on the art of letter writing

It’s not that much of a stretch to say that letter writing is one of the longest-used form of distance communication (what is considered a letter may be another question entirely…). Throughout history letters have been used to convey all sorts of information from personal communications to love poems to business exchanges to military plans and secret codes. They also make up an important piece of the written historical record. Today, however, there are many alternatives to writing a letter that are more instantaneous, make us feel more connected than ever, and are much more convenient.

When writing a text message or an email or posting to a social media site, it is easy to instantly broadcast ideas and communicate to the world. The ability to quickly, easily, and instantly communicate with the world is awe-inspiring.

Sometimes this instant connection isn’t what we’re looking for. Sometimes we want to convey a sense of care and thought through a slower form of communication – the letter.

Why would someone want to write a letter?

The one and only reason someone chooses to write a letter is to get in touch with someone. It’s as simple as that. Why someone would choose to write a letter over writing an email, making a phone call, or sending a text message is something else entirely. “Snail Mail” takes longer, it requires someone to physically move what you’ve written from one place to another. It requires time and patience.

In the era instant contact, there is a romanticism that comes with writing a letter and sending it through the postal service. For some, it’s a feeling of nostalgia or curiosity for the past, for “simpler times”. For others, there is the feeling of a better connection with the recipient when writing a letter, especially when its handwritten. The idea being that when you write a letter, you are sending a little bit of yourself, a little bit of your personality to the reader.

Why I write letters

I write emails every day. A lot of them. Most of them revolve around work, though some of them are personal. Many times they are simply sharing stories, links, photos, quick notes. Other times, I will send longer, more letter-like emails full of information, thoughts, questions.

I prefer writing a letter to other forms of communications. When I have the time, it is nice to sit down and think about what I would like to say, what I am interested in hearing back about. It takes time, it slows down the mind. I am able to choose the words I use more carefully. It helps me to produce better, more thoughtful communication.

When I do sit down to write a letter, I prefer to do so on a typewriter. I don’t believe that a typewritten letter is any better than a handwritten one (or necessarily even one generated on a computer), I simply prefer this method for organizing my thoughts and taking the time to think about what it is I am writing. I don’t always take this route, but it is my favorite. It also helps to keep the letters I write more legible.

In the end

Now, I don’t believe that emails or text messages or tweets are bad or in any way less than the written letter. I simply believe that in this age of instant, electronic communication, the written letter is a relatively unique and creative way to get in touch with friends and family (and the occasional corporate entity that you want to give a piece of your mind to). Because we’re writing letters less often , they offer a sense of thought that an email or text doesn’t. This isn’t to say that you don’t put any thought into these, it is just easier to send them quickly and frequently.

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