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In praise of - the traditional greetings card.

It's the thought that counts, of course.

Today being Valentine's Day, millions of people will be receiving cards from their loved ones containing messages that veer between the sickly sentimental and the X-rated via the heartfelt, and it shouldn't matter whether those sentiments are written in silver ink on glittery red card, or typed on a computer-generated e-card: what's important is the words.

Who am I kidding? Perhaps it shouldn't matter – e-cards are no doubt just as personal as the paper variety, not to mention much better for the environment – but the truth is that they feel too much like personalised spam. There's no sense of occasion about an e-card. You can't stash one away and you'll never come across it years later during a clear-out. There's nothing to keep. Who's going to print out a Valentine's email on the office printer and risk having a colleague accidentally snatch it up? (A teddy holding a heart-shaped balloon, saying "Love you, cuddly bear": no one's professional credibility could withstand that.)

E-cards are becoming ever more popular, though. A survey in the US found that a third of American adults were planning to send an e-card this Valentine's Day, with married men aged 35-44 the most likely to ping one to the ball-and-chain. Hmmn. Nothing says "I heard on the car radio it was Valentine's Day" like an e-card from your spouse.

Cards made of actual card, however (what I shall hereafter refer to as "proper cards"), can be treasured for life, or ritually burned when the relationship goes wrong. What versatility. Proper cards can be put up on the bedside table; they can be referred back to when perspective is required during a rocky patch; they're just more meaningful. E-cards may be acceptable at Christmas and at birthdays, but an e-card on Valentine's day? Come on, the shops are still open.

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