It’s that time of year when many people will be sending out greeting cards for Christmas or other religious holidays. I have often been asked the “correct way” to insert a card into the envelope. I am always amazed when people who consider etiquette and manners as out-dated and of little use, nevertheless want to do things properly when faced with tradition and rituals.
Greetings cards are of no small expense and trouble, so it is worth some extra care when assembling them. Consider how the recipient will open the card and how to enhance the whole experience. When inserting the card into the envelope, the front of the card should face the back of the envelope so that when the flap is lifted or slit open, the attractive face of the card is revealed. Most people will be holding the envelope in their left hand and extracting the card with their right, so insert the card so that it will come out the right way up to read. In the case of a typical card that has the fold on the left hand side (i.e., to be opened like a book), this means inserting the fold first with the front of the card facing the back of the envelope.
If the card has any embossing or embellishment, this method will also protect the face of the card from the pounding it would receive from the post office sorting and cancelling machinery. (Some cards with embossed fronts now even come with ‘card protector sheets’ to insert over the design to also help protect the card from the wear and tear of the post.)
But not all cards are folded on the left side. What about tent-style cards, folded on the top?
Insert these the same way: fold first and facing the back. If you insert a card with the fold along the top edge, there is the risk that it will be damaged or cut if the recipient is using a letter opener. If you are enclosing anything with the card, (a photograph, perhaps, or some cash in a birthday card), inserting the card fold first will ensure than the enclosure comes out of the envelope with the card and does not slip out unnoticed and perhaps get thrown away.
Please don’t stress too much over how the card goes into the envelope but do be sure to personalize each card to the recipient, perhaps adding a few words of greeting beyond the printed text. Receiving a good quality envelope carefully addressed by hand and with a stamp, (never franked), creates a sense of anticipation. To find within a card with only a signature appended to the printed text is a disappointing letdown.
Let these guidelines enhance the pleasure you get by sending and receiving cards and when you receive a card that has been put in the envelope “upside down and backwards,” please ignore such trivial details and enjoy the sentiments and the thoughtfulness of the sender. In the words of Emily Post writing in 1922, do not “give too much importance to nothing.”