Are you Still Writing Letters?

I’d still be writing regular letters to penpals, Grandparents and/ or my niece but there is a problem with people not writing back. No letter writer is an island. Plus, there are the perks of shopping for stationery. (Not to be confused with stationary – not moving).

Of course my Grandparents can’t reply for sadly obvious reasons. Unless there are family skeletons in the closet I haven’t wandered into yet, literally. I lost touch with all my penpals from my younger days. We had less in common, less time to write and so it goes. My niece would likely write more if I sent her a few more letters in the mail. But, it’s discouraging to be in a one way conversation through the mail. Like someone who just nods once in awhile, leaving one person to carry the whole thing. But, she is a school girl still. About the age I was when I began writing letters to the Grandparents and penpals from all over the world.

Did you know they don’t teach the children how to write in school now? Printing, but not cursive writing. No handwriting, not the real kind. What a loss for all the coming generations. Cursive writing is elegant. I can remember how adult I felt when I was able to move up from printing to cursive. Not these days. Oddly, they don’t teach typing or keyboarding either. Is being unable to communicate a literacy problem or as long as they can read are we assuming they can get by?

CaptureTonight I joined the Letter Writers Alliance. I only wish it were Canadian, here in Ontario, so I could attend some events. I’m still glad to support the group and the cause of letter writing.

When did you last write (in cursive) a letter you sent in the mail to someone? I’d even count birthday or Christmas cards if you wrote a note to go along with it.

Love Letter Writers

love letter writers
I was a letter writer until my last older relative died, the Grandmothers and their sisters. I did write to my Grandfather sometimes but it was mainly the women who wrote back and gave me more reason to write back. It is much easier to reply to something in a letter than to break out fresh inspiration each time all by yourself.

However, not everyone answered my letters and I would not have known they actually liked them if it weren’t for my Mother and others who knew the older women I wrote to. Maybe they didn’t know what to say to reply back to a grandchild they would only see a few times a year. Weddings, births and funerals as they say, but I would see my Grandparents at family holidays too.

Writing a letter seems simple enough when you decide to start one. Then the blank page… it just sits there so untouched and unhelpful.

So how do you start a letter?

Salutations! Greetings are a simple place to start. A simple Hello gets you into the letter writing process. Address them by name or title (I went with Aunt Emma, the title and the name, when I wrote to the older ladies). You would likely write something else if you were writing to someone you knew on a casual basis.

Next, remind them who you are in some way. Just like leaving a phone message, you tell people who you are and why you are calling. This is pretty much the same when you put your message into print too. Simply give your own name and title (in the family letters I was usually Diane’s daughter or Violet’s granddaughter). Then say you are writing to see how they are, let them know how Christmas/ Thanksgiving/ Easter/ etc went with your family… there are endless reasons you can think up as the purpose of your letter. (You don’t have to say you’re writing because you thought they might be feeling old, lonely or left out).

At this point you start the real letter, the actual content, like a leap out into space. Don’t get tangled up – just talk about your day. The ordinary occurrences can be far more interesting than you think.

Next paragraph, talk about whatever you said you were actually writing about, your reason for the letter. I don’t start with that. If you get right to the point in a letter you seem to be pressed for time, unsocial and not really wanting to connect with your letter reader. With the older ladies this was especially important. I didn’t want them to think someone had told me I had to write to them. No one had, it was all my own idea.

The body of your letter can go on for as long as you can think of some bit of this and that to write about. Often as I get started I think of several things I can mention in the letter. Trivial stuff is fine. Life is made up of the little things.

Don’t ever forget to ask about your letter reader, how are they doing, what are they doing? Ask questions in the body of your letter too. Make it interactive. It’s not likely you will get your questions answered, not all of them, but it does give your letter the feeling of being directed to the reader rather than your own personal monologue to no one in particular.

When you are reading to end your letter, or when you realize you’re close to running out of paper to write on, give some kind of conclusion to the whole thing. Wrap it up with a bow. Something simple like: I hope this letter gets to you before Christmas. After all, it is traditional for letter writers to talk about the post office and the cost and reliability of mailing a letter.

Sign off with your name. Dating your letter is optional – but you never know where it might turn up far in the future when some relative picks up an interest in family history.

Don’t forget to actually mail the letter.

I usually pick an interesting stamp too. Sometimes I get into mail art as well and doodle/ draw on the envelope before I mail it out into the big, wide world.

Should Spelling be Understood or Guessed At?

What are your thoughts about spelling: traditional or mutable?

Consistent spelling was a great way to ensure clarity in the print era. But with new technologies, the way that we write and read (and search and data-mine) is changing, and so must spelling.

Instead of trying to get the letters right with imperfect tools, it would be far better to loosen our idea of correct spelling.

