Rambling is easy, some say — and boiling your message down to the length of a postcard takes true skill. Still, not everyone’s familiar with this now already somewhat quaint art form. In the age of the email and the age of social media, how do you craft a good postcard?
Postcards, as we know them today, first became truly popular in the late 1800s. They essentially served the same purpose as an email — facilitating quick and easy communication. Unlike emails, though, postcards are also often pretty physical objects, leading many people to start collecting them.
Today, we no longer really send casual postcards. You might write a postcard to:
- Make an important announcement — you’re getting engaged or married, you’re having a baby, or you’re retiring.
- Offer a special memento from a vacation or road trip you’re on.
- Wish someone well — on their wedding, birthday, when they’re sick, or if a loved one just passed away. Thank you notes can be written in postcards, too.
- Wish someone happy holidays.
None of that means you can’t send a postcard for no reason at all, just because you’re thinking of someone. The fact that this is unusual now will make your postcard extra special.
You generally only send postcards to people you know intimately, so friends, relatives, and your partner — and part of the reason is that you need someone’s physical address to be able to send one!
How to Write a Postcard (Step-by-Step)
The anatomy of the postcard consists of three separate parts. On the “front”, you’ll find an image or graphic of some kind. The “back” contains two halves. You write your message on the left side, and the recipient’s name and address on the right. You’ll also find a designated place to put your stamp in the top right corner.
How do you get started? Let’s have a look at the steps:
Choose a Design
Standard-sized postcards have dimensions of either 4” x 6” or 5 x 7”, but different formats exist, too. You choose your design while keeping the occasion in mind. A holiday postcard should reflect the spirit of your destination, for instance. A birthday or wedding postcard should keep the personality of the recipient in mind; some people enjoy fun themes, while others prefer more serious or artful designs.
Date and Return Address
You can write the date on which you’re sending your postcard, and your return address, on a postcard if you want to. However, the date on which the post office processes the card will be stamped on it anyway, so most people don’t bother — and because postcards are generally sent to people who already have your address, or from a temporary holiday location, you really don’t need to include that. The exception would be if you were sending a postcard to announce a change of address.
The act of sending a postcard is already a message in itself, since this is an act we generally only perform for people we care deeply about. (Marketing postcards, which have become more popular recently, are an obvious exception.)
You will only have space to write a few sentences — typically up to four, at most. Make your words count! Get straight to the essence of your message. If you’re not sure what to say, you can write your message on a piece of paper first. This will help you make edits and simultaneously allows you to figure out if the length of the message will fit.
Recipient’s Address and Stamps
Unless you are hand-delivering your postcard, you absolutely need to get this right to ensure that the postcard will safely arrive at its destination. Once you have written your message and the recipient’s address, you’re almost ready to mail your postcard.
It costs just $0.58 to send a postcard within the United States, by first-class mail. Sending a postcard internationally costs only a little more, at $1.30, and you can buy stamps from any post office and have your postcard mailed simultaneously. Post cards themselves can range in price from under a dollar to well over $10, depending on the card.
9 Tips to Help You Write an Engaging Postcard
Are you lost for words? Here are some tips to get you started after you’re done with your greeting, which will usually be “Dear [name]”, “Hi”, “To my sweet nephew”, or similar:
- Describe what you’re doing or looking at — especially appropriate if you’re sending a postcard from vacation.
- Talk about a memory you shared with the recipient.
- Tell the recipient you miss them.
- Choose to send a short poem or quote instead.
- Congratulate the recipient on their happy news in a heartfelt, unique, way that reflects your relationship.
- Share your sincere condolences or well wishes.
- Ask the recipient what they’ve been doing.
- Share some news of your own.
- Wish the recipient happy holidays.
If you don’t just want your message to be unique, but also the image on the postcard, you could even try some of the many free online postcard templates to design your own. This could include a picture of your vacation destination, Christmas tree, your pet, or a trip you went on with the recipient, among many other options.
