How to Write the Perfect Postcard

When was the last time you wrote a postcard? Received one? For me, it hasn’t been lately or frequently enough. In today’s online world, the postcard is losing ground to cheaper, more instantaneous and farther-reaching units of communication. It now competes with text messages, tweets and status updates. It can’t keep up.

Yet, the personal postcard will never lose its appeal. There’s nothing quite like receiving a small piece of paperboard art with a handwritten note on the other side. I’ve found that imagining the recipient’s reaction to a postcard I’ve sent is just as fun as receiving one.

Postcards in the mail. Photo from flickr/austinevan

Postcards are a genre, and some turn out better than others. Here are my tips for writing a more picture-perfect postcard while traveling (or even from home).

Collect physical addresses

Before traveling, make a Facebook post asking your friends to give you their home addresses if they want to receive a fun piece of mail. Ask people individually too. As responses roll in, copy/paste them into a Google document so you have access to them wherever you are.

If you want to keep the postcards a surprise, find an indirect way to get the addresses you’re targeting. Say you’re looking up directions, ask a family member, or check a wedding invite list.

postcard stand in London. Photo by flickr/wenzday01

Pick your postcards wisely

Postcard-browsing is one of my favorite activities while traveling. I love perusing the stacks of icons, attractions and natural landscapes. Dazzling photography. Cheesy typeface. Lots of sunsets. Look for local artists and photographers to support, and try to choose truthful images that resonate with a sense of place.

Practice your handwriting

Before you start writing on postcards, warm up your penmanship on a piece of scratch paper. Make sure you know every letter of cursive if you plan to use it. Write “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Twice. Use a nice fine-point pen — it may enhance your handwriting.

Beautiful handwriting. Photo by flickr/Dr John2005

Say only one or two things

Postcards are the tweets of old: they’re exposed to the public, and message length is limited. Do not try to write more than a couple sentences on a postcard. If you feel a letter coming on, find a full page of paper and an envelope. A postcard is not the place for it.

Got a case of postcard writers’ block? Here are a few ideas:

  • Write the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the place
  • Write what the place’s tourism slogan is, then write what you think it should be
  • List the best and worst part of the trip so far
  • Use multiple postcards for a several-part message
  • Make a really bad pun

keep postcards around

 Photograph your postcard before you send it

Postcards don’t leave a copy of themselves in a ‘sent’ folder. They’re ephemera. But if you’re really happy with your postcard, take a picture of it — both sides. Down the line, you’ll be glad you did. If you’re on the receiving end, keep it around awhile. Postcards make great bookmarks and mirror decor.

This post is August’s addition to my Ambassador series for


  1. Jaime Otalvaro says

    This a very cool idea Cynthia.
    Last year I traveled to Europe and stood in friends’ houses. I took several pictures of their town, their lives and some with them by my side. I’m going to turn this pictures into post cards, write something in the back and mail them to my friends. I think it’s going to be a great way to say thank you for letting m stay in their home.

    Thanks for the great idea!

  2. John Ord says

    Postcards are way too retro. My generation, not yours. Other suggestions:
    Don’t forget to attach a postage stamp. Is there still a reduced rate for postcards vs, 1st class mail?
    Mail early in your travels, especially if overseas. Otherwise you may arrive back before your postcard does.
    Don’t use the “Wish you were here” greeting. Way over used.
    Thanks for your efforts in reviving a lost art!

  3. says

    I love postcards and have sent them to my parents from most major destinations during my ongoing Trans-Americas Journey through the Americas (6.5 years and counting). Thanks for giving postcards their due and inspiring me to work on my handwriting…

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