Letter writing has been around for nearly as long as people have been on this earth. It’s a way to communicate with people if you aren’t able to be there in person and for much of history writing letters has been the only channel of long distance communication. At least until the advent of the telegram, telephone, and internet. As wonderful as those advancements in technology are, though, there’s still something so special about receiving a handwritten note in the mail. I love writing letters, and while I’m not always consistent, I do try to write a few times a year to my friends and family who live far away. I inherited my love of writing letters from my Grandma. She was an excellent letter writer and it was always such a joy to receive one from her in the mailbox! If you aren’t used to writing, here are my tips on how to start writing letters.
Of course my first tip is to make yourself a lovely cup of tea (or other beverage) and find a comfortable spot to sit at. Perhaps even light a candle to make the experience more enjoyable. I wouldn’t suggest playing music, though, as I find that I get distracted and start to listen to the music instead of writing! Try to think letter writing as an elegant ritual.
Choose who you will write your letter to and consider your audience. From there, decide if it is to be a formal or casual letter. What you write to your grandmother might not be what you write to a friend. My Grandma often used to leave her writing paper out on the table for a week or more, adding bits and pieces to the letter as she thought of them. They were quite newsy and a joy to read since she’d include tidbits in her letter that you wouldn’t always think to say on a telephone visit. She’d include information about what the weather was like at the time of writing, where she was sitting in the house or about the chickadee she was watching out the window. Details like that really did make reading her letters feel like you were there with her.
If you aren’t used to writing, and don’t quite know where to start, then start slow by sending a greeting card with a heartfelt note written inside. A “thinking of you” card is nice to receive in the mail and it’s not as much pressure to send as a long letter is. Since there are only two pages on the inside of a card, it gives you a boundary to write a quick note without feeling the need to write an entire epistle.
Get some good writing paper. It doesn’t have to be stationery, though that is a nice thing to invest in. I often use lined paper that I trimmed out of a journal. It’s a perfect size to fit in an envelope, and the lines help me to stay tidy. Once you’ve gotten the rhythm of writing letters, and perhaps found a pen pal, then getting some dedicated stationery or writing paper is a nice touch. You can find all sorts of beautiful stationery including monogrammed and letterpresses, all the way down to simple plain paper. Keep an eye out for sets of stationery that have matching envelopes in the correct size, so that you don’t have to origami your letter to fit in an envelope for mailing. That being said, I have received letters that were written on construction or copy paper and I never cared, since it was the words on the paper that were of much more importance!
Letter seals or stickers are a fun touch to add to your envelopes- some stationery sets even include matching stickers. Wax seals are another gorgeous touch, that hearken back to the days when security was of utmost importance for top secret correspondence. Another way that letters were kept confidential was through the art of “Letterlocking”. This is a fascinating article from the BBC about how letters in the past used ingenious methods of folding and cutting to ensure that they couldn’t be tampered with. I want to get some heavy writing paper and try out this technique- wouldn’t it be fun to receive a letter like that in the mail?
Another nice touch, is to use a pen that writes really well; I personally prefer liquid ink pens to ballpoint pens. I don’t use a pen with a nib, though I would like to learn how. Right now, I use the Uni-Ball Vision Needle pens in black and I like how they write. I’ve found that when I have a nice smooth pen, my writing is neater. If my pen is scratchy or dry, then my writing gets progressively worse!
On that note, letter writing is a great way to practice your handwriting. Cursive is another lost art, sadly, and while I don’t have the best handwriting myself, I do like to practice while writing letters. I’ve been trying to slow down when I write, because when I write fast, I might as well write in shorthand considering how illegible it can become!
If you plan to start sending letters often, then buy your stamps in bulk. They aren’t cheaper the more you buy but (at least here in Canada) if you buy a single stamp at the mail counter it is more expensive than buying a pack. Also in Canada, we have “permanent stamps” which means that when the price goes up next time, we can still use the stamps we already own. So buying a roll of stamps might save you money in the future.
Always include a return address, either in the top left hand corner or back of the envelope. Once I mailed a letter but forgot to put on a stamp- oops! At least because I had included a return address, the postal worker just placed it back in my box. Otherwise that letter would have been lost into the abyss! Also, make sure that your letter is clearly and neatly addressed. Some postal services are quite excellent (yay England!) while others can be rather abysmal (looking at you Canada Post).
As for receiving letters in return, if someone does send you a letter back, make sure to answer it in a timely fashion, or you’ll forget what you wanted to say. As I read a letter I’ve received, I find myself thinking of all kinds of things to write back in return but, if I put it off, then I find that I’ve forgotten all of those bits of “news” and have to rack my brain to find something to write down!
Well, those are my tips to start writing letters. Of course, letters can’t replace other forms of communication in our lives, but I think that there is a special art in letter writing, and that it is a lovely way to add a bit of elegance to your everyday life. Oh, and of course I can’t finish off this post without mentioning that if you’re looking for some greeting cards to send, you can check out my shop here or here.
How about you- do you enjoy writing letters? Or do you prefer instant communication instead? If you haven’t in the past, do you think you’ll start writing letters?