals (based on your personal preference, for all informal correspondence).
- Novelty birthday cards.
Etiquetteer wishes you joy in your handwritten correspondence, and many handwritten replies.
*Perhaps you have noticed, as Etiquetteer has, a distressing trend of omitting honorifics altogether when addressing correspondence. Etiquetteer blames the casual nature of email and doesn't approve at all.