Writing Greeting Card Verse

By Pamela S Stevens
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Despite the best efforts of professional greeting card writers, you may find it difficult or impossible to find a card that says what you want to say, or that carries the emotion that you want to share. Therefore, you may choose to write your own verse and construct a card using a greeting card program, online greeting card service or home publishing software. Once you make the decision to write your own sentiments, you may wonder where to begin and how to make it look and sound original, yet professional.

Most greeting card writers use some sort of poetic devices in their verse. That is not to say that all greeting card verse is poetry, but writers use rhyme and rhythm to make the verse read smoothly and sound natural. They may also use imagery to capture a particular emotion.

Even for a poet, writing a creative and unique verse can be an intimidating and frustrating experience. If you are new to writing verse, an easy method to approach composing a unique greeting card text is as follows:

1. Outline the points you want to address and some images or memories you might want to use, for example, if you are writing about your granddaughter you might want to incorporate how you felt when you shared a special time with her.

2. Decide what kind of tone you want to use, for example, upbeat, energizing, somber or forceful. The tone will help you choose the words to use, for example, you can invoke a somber tone with round sounds, like in the words fall, hair or cloud. Whereas an upbeat verse might use words like hike, ignite or excite.

3. Do a free write; just write your thoughts without worrying about word choice or structure, to get your ideas out.

4. Look over your free write and check for a rhythm, images, metaphors or analogies that you can use to structure your verse. Circle common phases that you can change and words that do not really reflect what you want to say.

When structuring your verse try to invent fresh phrases and consider using some poetic devices.

Using fresh phrases:

  • It is not that much fun to read the same lines hundreds of times over. Your greeting card verses should be as distinctive as your relationships. Change over used phrases like, black as night, into something like as dark as the charcoaled fingertips of a fervent artist. You may want to use words that reflect the recipient's interests, if they are sport enthusiasts, for example use phrases like slam dunk, homerun, penalty box or top of your game.

Some poetic devices to consider using are:

  • Rhyme
    Rhyme is the repetition of sounds at the ends of words, often at the end of a line. However, it can be used within in a line, for example, You look up from your book/ and grimace at the menace, / a sublime feline.
  • Meter
  • Meter, simply put is the pattern of the verse. It is similar to the drumbeat in a song; it keeps the pace and moves the words along. Keep in mind that your can interrupt meter to accentuate a point; the effect is like a metallic ring of a cymbal over a background of repetitive fluid beats. You can count out your syllables and create your own patterns; it can be even lines for example 10/10/10 like an isometric stanza or can vary like a sonnet that has eight lines with eight syllables followed by six lines with six syllables. Alternatively, you could write with a complex meter like, 8/6/4/8/6/4, just for fun.
  • Alliteration
  • This is the repetition of sound, usually consonants, such as, cranky crooner.
  • Enjambment
  • Many poets end their phrase or thought at the end of a line, but if you choose to carry your statement into the next line you may use enjambment, which may also help with your rhyme scheme as well. For example, My leaping lab loves/ his Frisbee. He. this places the rhyme on 'loves' and 'he' which is much easier to match than if you ended on Frisbee.

Another thing to ask yourself while you are writing is, Is this really what I want to say? In other words, do your images and phrases successfully communicate exactly what you want to say?

Write Exactly

Choose your words carefully and make certain that they convey what you want to say, that may seem obvious, but writers often fail to use the words that relate the tone, message or image they want to invoke. For example you may use the word 'happy', instead of 'excited', 'energized', 'playful' or 'thrilled' which are words that may more accurately relate what you are feeling. Also, do not use a word you do not like just because it rhymes, you may have to rethink your rhyme scheme if you cannot get the verse to say what you want.

Be Specific

Use numbers, colors or other specific details in your verse, so that it seem like you carefully chose every word for the recipient and the one-of-kind relationship that you have with them.

Once you have gone through these steps and have employed poetic devices and exactness you are well on your way to writing an exceptional greeting card.

Some helpful online resources include:

  • Dictionary .com at www.dictionary.reference.com
  • RhymeZone at www.rhymezone.com

If you would like to learn more about meter, consider:

  • Poetic Rhythm: An IntroductionDerek Attridege, Cambridge University Press (1996)
  • All the Fun's in How You Say a Thing: An Explanation of Meter and VersificationTimothy Steele, Ohio University Pres (1999)
  • Rules for the Dance : A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical VerseMary Oliver, Houghton Mifflin Company (1998)

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