The colors, the shape, the way a greeting card looks may attract a person to pick it up and read it, but it's the wording that determines whether or not someone chooses to buy it and send it, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.
To help us understand why we give and receive valentines, You Section editors went to the experts at Hallmark Cards, now in its 77th year in the greeting card business. Headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., the company, ranked No. 1 in the industry, will market some 2,000 different valentines this year.
After Christmas, Valentine's Day is the second most important card-sending occasion in the United States. An estimated 850 million Valentines will be given to teachers, mothers, wives and girlfriends, the top recipients.
Among Hallmark's 75 creative staff of writers, designers and editors is Linda Elrod, a prolific writer who keeps in mind the personalities of card senders before she writes those messages of romance, admiration, affection.
"I really love my work," Elrod says, "and I feel there is no higher compliment than to have someone read a card I've written and say 'That's exactly how I feel.' "
Through role-playing, she considers the characteristics of potential senders before writing a single word. If she's writing a card for a child to send, for example, she tries to think and speak as a child would. Similarly she creates memorable romantic moods before writing Valentines for lovers.
With so many Valentines to choose from, You page editors were curious about those we picked to send and wondered about the people behind those we received. We know it's not all in the cards, so we asked Elrod to explain the meanings behind 10 Valentines, just in case our romances were going from bad to verse.
1. Racy humor: Puns and subtle double-entendre offer subtle (or not-so-subtle) come-ons for those who like rollicking good times and joking around:
"Do you ever get the feeling that this wild, sex-crazed relationship of ours has gone on long enough? . . . Me neither."
2. Biting humor: Sardonic wit may often express a lack of love.
"What do you call a guy who's great-looking, witty, sensitive and fun? . . . Married, probably."
3. Playful language: Characterizing many single senders and those in new relationships who pick seemingly simple words: (Picture of a semitrailer truck):
"When it comes to love . . . I deliver."
4. Oversized cards: Some the size of a poster, for those who like to be flamboyant and make a public declaration of love so big that it has to be on display.
5. Cute characters: Mice, furry animals, critters who use cute terms are generally chosen by people who tend to have trouble-free personalities who lean toward traditional relationships and prefer their romances to be pleasant affairs. Their cards are likely to read:
". . . hug the stuffins out of you" ". . . you make my heart happy."
6. Hints of love: Designed to keep a little distance, for those unwilling to commit: (Picture of formally dressed couple dancing):
"Valentine, you've got all the right moves."
7. Wit for wit's sake: Popular with those who are more interested in brain teasers than in love:
"Valentine . . . I'm just knots about you!"
8. Complimentary messages: Usually for specific important people such as the babysitter, a daughter and her husband, a parent, grandparent, godchild, a teacher:
"Life is filled wonders But I never really knew How wonderful it was Until I fell in love with you."
9. Blank cards: If you like those cards, Elrod says you probably can describe your feelings exactly and prefer to write your own message. You are probably an open person.
10. Hearts and Flowers: Still the favorite language of love, especially for those newly in love and those who like the traditional approach to being a couple:
"You fill my heart with happiness each moment that we share, and every day's more wonderful just knowing that you care."