As a child, Annie Dean’s grandmother would encourage her granddaughter to practice handshakes and such polite phrases as “How do you do?” So it was inevitable, perhaps, that this month the 27-year-old Manhattan-ite launched The Elements of Style, a blog celebrating “etiquette, entertaining and everyday glamour.”
There, purveyors of all things proper will find everything from classic cocktail recipes to cleaning tricks. Here, you’ll find more interesting tidbits about Annie, such as why she favors unlocked doors and why there isn’t an etiquette rule she wouldn’t break.
When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
My mother required me to send thank you notes since before I could sign my name. In the beginning, I would dictate. I also loved receiving letters from my grandmother even as a very little girl, but I could never read her cursive! The funny thing is my handwriting looks just like hers now.
Why do you enjoy writing correspondence?
I love to write. And I love the good things in life. Stationery and letter writing add loveliness to life for all types of people in all types of situations. When you take the time to write a letter you take the time to share something genuine of yourself, which isn’t that common.
What is your favorite step in the process of written correspondence?
Dropping it in the mailbox!
If you could be pen pals with anyone in history, to whom would you write and what would you say?
Probably Mozart. I’d ask what it sounds like in his head. Does he hear the instruments one at a time? Or is it a symphony right from the start? Is it loud? Does he hear it in spurts? I’d like to talk to a lot of people, though. I have a lot of questions.
To whom do you most often write?
Well now, to my readers on The Elements of Style. But in terms of handwritten notes, I send thank you notes to all sorts of people all the time. Many notes of thanks for dinners or little gifts (we entertain a lot so we receive many). I probably send two per week.
Describe the most memorable letter you have ever received.
My husband and I met because we were both tenants in the same building (our doorman set us up!). At that time I was in law school and always in and out, and had a tendency to leave my apartment door unlocked. In the first month that we started dating, Peter rushed out to buy Crane stationery (he thought it was the most classic!) and a calligrapher’s pen and practiced writing script. I found the scrap paper with a cursive alphabet! He would write me little notes and leave them in my apartment, sometimes with flowers or little presents. I know I should have locked my door, but after that I just couldn’t bring myself to make it a habit!
What makes a particular letter stand out from a stack of cards?
Oh you can tell right away when it’s a ‘real’ letter, can’t you! A ‘real’ letter on true stationery is a heavy enough weight that you can’t see through to the contents inside. The paper is much nicer than the rest of the envelopes and junk mail stuffed into your mailbox. It isn’t loud or trying to grab your attention. And so you notice it in an instant.
Do you have a favorite stamp or stamp series?
I’m a sucker for anything that features a President or a First Lady. There is a Miles Davis/Edith Piaf series out right now that I adore.
What makes your correspondence distinct?
I’m not a “Dear David, Thank you! Love, Annie” kinda gal. I really like to spend the time to write a real letter each time I send out something in the mail. I also have a very specific way of signing the return address on the back of each envelope, using a signature of my husband’s last name and our address printed in capital letters.
What do you think classic correspondence will look like in a decade or two?
I think that as we move into a more overtly digital world, tangible luxuries will come into greater favor. I couldn’t live without the Internet, but there is something so special about buying stationery, thinking about a note, writing a letter, signing it. I think more and more people will connect with writing things in ink as time goes on. We’ll be desperate for permanency.
What is the one etiquette rule you will never break?
Rules are made to be broken. The purpose of etiquette is to learn how to break them with grace.
Have a question for Annie? Email our Crane Concierge at email@example.com.