How To Write A Postcard: Tips And Examples

The summer travel season is in full swing, and that means it is the perfect time to start mailing some postcards. A postcard, you ask? Isn’t that a bit outdated? It may be by modern standards, but that’s also a part of what makes mailing and receiving postcards so fun.

Postcards are ultimately a way to send a snapshot, both literally and figuratively. They include pictures, and they have just enough space for you to share a little slice of life without going into too much detail. Because they aren’t a necessity, they’re a way to tell people you’re thinking of them, surprise them from exotic or exciting locations, and create an instant memory that they can keep for years to come. Postcards may seem like a thing of the past, but perhaps it’s time for a revival. Before you get started, here’s what you need to know to write and send the perfect postcard.

Why send a postcard?

People have been mailing postcards to each other since the 1800s. Back then, they were called “private mailing cards,” and they typically consisted of a blank card mailed in an envelope that had a picture on it. Postcards were popular because they allowed people to send quick messages back and forth, rather than a lengthy letter.

The postcard as we know it today—a photo card with divided sections on the back for the message and the address—became the standard beginning in the early 1900s. Since then, postcards have seen a lot of trends come and go, including different borders and changes to printing technology. Through it all, they’ve remained a popular item for tourists and collectors alike.

The basics of mailing postcards

Let’s talk about the anatomy of a postcard. If you look at a standard postcard, you’ll see a photo or image that takes up the entire front of the card. There is no space for an address or a stamp. Instead, that is on the other side. Here’s what to know before you mail a postcard:

How to address a postcard

If you flip a postcard over, you’ll see a blank space on the left to write your message. On the right side, you may see three or four lines with a little square in one corner. Those lines are where you write the address of the person receiving the card. If there are no lines to guide you, make sure you write the address on the right side. After that, place a stamp in the square in the upper right corner.

How many stamps do I need?

As of July 26, 2023 the cost to mail a postcard is increasing from 44 cents to 48 cents. You still only need one stamp to mail a postcard. A Forever stamp, which now costs 66 cents, more than covers the cost, but the US Postal Service also sells postcard stamps. Postcards are generally cheaper to mail than a standard letter.

Should you put a postcard in an envelope?

You do not need to put a postcard in an envelope; however, you can if you want to. Just be aware that doing so may change the price of mailing it, so you’d want to use a Forever stamp in that case, versus the cheaper postcard stamp.

What to say in a postcard

1. Start with a cheerful greeting.

Since you aren’t writing a letter, you can skip the standard “Dear So-and-so” greeting. Instead, have a little fun with it. You might work in the state or place motto, opt for a simple hello, use a nickname, or even just jump straight into your message. Check out some examples:

  • Hello from the Sunshine State!
  • Greetings from the City of Lights!
  • Mom, can you believe it took me 12 years to finally make this trip happen?
  • Hey Sis,

2. Don’t just write a letter.

Postcards are small, so get right to the point. Think of it as an opportunity to send a snapshot of your trip, hometown, or day-to-day life wherever you are. Here are some ideas for things you might include:

  • Write a quick list of five interesting facts you’ve learned about where you are.
  • Give a local traveling tip.
  • Share a funny or sweet anecdote from your life during the past few days.
  • Share interesting news.
  • Recall an inside joke and what inspired you to think of it.
  • Describe what you’re doing or seeing right at the moment you’re writing the card.

3. Make it shine with personality.

Think of a postcard as an old-school text message. It’s an opportunity to send a short, personal note that’s hyper-specific to the place where you are and/or the person you’re writing to. Use the blank space on your card to make a joke, draw a funny picture, or even craft a silly poem. Don’t be afraid to be a little off the wall.

4. Get sentimental.

Typically, you’re sending a postcard to let someone know you’re thinking of them even when you’re far away. Let them know how much you miss them and how much you wish they were there spending time with you.

How is writing a postcard different from writing a letter?

You might be wondering: Why send a postcard? Well, there are a few answers to that. The first is that sending a postcard can be fun. They’re decorative and quirky. Some people even collect them. But that’s not the only thing that sets postcards apart. Postcards are also different from letters in some other key ways:

1. They’re usually tied to a special place or event.
A postcard is often a way of marking an occasion, be it a special trip or a summer away at camp. Not everyone sends postcards in everyday life, so when you write or receive one, you know it’s something special. It may even be a keepsake.

2. You won’t be getting a response.
Since postcards are typically mailed from tourist destinations and other one-stop places, they usually don’t require a response. In fact, there’s not even a designated place to write a return address. This fact adds a bit of lightness to the act of mailing a postcard and makes it a truly one-time bit of fun.

3. There’s not as much room to write.
As we’ve mentioned, postcards are small. There isn’t space for all the usual pomp and circumstance of a letter. This provides a unique opportunity to be straightforward, whimsical, and get right to the heart of why you’re writing, which is usually to share a small snapshot of your world with someone else. That’s a beautiful thing.

Top tips for postcard writing

Let’s be honest: In the year 2023, we have a million easy ways to communicate. The point of a postcard isn’t necessarily to send a vital message. Instead, it’s to have fun!

No matter how modern we may be, getting old-fashioned “snail mail” is still exciting, and the process of mailing and receiving a postcard is a nostalgic throwback that can actually be delightful. If you want to surprise friends and family with some great postcards this summer, here are some quick final tips to help you get the most out of the process:

  • Since postcards are so small, pick one with an image that captures some aspect of your journey or what you want to say. That helps add more to your message.
  • Always carry stamps on trips, so you can mail your postcards right away.
  • Make sure what you want to say on a postcard is no longer than a paragraph.
  • Since you likely won’t be getting a response, don’t waste any space with questions.
  • Send postcards from multiple locations for an exciting daily or weekly surprise to recipients.

Have as much fun with your language as you do in life—try one of these synonyms for "fun."

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