The Gentleman’s Guide to Stationery 6

Charles Dickens Writing

“Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Although you can easily buy a package of mass-produced stationery at almost any store, the use of personalized stationery is an important, though oft-forgotten, trait of a true gentleman. Because many of your correspondents may never see you face-to-face, your letters are in fact representing you… for better or for worse. Using personalized stationery is one very important way to improve your letter’s impression.

1. Choose Your Insignia

Before designing the stationery itself, you can first choose your own personal emblem. Although this step is not absolutely necessary, an insignia is useful to a man in the same way that a logo is useful to a business – it will help set the person or company apart.

These personal “logos” normally fall into one of two categories: individual monograms or heraldic crests.

Example MonogramMonograms

A monogram is simply a badge composed of two or three of a person’s initials. These insignia’s rarely are composed of a single initial as that gives it an unfinished and unprofessional look.

While the designs vary widely, the vast majority follow one of two patterns.

In the first prototype, initials are written in the same size and placed in consecutive order.

In the second design, the initial of the last name is placed in the center and uses a larger font than the other two initials, which are placed on either side (as in the example above).

You can choose one of these common patterns, or you can create your own.  Just remember to keep its appearance professional. This emblem will be representing you.

Example CrestHeraldic Crest

In the United States, heraldry and the class system that it represents have, thankfully, never been accepted. In fact, the US Constitution states in Article 1, Section 9:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Although the United States has no nobility, some Americans do have forefathers from other nations who do have coats of arms. In this case, it is automatically passed down to you, as the descendent, so you are free to use it as your personal insignia.

2. Design Your Stationery

Once you have completed the optional task of creating a personal emblem, you can draft your stationery design.

A gentleman’s basic stationery set should include both monarch sheets (for long letters) and correspondence cards (for brief correspondence).

Monarch SheetMonarch Sheet

Size: Approximately 7.25” wide by 10.5” high
Components: Personal insignia (if applicable) with your name, address, email, or combination.
Usage: General correspondence, Formal and informal invitations

In the past, a Monarch Sheet would only include your insignia, name, and/or address, but, with the widespread acceptance of the internet, email addresses and website URLs can also be included. Just remember, this should be suitable for formal communication, so only list your website if you don’t mind your correspondent visiting it.

If you are a clergyman, doctor, or military member, you can use your title; otherwise, just stick to your own name.

Correspondence CardCorrespondence Card

Size: Approximately 6.25” wide by 4.25” high
Components: Personal insignia (if applicable) with your name, address, email, or combination.
Usage: Thank-you notes, Brief correspondence

This card should be printed on quality, heavyweight paper which can be white or a subdued, formal color. The trick when designing this card’s layout is to keep from filling the available space completely with your name, address, and other information – remember to leave room for your correspondence.

3. Print Your Set

Before you can start using your new personal stationery, you will also have to print the cards. Flat printing can be done at home, but the more professional types are normally best when done by an expert printer.


Quality: High
Price: High
Usage: Anything, especially formal occasions

This elegant style of printing was introduced in the 17th century, and it still remains the best today. Unfortunately, with the excellent quality comes a high price that might make it too expensive.

Because engravers must make an individual die for each design, the first batch will be more expensive than reprints.


Quality: Medium
Price: Medium
Usage: Everything except the most formal occasions

Also called raised printing, this technique looks similar to engraving at first glance, but, after a brief inspection, many differences are found. For instance, the ink is shinier, an indentation is left on the back of the card, and the front of the paper is “bruised”, or compressed.

Because this method does not use an expensive die, this printing style might be the best balance of price and quality for a frugal gentleman.

Gutenberg Press ReproductionFlat Printing

Quality: Low
Price: Low
Usage: Informal correspondence

The least expensive method is just normal printing. In the past, this type of card was rarely used, but, with the decrease of formality in our society, it has become more acceptable. This can be produced at your local copy store or even using your home printer.

Although flat printing should be avoided in more formal occasions, such condolence letters, it is adequate for informal correspondence.

Image Credits

Life, Crane & Co., Classic Communication, Cannelli Printing, Wikipedia, Dartmouth

6 thoughts on “The Gentleman’s Guide to Stationery

  1. Reply Jason V Mar 1,2010 11:28 AM

    Makes me want to print some up using my Kingsley hot foil printer.
    It’s up for rent if you want to make some. Most fonts that I have are only 18pt though, so would need to order some larger monogram letters for my initials probably. :)

  2. Reply Kelly Stevenson May 20,2010 9:45 AM

    Great blog Nate! I really like the manifesto. Very mature stuff for such a young man. Because of your youth, your manly skills section is sorely lacking. Manly stationary? A very well written article but kind of sissified. A carpenter’s pencil and a grease stained brown lunch bag will suffice. In all sincerity Nate, spend this summer doing hard manual ouside labor. Construction, farm, landscaping or logging to name a few. Long hours, heat, rain and filth are a must. This experience will greatly enhance your blog and build character to boot! I am 43 years old, a woodshop teacher, and have many years of backbreaking manual labor under my belt. I would be happy to contribute to the manly skills section if you like.

  3. Reply Nate Desmond May 20,2010 9:52 AM

    @Kelly Stevenson – Thank you, sir, for your contribution offer. I agree that I am lacking somewhat in the realm of manly skills and this blog is lacking even more.

    I would greatly appreciate your contributions!

    (I am sending you an email, so we can discuss this further.)

  4. Reply Jason V Jun 11,2010 10:28 AM

    Which type are you using, and what does your monogram / insignia look like?

  5. Reply Nate Desmond Jun 11,2010 12:11 PM

    @Mr. V – I use flat printing with a monogram/background correspondence card. You can see it here:

  6. Reply Ashley Jan 23,2012 11:36 AM

    As a woman, I would be much more interested in a gentleman with personal stationary than someone who thought manual labor was the way to be a man. Stationary shows class, intelligence, style, and culture. Hard work on a farm or something simply shows callous brute strength indicating possible sperm viability. Women these days want respectable gentlemen with whom they can converse and not simply procreate.

    Nate, real women will be impressed by your attention to detail and eye for aesthetics.

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