A neighbor’s son passed away unexpectedly. My heart ached for the family. I rushed out to purchase a sympathy card, taking the time to select one that best expressed our care and condolences. After finding just the right card, I returned home, grabbed a pen, and prepared to write a thoughtful inscription. 

I certainly had emotions and thoughts to convey, but they didn’t seem to translate easily into words. My pen hovered above the paper as I grappled with what to write, worried my words would be trite, misguided, or (worse yet) insensitive.
This greeting card “writer’s block” is nothing new to me. It hits every time I prepare to write a card for a friend in need. I’m crippled by the fear of penning the “wrong” words.

I’m not alone in this fear; many others struggle to place pen to paper when coming face-to-face with a greeting card. This I know from the wealth of blog posts devoted to this very topic. The advice I gleaned from these helped me find just the right words to write to my neighbor and may be of guidance to you too.


1. Make It Simple.

We often feel like our words need to be poetic or inspiring. In reality, they just need to be heartfelt. Expressing love and care to a friend can be conveyed with minimal, quality words.

2. Include Words of Comfort. 

Let the friend know you are aware of the situation (e.g., I’m sorry to hear about the loss of ________ …). Voice your support and feelings (e.g., I’m thinking about you during your recovery…). If it’s a sympathy card, share memories of the deceased (e.g., He was a wonderful baseball coach to our son…). Offer help and, if possible, be specific with those offers (e.g., I will bring a meal to you next week…).

3. Deliver the Card. 

As soon as a need is apparent, send out the card. Most experts recommend notes be sent within two weeks by mail or hand-delivery. Including a poem, prayer card, or gift card may be a nice addition.


Remember, those facing difficulties treasure handwritten notes. The time and effort you spend writing a note will shower a friend with encouragement and support. 

What advice do you have for writing the right words?

**This post is based on an original post written for WhatFriendsDo a few years ago by Rebecca Wood.