Greeting Cards 101: Getting a Handle on the Basics by Holly Davis

Have you ever noticed that people take the familiar for granted? Greeting cards, for instance. What could be tricky about writing greeting cards? Plenty, actually. The information in this article may seem obvious, but people trip over the “obvious” all the time.

For instance, freelancers have asked me many questions over the years, but the one question I’m never asked is, “What’s a greeting card?”

Well, duh! Everyone knows what a greeting card is—it’s a paper or digital product with designing and words. You give it to someone. That level of understanding will get most people through life just fine, but greeting card writers need to go deeper. Here’s my litmus test definition:

A greeting card is a vehicle for a me-to-you message centering on a holiday, special occasion, relationship, or shared topic of interest.

First let’s address the me-to-you message, the most crucial concept in cards. Think of greeting card writing as a one-sided conversation in which the sender says something personal to the recipient. Greeting cards are often funny, but they’re not merely jokes. They may be poetic, but they’re not poems. They may be insightful, but they’re not essays. The following examples show the difference between me-to-you and non-me-to-you writing.

Q: Why is a bad memory like a banana peel?
A: Because it’s always slipping up.

Card 1
Pg. 1. (Character slipping on banana peel) Guess I slipped up!
Pg. 3. Sorry I missed your birthday. Hope It Was Happy

Note that the card version gives you the impression that there’s real two-way communication going on with one person speaking and another listening. If that second person were present, the conversation would surely continue.

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