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One of my friends and I have been commiserating with each other over the decline of our penmanship. We both blame our sloppiness on years of taking notes at school and work.

Would my cursive be any better if I had listened to Wilma Shortz? I first met Wilma when I was working at R.R. Donnelley and Sons in Crawfordsville, Indiana during the mid-1990s. Her deceased husband had once been division director of the manufacturing plant built there in 1921. I was assigned to gather content for the division’s 75th anniversary book. Someone suggested I meet Wilma to see if she had any memories or photographs that could help with the book.

Wilma lived on the edge of Crawfordsville in a modest, ranch-style home surrounded by fence-lined pastures. As I drove up the path to her house, I was surprised to see a horse stable and horses pasturing inside the fence—surprised because Wilma was in her mid to late 80s at the time. “Well, probably she boards them,” I thought, disregarding the possibility that she would be strong or agile enough to ride or care for a horse.

Isn’t it funny how you draw conclusions like that before you know anything about a person? Within the first five minutes of our meeting, Wilma had violated every expectation I had for a woman of her age. Spunky, vibrant, whip-smart and wiry (sort of) on her feet, she still cared for and occasionally rode her own horses, thank you very much. She would have been insulted if anyone thought otherwise.

Wilma invited me in and regaled me with stories about the couple’s early life in Crawfordsville, where she often hosted bridge at her home. During these parties, her only son, Will, played under foot, making up his own puzzles and games. Here, I make a full stop. Will. Will Shortz. Will Shortz, the puzzle master of the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. This. Was Wilma’s son.

I was so utterly delighted by her that I almost forgot why I had come. Eventually, I began taking the kind of notes that would help with the project, complaining to Wilma how difficult it was to read my own scribbles after an interview. She walked over to a bookshelf, pulled a Gregg Shorthand book and handed it to me. “This is what you need,” she said. That day, we began a rudimentary set of lessons and a friendship that would last through the years I worked at R.R. Donnelley and beyond.

Did I learn shorthand? Sadly, I did not. This method of stenography helped many women earn a paycheck, decades before Dictaphones and voice recorders took their place as documentarians and reporters. During my mother’s era, it was offered in high school as an advanced skill that could land young women a decent job within a few weeks of their graduation.

The middle way for people who prefer ink on paper

Because I love paper, stationery and handwritten letters (you know—the vintage form of a text message.) I’ve been trying to slow down and improve my cursive, hoping to work my way up to calligraphy. (I found the cards above at my local Paper Source, a bricks-and-mortar/online partner to Paperless Post. They’re made by Elum Designs, a company that specializes in letterpress cards and paper goods.)

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered a middle way, the Paperless Post—an online source for beautiful cards and invitations you can send electronically. Paperless Post reached out to me recently and offered a chance to try their services for free in exchange for this review.

Paperless Post is ideal for birthdays, get well cards, parties and bridal showers. I first came to know their service on the receiving end of a bridal shower invite. Paperless Post makes it easy to RSVP to any invitation, which is the number one problem with all parties these days. (Make a bloody decision, people!)

To write an objective review, I needed a good test run—something more challenging than the sweet cards I selected to encourage friends who were sick. I haven’t thrown any bridal showers lately and there are no cocktail parties on my calendar, either! So what to choose? I sifted through all my work and volunteer projects and came up with a membership campaign on behalf of the Fashion Arts Society at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Within a couple of hours, I uploaded our mailing list and designed a customized card using tools inside the online platform. To be honest, most of that time was spent shopping for the right format to accommodate a free offer I had already designed with my own software. (It looks sort of like the one above.) Paperless Post has designs ranging from classy and elegant, to graphic and fun.

Once that was done, all I had to do was hit the send button. By the end of the day, I could see that forty percent of our list had opened the card—a great tracking feature for anyone who needs a measurement tool. Not only that: I could see who opened them and who hadn’t. If I wanted, I could also ping people who didn’t respond. (That would be so nice when you’re planning a party that involves food and you really need to how many are coming!)

Considering how full everyone’s email inbox is these days and how hard it is to get attention by e-mail, I was pleased with the response on Day One of the campaign, which we augmented with print (yes, ink on paper!) and social posts.

Overall, Paperless Post was a seamless experience and, based on the early response to our membership campaign, I will choose it again for business or personal use. For me, nothing replaces the feel of holding a handwritten card, but Paperless Post comes close. Fortunately, their beauty isn’t spoiled by my sloppy cursive!

Hey, print is back in style again.

You know you’ve lived a while when you see a trend go away and return again. That’s what’s happening with print. All my trade sources and professional journals are talking about the resurgence of print for some business marketing applications. The wisdom is that it’s especially right for cultivating tribes and aficionados. (Think classical music fans, bibliophiles, ice cream connoisseurs, wine drinkers, matcha lovers, non-dairy chocolate eaters, etc.)

I’ve already seen this coming true in my job. In 2001, I thought my print experience was effectively worthless—that I’d never work on another print publication again. I trashed most of the tools I relied on to help plan print projects, sure that I would never need them again.

And then, last summer, I got a new client who decided print was just right for their mission. It was the first anecdotal evidence I had seen that organizations are becoming frustrated by the challenge of drawing eyeballs to their online marketing efforts.

Print is becoming a way to differentiate and personalize. Here’s a very unusual case in point: This week, my husband received a snail-mail card from a customer, signed by the entire office. Inside was a $100 gift card. What was the occasion? His company had priced a product too high and they had been forced to withdraw an order and give it to another vendor. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Who does that? Amazing people who are good at separating themselves from the herd and showing their appreciation for those who serve them!

After all the investment I’ve made in training/education to maintain skills for the digital age, could my old-school knowledge give me a leg up in a world without much print production experience? Oh, how sweet that would be!

What’s your experience with online social invitations? Do they work?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.