Letter Writing: The Lost Art

letterI’ll bet you didn’t know that the second week of January is Universal Letter Writing Week.  Sadly, letter writing is a lost art.  When I was young I had two pen pals, one in Japan and the other in Missouri.  I often exchanged letters with my cousins.  I still remember the excitement of seeing those envelopes with the postmarks and opening the stationary to recognize familiar handwriting.

How many of you have letters tucked away for safekeeping?  Love notes from your husband or the letters your grandfather or father wrote to your grandmother or mother during the war?  Letters your child penned when she was just learning to write cursive?  I have letters my grandmother wrote to me during the last years of her life, and I treasure them.


Who will have one of your letters to cherish?  Do you think you could take time between now and next week to write a letter or two?

Here are some ideas:


– Write a letter to your son (or daughter), letting him know what wonderful memories you have of him growing up.


– Write a letter to your grandchild and tell him how you felt the first time you saw him or held him in your arms.  Tell him how proud you are of his accomplishments in school or band or on the soccer field. 


letters2– Write a letter of appreciation to your chiropractor or other doctor, thanking him for a better quality of life.  Also send one to the person who recommended the doctor to you.


– Write a letter to a friend who has done something special for you or who always makes you feel special and appreciated.


– Write a letter to an author whose books have given you many hours of reading pleasure.  (I can’t stress enough how dear these letters are!)


– Write a letter to your child’s teacher, letting her know how much you appreciate her thoughtfulness and concern for your child.


letter3– If you have a living parent, write a letter, reminiscing about a time when that person made you feel loved or took the time to teach you how to do something.


A friendly or personal letter normally has five parts.


First is the HEADING, if you want to include your address or if you have printed stationary.  Don’t worry about a heading this week, since the point is to write with your own hand and not have it look like a business letter or an email!  Do include the date at the top, so the recipient can look at it years from now without having to wonder.


Your GREETING, which is something like, Dear Mom, Hi Kelly, or My Sweet Daughter will end with a comma.  Skip a line.


The BODY of your letter is the main text, which you will divide into indented paragraphs.  Our purpose is to get our message across, not to be perfect or impress anyone, so keep your words natural and heartfelt.  Skip a line or two after the body before you sign your name,


The COMPLIMENTARY CLOSE comes next.  For a teacher or doctor, you can use In appreciation, or With warm regards.  For a family member or close friend you’ll want to say All my love, simply Love, or perhaps Thinking of you.  Follow it with a comma.  Skip three spaces before your signature.


letters4Your SIGNATURE is your first or first and last name, depending of course on your relationship to the recipient.


If you think of something you want to add once you’ve finished, skip a line and add a postscript.  Begin it with P.S. and end it with your initials.


For inspiration, here are a few quotes from the letters of  Jane Austin:

“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”     letter of December 24, 1798

 [To her sister Cassandra, on the birth of a son to one of their sisters-in-law:]
“I give you joy of our new nephew, and hope if he ever comes to be hanged it will not be till we are too old to care about it.”      letter of April 25, 1811

[On another of their nephews, then about three years old:]
“I shall think with tenderness and delight on his beautiful and smiling countenance and interesting manner, until a few years have turned him into an ungovernable, ungracious fellow.”     letter of October 27 1798

“Next week [I] shall begin my operations on my hat, on which you know my principal hopes of happiness depend.”      letter of October 27 1798

“I could no more write a [historical] romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter.”     letter of April 1st 1816

“I have read [Byron’s] The Corsair, mended my petticoat, and have nothing else to do.”     letter of March 5, 1814

letter5[On the appearance of a second printing of Sense and Sensibility:]
“Since I wrote last, my 2nd edit. has stared me in the face. […] I cannot help hoping that many will feel themselves obliged to buy it. I shall not mind imagining it a disagreeable duty to them, so as they do it.”     letter of November 6th 1813

“You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.”     letter of June 15, 1808

[On buying a “sprig” for her sister’s hat:] “I cannot help thinking that it is more natural to have flowers grow out of the head than fruit. What do you think on that subject?”     letter of June 11 1799

“I learnt from Mrs. Tickars’s young lady, to my high amusement, that the stays [corsets] now are not made to force the bosom up at all; that was a very unbecoming, unnatural fashion.”      letter of September 15 1813

“You deserve a longer letter than this; but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve.”     letter December 24 1798

“I shall not tell you anything more of Wm. Digweed’s china, as your silence on the subject makes you unworthy of it.”     letter of December 27, 1808

“I will not say that your mulberry-trees are dead, but I am afraid they are not alive.”      letter of May 31 1811

“Expect a most agreeable letter, for not being overburdened with subject (having nothing at all to say), I shall have no check to my genius from beginning to end.”      letter of January 21 1801

cheryl_stjohn_logo.jpgNow, your letter certainly doesn’t have to compare to those of Jane Austin!  On the contrary. Your friend or doctor would wonder what had come over you.

Do you have someone in mind who deserves a note of thanks or appreciation?  Do you think you can pull yourself into the mood in time to mail your letter for Universal Letter Writing Week in a few days?  Someone will be glad you did.