Standardized spelling enables readers to understand writing, to aid communication and ensure clarity. Period. There is no additional reason, other than snobbery, for spelling rules. Computers, smartphones, and tablets are speeding the adoption of more casual forms of communication—texting is closer to speech than letter writing. But the distinction between the oral and the written is only going to become more blurry, and the future isn’t autocorrect, it’s Siri. We need a new set of tools that recognize more variations instead of rigidly enforcing outdated dogma. Let’s make our own rules.

The above quoted from the post by Anne Trubek at Wired: Proper Spelling? Its Tyme to Let Luce

From the Wired Editor’s perspective: Spelling: A Rebuttal from Wired’s Copydesk

For the Letter Writers

I’ve written about letter writing before: Letter Writing and Letter Writing Fading to Black.

But, it’s time for another look, to see what’s new, what I missed and just for the sake of the letter writers themselves (they who need to be appreciated).

“Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.”  –  Lord Byron

Resources:

Letter Writers Alliance –  (Blog)  (Twitter)  (Flickr)

Flickr: The Art of Letter Writing

 Letters & Journals

The Missive Haven

A Year of Letters

 Letter Lover

The Letter Writing Revolution

365 Letters Blog

The Letter Jar

Going Postal – You can’t get far (literally) with letter writing without the postal service/ snail mail. Yet, it’s becoming less necessary for communications. During the latest postal strike here in Ontario many people wondered how clever the postal workers union was to strike now. People are already using the service less due to the Internet. How long will it take for the post office and snail mail to become a hobby for letter writers and otherwise not very practical for business and communications in general.

Save Snail Mail –  (Twitter)

Viva Snail Mail

Twitter: Postage Service – “Perpetuating the beauty of postage stamps through practical & artistic applications!”

Smithsonian National Postal Museum

The British Postal Museum

Save the Paper – The debate about the possible demise of paper communications (books, newspapers, letters and any others of the like) is ongoing.

(From Domtar) Paper Because

Domtar is committed to the responsible use of paper. We’re also committed to communicating paper’s place and value to the businesses and people that use our products every day. Paper is a sustainable, renewable, recyclable, plant-based product that connects us in so many ways to the important things in life. Great ideas are started on paper. The world is educated on paper. Businesses are founded on paper. Love is professed on paper. Important news is spread on paper.

Letter Writing Fading to Black

When did you last write someone a real letter?

This is what my nephew, Zack, asked me last week. One of his friends said she would really love to get a letter in the mail. So Zack wrote her a letter and sent it to her through the mail. It will be a very nice surprise for her one day this week.

I used to write letters to my older relatives, the Grandmothers and their sisters (my Great-Aunts). The last of them have been gone for years and it’s been about that long ago that I wrote a letter. Unless letters sent with Christmas cards count, I haven’t written a letter just for the sake of writing a letter in seven years I’m guessing. Kind of sad.

I know my nephew and nieces would love to have a letter arrive in the mail, kids always do. But I probably won’t write one. Email is so much easier, takes less time and doesn’t require postage or stationery.

The loss of letter writing is something we shouldn’t take too lightly. If you think about it, when was the last time you wrote anything by hand? A list doesn’t count. I wonder if someday penmanship, cursive writing and just plain handwriting will become something no longer taught in schools, no longer thought of as mainstream or of much importance at all. We type things far more than we write them out in long hand. This is good for some things, it is more accurate, less likely to be misread. It’s faster too.

People talk about print becoming something in the past. But, I take it a step in another direction and I can see handwriting becoming a lost art, a forgotten skill.

By the way… do you know which is which between stationary and stationery? Stationery, with an E, is the one for letters and envelopes which tend to come in pretty patterns in a pretty pattern box. Just think of the E which is also in letters and envelopes. Stationary with an A is about staying still.

I like this quote from The Art of Manliness, about letter writing:

The writing and reception of letters will always offer an experience that modern technology cannot touch. Twitter is effective for broadcasting what you’re eating for lunch, and email is fantastic for quick exchanges on the most pertinent pieces of information. But when it comes to sharing one’s true thoughts, sincere sympathies, ardent love, and deepest gratitude, words traveling along an invisible superhighway will never suffice. Why? Because sending a letter is the next best thing to showing up personally at someone’s door.

Extra Resources:

365 Letters – A blog about letter writing, mail art and postcards. Carla says: I’m a writer who has taken on the ambitious project of writing a letter every day in 2009 as a way to keep in touch with all of my friends and family.

Letter Writers Alliance – An organization dedicated to keeping the art of letter writing alive. World wide membership.

The Modern Letter Project – “It is our hope that, at end of the year each participant in the project will have a network of new pen pals, friends, and a collection of letters to treasure, and as a group, the art of letter-writing will explore new intersections between letter-writing with art and technology.”

Flickr: The Art of Letter Writing

Flickr: Letter Lovers