The Lost Art of Letter Writing

I have a question for you: when was the last time you wrote a letter?  To clarify, signing your name to birthday or Christmas cards doesn’t count as “writing a letter”.  If you are like most of us, your pen has been replaced by a keyboard and you wouldn’t have a clue as to what a first class stamp costs these days.  You can send a series of texts blindfolded and if you are feeling particularly long-winded, you take a deep breath and pound out an email to communicate.

lake house mailboxSo, what’s the big deal?  Why even bother looking for some stationary, an envelope, a pen, and a stamp, when you can just pull your phone out of your pocket and send a tweet?

Here are just a few advantages of writing an old-fashioned letter:

  • It is more personal.  Not only are the words yours, but the style of writing and the form of the individual letters are unique to you.  I love looking at the variety of penmanship on the envelopes that come through my box.  Many times you can guess the age of the writer, just by looking at the way they write each letter.  Older adults are more likely to use cursive than younger people.  In fact, my son can barely read script because it is rarely used among his peers.  I, however, grew up in a time when proper handwriting was taught.  So, others who fall in my age group tend to have a similar form with slight variations learned when we were no longer under the threat of a ruler.
  • Not only is the handwriting more variable, but the card itself allows you to express your style.  I fondly recall people from whom I received frequent letters when I was a child and I can still bring up memories of the kind of paper they usually used.  I had a friend who easily wrote volumes – and she had tiny print!  Being economical, she started writing on onion skin paper.  This paper was durable, but very thin, allowing the writer to send more pages at the same postage rate.  My grandmother would often make her own cards.  She’d cut out pictures or press flowers to use as decorations.  Both the messages she expressed and the time she spent personalizing them made her letters very special to me.
  • Speaking of nostalgia, it is easier to save handwritten communiques.  Think of all the love letters from years past that are in trunks and attics with ribbons tied around them.  I do have special emails that I’ve saved in a folder on my phone, but I know they could be easily wiped out accidentally.
  • Not all communications are positive.  Who hasn’t written something in anger only to regret it later when they have time to cool off?  Both traditional and digital letters can get to a point of no return, but it more likely to happen when you can transmit a text or email in seconds.  A written letter usually has time to retrieve it before the mail carrier comes.stone mailbox
  • Stamps – I dare you to try to find a young child these days that has a stamp collection.  Do you remember writing a secret phrase that was hidden under the stamp on the card you sent to someone special?  Does it really mean you love your electric company if you accidentally place your stamp upside down (or that you’ve just misplaced your reading glasses)?
  • There’s something about opening your mailbox and finding a letter that you can hold in your hands.  I guess it’s like the difference between a book that has pages to turn and the new variety that has pages that need to be swiped.mail truck mailbox

What do you think?  Feeling an itch to write a letter to someone now?  But who could you send one too?  I suspect most teens and young adults wouldn’t know what to do with a letter.  They may not be able to read cursive and it is even questionable if they’ll think about checking their mailboxes for weeks on end.    Young children would be more likely to be excited by the novelty of receiving something in the mail.  Just be sure to print your letter to them.  Elderly people might be the most appreciative of your efforts.  It will get them reminiscing about the good old days.  You could probably find a receptive audience by writing to elderly relatives or the seniors at your church.  How about an older neighbor?  If none of those seem like viable options, I suggest calling your local senior care home.  I’m sure they could suggest many of their residents who would be thrilled to get a letter, even if it is from someone they don’t know.  Who knows, you might even find yourself looking forward to their reply and together you could each benefit from the process.

If you still need convincing, check out the following YouTube clips to see how you could make someone’s day:

Whose life could you bring joy to through a letter you write?



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5 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Letter Writing

  1. Anna says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I actually wrote a post about this exact same back in 2011 when I just started blogging…the title is even similar lol.
    granted that is on my old old blog that I don’t use anymore. I have always loved getting mail. I am actually very said that I never get any anymore. I saved every birthday card, note, letter, everything since I can remember. It is so special having those things to look at and remember. I have since started a new collection after I got married since I don’t have my old letters anymore. It is mainly birthday cards though. The only real reason I don’t send letters is because of the cost to send it but given how much I love mail I should probably start attempting to send letters again.

    • Heidi says:

      Anna, it is funny how many things were similar in my blog article and your former blog post. I love the picture you used. I wanted to take a picture of some of my old letters from childhood for this post, but never found any. I realize as I think about it that they probably got tossed because my bedroom flooded every spring so most things smelled very musty. So instead I dragged my husband along as I drove through multiple neighborhoods looking for cool mailboxes – LOL!

  2. Diana says:

    I do still like sending and receiving letters, but I admit I do send them like I used to. Speaking of old letters tied with a ribbion, my grandma saved all the letters from my grandpa and tied them with a ribbion. I love those old letters. I enjoyed the letters so much after they were both home in Heaven. It made me feel like I had a window into their lives again when I was missing them so. Loved the cute you- tube videos of the cats and dogs getting the mail. Hilarious! Wonder how many pieces of mail those people get that they can never read.

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