Still not sure what to write on your postcard? We’ll help you out with some examples.
To my coolest baby sister,
Can you believe I’m actually writing this from inside the London Eye? I am! As I’m seeing all these amazing sights, I can’t help but miss you and wish you were here. Next time, let’s take a trip together! PS: You bet I’m getting you some nifty gifties!
For a Friend
So… I was just watching the new Sex and the City rehash and it made me think of you. No matter how far away you are, you’ll always be a part of me, girlfriend. Let’s get together soon! Here’s to a friendship that will never fade.
Hope you’re settling into your new dorm alright and having a fun time (but not too fun… you ARE hitting the books, right?). Just wanted to let you know that you can call me if you ever need anything. Any time!
Businesses have taken to sending postcards as well, and here’s an example of what that can look like.
Nothing says “I care” like a beautiful old-fashioned postcard! Were you excited to see who sent you this one? Yes, you were! Make your friend’s day or create an effective postcard marketing campaign with our bespoke postcard design and printing service!
Postcard Essay Example
Students are sometimes asked to write “postcard essays”, which generally have a word limit of 50 or 100. They may mimic a personal postcard, or not, and they may be written on an actual postcard in some cases. Here’s an example, the premise of which is that students are asked to write a postcard about a teacher who inspired them.
I’ve always loved all of the humanities and felt, at best, reluctant about the sciences. That didn’t change when Mr Kim became my chemistry teacher, but he did show me that teachers are more than their subjects. Mr Kim did not manage to teach me any chemistry, but he did make me a braver philosopher and a better writer.
We just put up our Christmas tree and hung the decorations you sent last year. Surrounded by the smell of pine and gingerbread is wonderful, but it also really makes me miss you. Wishing you a magical Christmas anyway!
If you’re lucky, you’ll find some grains of sand from this wonderfully white beach still on the postcard, because that’s where I’m writing this. Thanks so much for looking after my cat! Wish you were here!
You may send someone a postcard when they have tested positive for Covid or are having a tough time in lockdown. Depending on how far away you live, you can hand-deliver these postcards to the recipient’s doorstep. Here’s an example.
We don’t know each other that well, but we heard you’d tested positive. We might all physically be further apart than ever, but that doesn’t mean we can’t support each other. We’ve included some fresh fruits and chocolate for you. If there’s anything else you need, feel free to reach out. We’d be happy to go shopping for you!
All the best,
Rick and Ashley from 2C
Common Mistakes You Should Avoid
Now that we’ve covered what to do, we should also dive into what to avoid. Don’t make these common mistakes when writing your postcard:
- Don’t include sensitive information you wouldn’t want the rest of the world to see, and consider postcards public. Postal workers will be able to read your message.
- Don’t venture into the right-hand section of the postcard, which will make it hard for postal workers to deliver your postcard.
- Do use your best penmanship, or neither the recipient nor the mailman will be able to figure your writing out.
Do you have to put a return address?
No. No real space is provided for a return address, and you only need to include it if your recipient wouldn’t know where to reach you.
How to address a postcard without lines?
Postcards without printed address lines should still be addressed in the same way. Write the address neatly on the right-hand side and leave space for the stamp.
Where to put stamp on postcard with bar code?
All postcards should contain an outline for the stamp; place it there. When in doubt, ask at the post office.
How to send a postcard internationally?
Postcards may be placed in mailboxes, but if you are not sure about the postage, it is always better to send them from the post office, which you can also do.
How to send a postcard from a cruise?
Cruise lines have mail centers. You can drop your postcard off there.
Can you mail any size postcard?
When you keep in mind that people send even very large parcels, the answer is “sure you can”. The post office may not consider extremely large non-standard postcards to be postcards, however.
Do you still need to mail a postcard with an envelope?
No envelope is needed, unless you are aiming for added privacy.
Can you print out and mail a postcard?
Of course! Make sure the paper is sturdy enough!