A Real Person Didn’t Write This? Who Knew?

By | April 23, 2013

One of the most active online discussions I’ve ever been involved in involved real handwriting versus handwriting fonts for personalizing and addressing envelopes. Does one make a difference over the other? Both raise response rates, but is real handwriting worth the cost? Or will handwriting fonts do just as well?

Along with that discussion was a handful of tips for making letters seem truly more personal, such as using real stamps rather than metered mail, ensuring that the barcode was at the bottom of the letter rather than at the top, and so on, so that the impression of real handwriting isn’t undermined by these other “tells.”

Bad Personalization

After having been deeply engaged in this discussion over the past few weeks, I found it interesting when one of these handwriting font envelopes arrived in my mailbox yesterday.

Let’s count the ways the advertiser messed this up (name and logo have been blurred out).

  • Hideous design
  • Envelopes clearly bulk pre-printed
  • Cheap, non-realistic handwriting font
  • Barcode over the address rather than below
  • But hey, they used a real stamp!

Sorry guys, but the real stamp doesn’t make up for the brain-jarring design and the tells screaming, “This isn’t really personalized at all!”

When using handwriting fonts with your clients, do you look at the use of the font in light of the larger design? If the design undermines the intent of the font, do you speak up? How do clients respond?

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6 thoughts on “A Real Person Didn’t Write This? Who Knew?

  1. Marc Zazeela


    Regardless the handwritten font, there is nothing that could save this ultra cheesy looking mailing.

    They tried to be modern with the handwritten font and then decided to use direct mail design from 1968!

    The only reason I might consider opening this is for the laughs I would surely get from the content.


  2. Kevin Donegan

    Great example of good intentions gone wrong. We have a current project using a handwritten font for the address panel as well as the letter. I think if done correctly it will help to make it through the initial mailbox sort. That should be the goal.
    Always looking for good handwritten fonts if anyone has recommendations?

  3. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    @Marc . . . Maybe it IS from 1968! Perhaps the ultimate example of not over-printing your inventory so that you aren’t still drawing from it 45 years later . . . (ha, ha) 🙂

  4. Billy Brightside

    I do have a few handwriting fonts that my customers really like. Scott Shelley and Handwriting Dakota are by far the most popular. We’ve been using them so long though that I can’t remember where we even got them. And a quick internet search was of no help, but maybe you’ll have better luck.

    Has anyone used the “Real Pen” system before? I had a really high-end project for a non-profit a couple of years ago and they wanted to hand address several thousand pieces for the “high-rollers”. We’ve always done a few hundred pieces by hand for this client, but the cost for truely hand addressed envelopes in this quantity was too prohibative so we found a solution that really looked great and that the client not only loved but also said they had the best response ever to that mailing.
    We worked with RST Marketing in VA. They did such a great job I’ve been looking for another project to send them ever since.
    Here’s the info on their Real-Pen system.

    It is quite a bit more expensive than ink-jetting, but with an assortment of font styles and pens it really is the next best thing to hand personalization.

  5. Katherine

    Ultimately it’s the client’s decision. But I would definitely speak up before I let that thing go out.

  6. Barry Walsh

    Agreed, Agreed, Agreed.

    But I would still like to hear what their response rate was.

    The proof us usually in the pudding.

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