A little note goes a long way.

By Betsy Cribb

"Put some Windex on it!" If you've seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you know that the family patriarch heralds Windex as a one-stop cure-all for everything from "psoriasis to poison ivy." For Gus Portokalos, there's nothing that a little spritz of Windex can't solve. Well, a handwritten note is my Southern mama's Windex. It's her go-to fix-it: an easy, inexpensive, and oh-so-gracious way to remedy just about any issue.

When I can't make it to a wedding: "Just send a gift, and include a nice note!"

When someone dies: "Don't forget to send the family a note."

When I want to secure a spot in my grandmother's good graces: "Why don't you drop her a note in the mail?"

Of course, as I've come to realize with most things, my mama was right about the power of a handwritten note, too. There's no easier, cheaper, or more gracious way to let people know you're thinking about them; and if it's thoughtfully written, the recipient will remember it for years to come. Here, five things to keep in mind the next time you send someone a note.

Don't procrastinate.

If you're thanking someone for a gift or for hosting an event, it's best to sit down and write your thank yous within a few days of the event, as details will be fresh in your mind and you can be specific in your thanks. But, should weeks go by and you think you've missed your window, think again: When it comes to notes of any kind, "better late than never" is the adage to which you should always subscribe.

Start with a rough draft.

It's helpful to put your thoughts on paper in a stress-free draft. This way, you can work out what you'd like to say before you pen the real deal. It's especially helpful for those more difficult notes to write, like those expressing sympathy or condolences. Writing a rough draft makes it easier to determine exactly what you want to say and how you'd like to say it, without the pressure of wasting a good piece of stationery.

Write like you speak.

I'm not suggesting you throw punctuation and spelling out the window. (Your note may be tucked away and saved for years to come – or at least that's what this overly sentimental pack rat does – so you certainly don't want it to be plagued with grammatical errors or gross misspellings.) That said, the beauty of a handwritten note is that the reader can hear your voice in it. Don't go wild with flowery language or use expressions that you'd never say out loud. Writing like you speak may also save you from using trite phrases that you don't really mean.

Invest in good stationery.

Sweet sentiments jotted down on a piece of college-ruled notebook paper will still sound as sweet, but pretty paper can make your words sing. While I'm a sucker for custom letterpress stationery and thick-thick-thick cardstock, those can require some serious ponying-up. Crane & Co. offers really pretty engraved boxed sets at much more affordable prices, and I always love shopping the selection of cards and stationery at stores like Target and Paper Source. It's also wise to keep a stack of cards on hand for those occasions that always seem to sneak up on you, like dear Aunt Martha's birthday: If you've already got the card, there's just no reason you should forget to send nice birthday wishes her way.

It's the thought that counts.

You don't have to be a dynamite writer to embrace the art of the handwritten note. No matter what you say or how you say it, the recipient will appreciate that you took time out of your schedule to say "hello," "thank you," or "I'm thinking about you" in something other than a quickly fired-off text or snappy email. A little handwritten note goes a long way.