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How to Write a Great Birthday Card

Updated on
October 4, 2022
Writing Tips
Illustration of a birthday card with a cake on the front and a part hat in the background

Writing a great birthday card can sometimes feel challenging. Maybe you’re worried about crossing a professional boundary with your manager, or you don’t know how to express sentimental feelings to a friend. You want to make them feel special on their birthday, but maybe you’re not sure how. 

Though many of us want to celebrate our relationships with our friends and relatives year-round, there is one important day to make your feelings known: birthdays. This article will help anyone who appreciates their friend, relative, coworker, or other person put their feelings into writing in a great birthday message. 

Your note doesn’t need to be a whole letter—it just needs to be genuine. We’ll go over how to write an authentic birthday card, types of birthday messages, and tips for writing your note. We’ll even share examples of great birthday cards so you can send your note with confidence. 

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How to write an authentic note in a birthday card

So you’re ready to write a birthday card but you don’t want it to come across as generic. We’ve got some advice for you: Be genuine; express your true feelings about the person you’re writing to. Don’t be afraid to be sappy or corny in a card—the best cards come from the heart. To make it as authentic as possible, share a memory, use their nickname, or tell someone why you value them. 

When you’re writing it, be yourself! It’s OK to be informal; write in a conversational tone. For example, you probably wouldn’t use “do not” or “salutations” when talking, so you shouldn’t in your birthday card, either. Contractions like “don’t” or more common words like “hey” will make your card feel more authentic. 

Types of birthday card messages

There are many types of birthday cards. Here are a few common ones that might inspire you. 

Funny birthday cards

A funny birthday card is a great format for any writer or receiver who has a sense of humor. Depending on the situation, funny messages may need to be reserved for someone you know well. You might include a joke about getting older, poking fun with a nickname, or sharing an inside joke. 

Heartfelt birthday cards

Heartfelt birthday wishes are all about sharing your feelings. Consider why your relationship with this person is special to you. Think about your memories with them, how they make you feel, or why this birthday in particular is an important one. Open up! No message is too cheesy for a birthday card. 

Professional birthday cards

When you’re writing a note to a coworker, manager, or professional acquaintance, it’s important to avoid talking about work. It’s their special day, so make it about them. It’s OK to be casual in a professional birthday card. Depending on your relationship, you may even feel comfortable bringing up a memory, recalling an inside joke, or letting them know they’re your favorite coworker. But if your relationship is more serious, just keep it concise and kind. 

Short and sweet birthday cards

It never hurts to write a short and sweet birthday card. Brief birthday messages are perfect for kids because they’re usually too excited to read the whole thing (or listen to their parents read it). They’re also useful for acquaintances, coworkers, or extended family members who you’re not as close to. 

Milestone birthdays

Keep in mind age milestones when you’re composing your birthday cards. Sometimes you can lean on these special ages to help you compose your message. Almost universally, sixteen, eighteen, twenty-one, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, sixty-five, seventy, seventy-five, eighty, eighty-five, ninety, ninety-five, and one hundred are considered milestones. In some cultures, other milestones are also celebrated. 

For instance, in Jewish tradition, the age of thirteen is a milestone when a kid becomes a bar mitzvah or a bat mitzvah. Some Asian cultures celebrate a child passing their first one hundred days of life, and in Latinx traditions, girls are quinceañeras on their fifteenth birthday. 

Belated birthday cards

Better late than never. It’s a cliché for a reason—we’ve all been there. Sometimes life gets in the way, you forget, or you simply didn’t know until after their actual birthday has passed. It’s OK! Send a belated birthday card anyway. People always appreciate being acknowledged. Even better, reframe your faux pas as extending their special day into a week or month! 

Tips for writing your note

Use a prompt

Try relying on a prompt to start writing your birthday card. Any of these prompts are a good way to get going on your message. 

  • What’s a memory you share with this person that makes you smile? 
  • How do you feel about this person? 
  • What age are they turning? 
  • Did something special happen to them this year? 
  • Is something important happening for them in the coming year? 
  • What do they love? Their cat? A hobby? Their career? A TV show? 

Inside jokes

An inside joke is always sure to crack up someone you know well. Is there anything you’ve laughed about together that you can mention? Bring up something funny that happened or an anecdote to make your card truly personal. 

Your favorite thing

What’s something that you love or appreciate about your relationship with this person? Considering what you love about them is the most genuine way to start a birthday card. It could be something you both love, a part of their personality, or one of their mannerisms. 

Cheers to the future

Think about the future. What are you looking forward to doing or celebrating together as they age? It could be an upcoming trip, something they’re planning for retirement, or simply spending life together. 

Share a memory

A memory is an easy way to tap into your relationship with someone. A memory is a special connection you share. It comes from a genuine place. You can write about a memory of a previous birthday, something funny, or just a time that made you smile. 

Birthday card examples

Here are a few different types of great birthday card messages for a variety of audiences. You might find some inspiration here for your own birthday card message. 

The best friend

You probably have special memories or inside jokes with your best friend. Or maybe you just want to tell them how much you care about them. Here are three options for writing a letter to your friend

  • “Whenever I think of you I remember [memory]. It always makes me feel [how it makes you feel]. I really treasure our [friendship, relationship, etc.]. Happy birthday! Thanks for being the best [friend, dad, mom, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, etc.].”
  • “[name], I saw this card and thought of you. I love the way it [what you love about the card]. I just had to send it to you! I hope you have a special birthday.”
  • “Listen, [Name]. Throw caution to the wind—today is a day to have cupcakes for dinner! Happy birthday, you cupcake connoisseur.”

The romantic partner

Your partner’s birthday might be a big deal! Make it feel extra special with a heartfelt note or a joke. 

  • “You light up my life. I couldn’t imagine doing this without you. I love you so much. Happy birthday!” 
  • “Happy birthday! You get one free pass for a shoulder rub, and leaving your socks on the floor—don’t waste it!”
  • “Remember that time we hiked all the way to that lighthouse to watch the stars and then got kicked out by the park ranger? What a wild night! Happiest of birthdays! I hope this one is just as memorable.”

The coworker

The note you write to your coworker will depend on your relationship with them. Maybe you’re super close with them and have something funny to write. Perhaps you’re toeing the line of professionalism. Either way, here are three options for great birthday messages to your coworker. 

  • “You make work a lot less like work. I’m so glad to know you. Happy birthday!”
  • “Happy birthday to the silliest member of my work fam! You crack me up!”
  • “Who says nursing is stressful? You make it look easy! Happy birthday. I’m so glad I get to see you every week.”

The boss

Don’t talk shop in a birthday card for your boss. The birthday card is about them and their special day. Try one of these messages in a birthday card to your boss. 

  • “Thanks for everything you do. Working here wouldn’t be the same without you.”
  • “It’s a pleasure working with you. I hope you have a great birthday!”
  • “It’s your special day—enjoy it!” 

The extended family member

Whether your extended family member is an adult or a kid, a brief message is all you need to make them feel special and acknowledged on their birthday. Here are a few options for that relative that you don’t see very often. 

  • “Thirty and thriving—happy birthday!”
  • “Look how far you’ve come! Happy 75th birthday!” 
  • “What an important day! Mazel tov. Happy 13th birthday!” 

The parent

For many of us, our parents play a special role in our life. But it can be easy to overthink what to write to your parents. Keep it simple! Here are a few options. 

  • “You are Super Mom! I love you so much. Happy birthday.”
  • “Hey Dad, thanks for helping me get so far in just [x] years. I love you. Happy birthday!”
  • “Happy birthday! I hope you get to have your favorite dangerously chocolatey mousse today. See you soon.”
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