Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Tradition and Etiquette of Calling Cards

10 October 2019 (ORCNS) - The calling card, or visiting card as it is sometimes known, is almost a lost custom in modern society. Yet, like the oaks that have seen kings and wars and plagues come and go, the calling card refuses to die. The calling card, distinct from the business card, is left when paying social calls. It has quite a few other uses that are part of its centuries-old tradition as well. Even in today’s rushed, sterile society…
and perhaps even more so because of the modern hurried, faceless environment…the calling card remains the mark of a lady or gentleman of class and distinction. To use calling cards is to have self-respect and respect for others. It is a reminder to those you encounter that you are thinking of them, despite your busy life. No lady or gentleman should leave the house without calling cards.

On a business card, one normally sees the name of the company, perhaps a logo, the individual’s name, and a full array of contact information. By comparison, the calling card is quite plain. Most traditionally, cards are white, with the name printed in black ink in block text or a script (rarely if ever should “Old English” or overly fancy fonts be used). There ends the required inclusions. Some sort of small heraldic emblem may optionally be placed in the corner or the top center. An address may be put in the bottom right corner, but this is not obligatory and typically superfluous. Telephone numbers and email addresses ought also to be avoided, but especially today they are often included. Most traditionally, an individual writes the address or telephone or internet information by hand at the time that the card is presented…and only when those pieces of information are needed. In any case, the bottom left should be left blank.

Style of the Name on the Calling Card

A calling card should indicate how you should be introduced by, for example, a butler or valet. So, names should be written out in full. Middle names may be omitted or abbreviated as needed. Other than Mr. and Mrs., titles should be spelled out except where space is a concern. For nobles and royals with styles such as Excellency, and Highness, these are typically omitted, as they are generally “implied” by what is on the card.

Boys who do not have titles of nobility simply have their name inscribed in the center of the card. They may adopt “Mr.” upon reaching the age of majority. Girls who do not have a title of nobility use “Miss” until they marry. The modern female business title of “Ms.” has no place on a social calling card.

Married women of gentlemen have their names inscribed as “Mrs.” followed by the full name of their husband. The possible variations for the wives of knights and nobles are too numerous to discuss in detail here. However, a good rule of thumb is that the wife’s card follows the same general style of the husband’s. This varies by the customs of the country of origin of the title and should generally not vary according to the country of residence or visitation.

Names should also never exceed a single line. Titles and, on occasion, offices such as Mayor or Governor may be written on another line or lines below the name as needed. Ultimately good taste and functionality determine the final layout of the card.

Exceptions exist, of course. For example, U.S. military officers, who are often expected to have calling cards, have a specific set of rules to follow. For junior officers, the name is in the center of the card, with the rank and branch of the service in the bottom right. For senior officers, the rank is placed before the name on the same line, with the branch in the bottom right. General and Flag officers may write “General” or “Admiral” with only their last name in the center of the card if they choose.

Joint Spouse Calling Cards

Married couples may also have calling cards. These may be used, along with the couple’s individual cards, when paying a formal visit. The joint card may also be used for gift enclosures. Joint cards are inscribed as “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” or in a similar fashion for those with noble titles.

Use of Calling Cards

Calling cards are used, of course, when paying a formal call on someone. In the most formal circumstances, an attendant will take the card of the visitor to the host. It is also used to announce the visitor. When the host is not at home (which may mean simply “not receiving visitors”), a calling card says “I was here.”

When one receives an invitation that did not say r.s.v.p. or have a reply card, and one cannot attend, it is customary and polite to send one’s calling card by post to arrive on the day of the event or shortly before.

Cards may also be used as gift enclosures, to express condolences, or to give congratulations. They can also be used to convey information or to send/leave very brief notes.

In cases where one is leaving a card for a good friend with whom one is on a first name basis, one may cross out the parts of the name on the calling card except for the first name. Or, if there is a nickname, the entire name can be crossed out and the nickname written by hand above it. This is by no means obligatory. Notes may also be written on the front and/or back of the card.

Those Curious Initials in the
Bottom Left Corner

To make communication easier, a system of abbreviations in French developed over the years. These are written by hand in the bottom left corner of the card…which is why that corner should always be left blank in the printing process!

p.r. (pour remercier) 
To indicate thanks. (Should never take the place of a proper letter/note of thanks.)

p.f. (pour feliciter) 
To express congratulations.

p.c. (pour condoler) 
To express sympathy.

p.p.c. (pour prendre congĂ©) 
Used when taking leave for the season or permanently. Though these may be left or sent as an advance notice, they should never be used solely in place of a formal call.

p.p. (pour presenter) 
To present another person. This should be accompanied by the card
of the person being presented.

To wish a Happy New Year.