The Lost Art of Letter Writing
I long to receive a three page, heart-rending, soppy letter, filled with words carefully chosen and eternal.
There was a time when writing letters was our only means of communicating over long
distances. In today's world, we can pick up a phone and speak to anyone anywhere in a
second or two. I have found, in my not very scientific research, that most people prefer to
use the phone when they have something to say. Speed and ease of use are the main
reasons. Whether personal or business related, people pick up a phone before they pick up a
pen (or sit down at their word processor). However, about 50% say they follow up business
matters with a letter to document the conversation.

The proliferation of long distance services has brought the cost of speaking to out of state
friends down drastically, giving us yet another reason to pick up the phone instead of writing.
Most people enjoy the one on one of a personal conversation. Interacting is an important
component of communication. However, there are times when writing is better.

Sure, it's nice to hear someone say, "Honey, I love you." But to read it in a letter, knowing
someone took the time to write it, makes it much more meaningful. It is permanent. And even
if, at some time in the future, they take those words back, you still have a permanent record
of it. Once written, you can read it over and over again, and cherish it time after time,
knowing that someone cared enough to take the time to write. After all, writing is not an
automatic response. It requires thought and concentration -- and effort. People often speak
without thought -- it is, for the most part, an automatic response.

But, the phone is not the only reason that people have stopped writing. The greeting card, as
well, has usurped letter writing. Is there something meaningful you need to say? Not only,
"Happy Birthday" and "Get Well Soon" are available on cards. Today you can go to the store
(even the grocery store) and buy a card to say just about anything. "I Miss You", and "Sorry
we had a disagreement", are just some of the cards available today. Granted, they are nice
gestures, but they're still somebody else's words. Who really meant what the card has to say
-- the card's author or the sender? Am I to be touched by the sentiment because you passed
the aisle with cards on your way to pick up toilet paper?

I'm sorry to be flippant. I know that most people truly feel what the card is trying to convey. I
myself sometimes buy cards like these, but I write a note or letter to say it in my own words
as well.

And, let us not forget the evermore ubiquitous e-mail and Instant Message. Why take the
time to write a heartfelt letter when you can sit down, put your thoughts into a few brief
sentences (often incomplete and wrought with abbreviated language -- <ugh!>) and send it
off into the ether of the internet?

I long to receive a three page, heart-rending, soppy letter, filled with words carefully chosen
and eternal. (OK -- I'd be happy with one page -- I'm not hard to please.) And yes, I have
written such letters -- with no reply, thank you very much. Maybe I'm just a hopelessly
romantic dreamer, or just downright old-fashioned.

Alas, the advent of the telephone in the late 1800's, cheap long distance services of today
and the ever-growing internet have made writing letters a lost art. But modern technology
offers us the opportunity to (almost) bring it back. Forget the tedious chore of putting pen to
paper, writing and re-writing. Worry no more about your handwriting, spelling and grammar.
Welcome the personal computer with word processing, spell checker and grammar checker. If
you're the slightest bit creative, you can even buy software to create your own beautiful,
heartfelt cards, too.

Imagine, cards and letters filled with genuine sincerity from both the author and sender --
you. Try it -- you'll like it, and so will your loved ones when they receive it. And who knows,
maybe they'll write you back. Won't you feel special then?

© 2001 Bobbie Ann Pimm
Originally published on
Resources and Web Links
Web Links
Letters, Letter-writing and Other Intimate Discourse, devoted to encouraging the art
of letterwriting. It has essays with hints and tips on how to write letters -- and so
much more.
Hints on Writing Love Letters, "Of all letters, the love-letter should be the most
carefully prepared.  Among the written missives, they are the most thoroughly read
and re-read, the longest preserved, and the most likely to be regretted in after life."
quote from the site
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