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Nuts and Bolts: How to Write Greeting Card Verse

March 12, 2015

It’s not just the picture on the front of the greeting card that sells it – the message inside the card is usually the deal clincher or the deal breaker.  Some shoppers prefer blank cards. The majority buy cards whose verses reflect their own feelings and emotions, and  send the exact message they want to convey to the recipient.

Creating the perfect verse to go with your fabulous design isn’t easy for everyone, so here are some tips to help you craft an attractive message.

In General

  • When writing greeting card verse – and by verse, I don’t mean poems exclusively, I’m simply referring to the text outside/inside the card – make sure what you write is appropriate to the occasion and the overall “feel” of the card. Study the front image. What does it say to you?
  • When you’re starting to write, don’t get too hung up on grammar, spelling, etc. Just jot down your thoughts. Play around with ideas. Think about the occasion and the intended recipient. Is the card supposed to make the recipient laugh? Smile? Catch their breath? Feel better? Always keep the recipient in mind.
  • Use ordinary language and a conversational style (unless you’re designing for very formal occasions such as wedding announcements). Shoppers prefer a down-to-earth voice to a forced or awkward formality.
  • Stick to the point and get your message across without rambling or getting off topic.
  • When you think your verse is ready, read it aloud. Here’s where you’ll catch clumsy phrasing, incorrect grammar, and phrases that just don’t sound right.
  • If possible, read the verse to a friend or family member who will give you an honest assessment.
  • Put yourself in the shopper’s place. If you were standing at a card rack in a shop, would you pick up this card? If you looked at the inside verse, would you be tempted to buy?
  • Make certain to correct all spelling and grammar mistakes BEFORE submitting the card for review.

The Three P’s

There are three types of greeting card verse: Poetry, Prose, and Punchline.

Poetry: Rhymed, metered verse. See an example below. While poetry in greeting cards has fallen somewhat out of fashion these days, there are still shoppers who find sentimental or comic poetry appealing. Consider the theme of your design. What message would a shopper want to send to a recipient? In the example below, the theme is “reconciliation.” Both the image and the verse beautifully reflect that theme.

Silly me, silly you, what the heck did we both do? Wanna take another chance and rekindle our romance? (Inside Verse: I’m ready to kiss and make up … are you?)

Prose:  Not rhymed. A written message meant to reflect the shopper’s feelings and thoughts. This type of verse is preferred by many shoppers. In the example below, the artist has created the verse as if the shopper were speaking directly to the recipient, sharing feelings of sympathy at the loss of a loved one. Consider the occasion your card is intended to address. What would you say to someone at such a time? Speaking from the heart is always a winner.

Inside Verse: I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love.

Punchline: Humorous verse, often with the the joke set up on the outside of the card, and the punchline delivered on the inside (though not always). See the example below. Obviously, the purpose of humorous cards is to make both shopper and recipient laugh. Consider how best to accomplish this goal with your design. Is there a play on words you can make? Some way to add zing to your visual joke? Try not to be too corny unless designing cards for younger children.

Inside Verse: So eat a whole cake, a whole gallon of ice cream, and have yourself a happy birthday!

I’m sure you can find many, many more examples of these three types of verses.

Don’t settle for generic, ho hum verses that could be found on any old card. Make your cards stand out. Be unique. Use your personal voice and your creativity to set yourself apart from the crowd. Write verses that are relevant to your design, appealing, and heartfelt, and your sales will soar!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 17, 2015 7:00 pm

    These are all excellent points and tips! Writing verses can be challenging for artists who find themselves less creative in the “word” department. Don’t despair!

    When a not so straight forward image / creative is used in a submission the reviewers look for a connection in the verse to make the card “work”.

    Lastly you’ve put a lot of time and effort into your creative work & images. They deserve better than a ho hum or generic verse. Do them justice by taking a little extra time to craft the perfect verse that will resonate with shoppers and garner greater exposure and ultimately sales!

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