Etiquette: Building Your Social Stationery Wardrobe

IMG_7910As with the clothes you wear, the stationery you use makes a statement. When you create and assemble your “stationery wardrobe,” keep in mind the impression you hope to make. Your stationery should reflect both your personality and the type of correspondence you’re sending.

With that in mind, there are three questions you should ask yourself when creating your perfect stationery wardrobe. Let’s dive in, shall we?

What Kind of Paper Should I Use?
How Should My Stationery Be Printed
Stationery for Women
Stationery for Men

What Kind of Paper Should I Use?
This is actually a three-part question, as you need to choose the material from which the paper is made, the color and the types of stationery.

Paper Material
Paper is made from either cotton or wood. The first true papers were made from cotton almost 2,000 years ago. Wood-pulp papers came into being in the 1800s during the Industrial Revolution. They supplanted cotton-fiber papers for many uses because of their lower cost and the seemingly endless supply of trees.

paper cottonThe finest paper, though, is made from cotton. Before you order your stationery, run your fingers across the paper. Stationery made from cotton will have a soft, rich feel. You’ll undoubtedly recognize the quality inherent in cotton-fiber papers. Crane’s 100% cotton fiber papers have the touch and feel of uncommonly beautiful papers.

Paper Colorpaper colorStationery comes in many different colors. Ecru (also known as buff, cream, ivory or eggshell) and white stationery, however, are the most popular.

Type of Stationery
You can order several different types of stationery. The two most basic are one for writing notes and one for writing longer letters. While these two items are essential, you may wish to add variations of these two as you build your stationery wardrobe.


How Should My Stationery Be Printed?

Stationery can be engraved, blind-embossed, thermographed or flat-printed.

Engraving is one of the oldest and most beautiful processes for reproducing images on paper. The appeal of engraving lies in the exquisite detail created by its three-dimensional impression. Engraving is produced when the copy is etched in reverse into a copper plate. Ink is deposited in the resulting cavity. The engraving press then forces the paper into the cavity, creating a raised impression. The paper is literally raised, with the ink adhering to the raised surface. The fact that the paper is raised is what distinguishes engraving from thermography and flat-printing.engraved hot air balloon

It’s easy to tell if a piece of stationery is engraved. Simply turn it over. If there’s an indentation (caused by the pressure from the engraving press), it is engraved. You can also tell by looking closely at the impression on the front. The paper will be smoother there, and the sheet may have a little ripple. This is called the “bruise” and is a natural part of the process.

Engraved stationery is more expensive than thermographed or flat-printed stationery. However, much of the price difference lies in the initial cost of the engraving plate. Since engraving plates can be used over and over again, subsequent orders of engraved stationery cost only a little more than other types of stationery.

Blind Embossingblind embossed monogram Blind embossing is the same process as engraving minus the ink. The image is simply the raised paper. You might recognize blind embossing as the raised address on the flap of a wedding envelope.

Thermography is sometimes called “raised printing,” although the printing is not raised at all. Unlike engraving, where the paper is actually raised, the raise in thermography is created by a resinous powder that is melted over the flat-printed ink. Thermography is less expensive than engraving but, while quite handsome, is not quite as luxurious as engraving.

Flat-printing, as its name implies, is simply ink applied to a flat surface with no raise.


Stationery for Women

Letter Sheets
Letter sheets, also known as “formal stationery,” are the most formal papers in a woman’s stationery wardrobe. Historically, they have been ecru or white and have a fold along the left-hand side. (Formal wedding invitations are engraved on letter sheets.) Letter sheets fold again from top to bottom to fit inside an envelope that is approximately half their size. Today letter sheets come in a variety of colored paper stocks.

Blank, unadorned letter sheets are used to reply to formal invitations and for letters of condolence. Because of their simple elegance, letter sheets may be used for any type of correspondence. Letter sheets may be adorned with a coat of arms, a monogram, a name, an address or simply left blank.

Start your letter on the front page of the letter sheet, followed by page three. Do not write on page two or page four, as it’s never proper to write on the back of a sheet of paper. On letter sheets, however, some women prefer to start their letters on page one. Then they open up the letter sheet, turn it sideways and write lengthwise across pages two and three.

Half Sheets
Named so because they are half the size of formal letter sheets, half sheets may be embellished with your monogram, name, address, or name and address. Write only on the front of a correspondence sheet, never the back. If you need additional space, use blank second sheets.

Monarch Sheets
Monarch sheets, also known as “executive stationery,” are used for longer personal letters and for personal business letters. They measure 7 1/4 x 10 1/2 inches and fold into thirds to fit their envelopes. A name, address or name and address appear at the top of the sheet. Write only on the front of the sheet, never the back. If you need additional space, use blank second sheets.

Fold-Over Notes
Fold-over notes are used to write thank-you notes, extend informal invitations and send short messages to friends and acquaintances. Your monogram or your name may appear on the notes. The monogram or lettering style that will work best for you is the one that best reflects your personality.

Fold-over notes may begin on page one when the imprint is at the top of the note. The note may continue on page three. When the imprint is in the center of the note, the entire message is written on page three, and pages two and four are not used. If you need more space, use a different type of stationery, perhaps a correspondence sheet.

Contrary to their name, informal notes are rather formal. Informals are small white or ecru fold-over notes. They are engraved in black ink and may have a paneled frame. Informals are engraved with a woman’s proper social name, preceded by her title. “Mr. & Mrs.” is properly used on informals only when issuing an informal invitation from both husband and wife.

Correspondence Cards
One of the most useful items in a stationery wardrobe is the correspondence card. Less formal than notes, these increasingly popular items are used for thank yous, informal invitations and short notes. Correspondence cards are flat, heavy cards that usually measure 4 1/4 x 6 1/2 inches and are mailed in matching envelopes. They can be plain or bordered, depending on your tastes. A name or a small monogram may appear at the top of the card. Write only on the front of the card, never the back. If you need more space, use a different type of stationery, perhaps a correspondence sheet.

House Stationery
House stationery may be properly used by any resident of your house or by any guest staying at your house. Many people keep house stationery at their country and beach homes so that stationery is always available for their guests and for themselves. Only the name of your house or your address appears on the stationery.


Stationery for Men

Monarch Sheets
Most men use monarch sheets for their personal letters and personal business letters. Also known as “executive stationery,” monarch sheets measure 7 1/4 x 10 1/2 inches and fold into thirds to fit their envelopes. Although monarch sheets are available in a variety of colors, most men prefer ecru or white. Many different ink colors are also available, but black, grey and navy blue are most popular among men.

You may display your name, address or name and address at the top of the sheets. The stationery retains a more personal look when you use only your name.

Write only on the front of the sheet, never the back. If you need additional space, use blank second sheets.

Half Sheets
Men who usually do not write long letters may prefer half sheets to monarch sheets. Measuring 6 1/4 x 8 1/2 inches, half sheets are somewhat smaller than monarch sheets and fold in half to fit their envelopes. They may be embellished with your coat of arms, monogram or your name and address. Most men, however, prefer to show their names only.

As with monarch sheets, write only on the front of a correspondence sheet, never the back. If you need additional space, use blank second sheets.

Correspondence CardsIMG_7924 Correspondence cards are small (usually 4 1/4 x 6 1/2 inches), heavy, flat cards that are used for thank-you notes and other brief notes. Men generally use these in lieu of fold-over notes. The cards are very practical, and most men find they use many more correspondence cards than sheets.


Have more stationery etiquette questions? Email our Crane Concierge at 

6 thoughts on “Etiquette: Building Your Social Stationery Wardrobe

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