Life Editorial

The Case for the Hand-Written Letter

The Case for the Hand-written Letter zosia beauty

Call us "old school," but occasionally, we still like writing a hand-written letter, note or thank you. The digital world has taken over. Everyone sends emails (and now that's becoming old school - we know!) or the even faster method of sending a text or chat. Many send holiday cards in a digital format (or not at all). Resumes are becoming a thing of the past, opting instead for online profiles or video introductions. We communicate to family and friends via social media. Everything is fast, immediate and digital. 

Don't get us wrong. We fully embrace the digital world, with all its convenience, fast connections and instant photo ops. But some of us remember how our mothers made us write thank you notes after our birthday. We remember pen pals from camp, and the built-up anticipation of waiting for that next letter. We remember getting a birthday card from grandmother or a formal letter of acceptance into a school, or an important program.

In 1840, Queen Victoria made the "stamped letter" that we know today popular. Prior to that, letters were not stamped and the receiver had to pay for the letter upon its receipt. Letters of that time were often folded and sealed with wax (how's that for taking some extra time!).

Throughout time and history, letters have been a major influence and record keeping device. Used to document major events, issues and social reform - from ancient tablets to the Revolutionary and World Wars, to immigration and women's rights reform.

Many people born in the 1980's and later, have never sent a hand-written note or letter. Even more people grew up not knowing how to write a proper note or letter. That lack of knowledge is often translated into poorly written professional emails and other digital correspondence. This is where an understanding of traditional letter format can help to improve today's professional digital communication. Whether you go all digital or not, there are some skills that everyone should know.

As a refresher, according to the experts, letters should include:

  • Full name of sender
  • Full address of sender
  • Date
  • Full name of receiver
  • Full address of receiver
  • Salutation (Dear Ms., Mr...) 
  • Body of letter including (greeting, main body, closing)
  • Valediction (Sincerely, Regards, Love...)
  • Full name of sender

If you are writing an informal letter or to someone you know well (like Grandmother) you can skip the last names and addresses. Thank you notes should follow a similar format. Those business emails? They should follow this format (minus the addresses and dates - since email does that for you).

Occasionally sending a hand-written note on a beautiful card to a friend or family member who needs a pick-me-up, just got a promotion, or simply just because, can be a nice personal touch that puts a smile on someone's face. In a digital world, where most of the bills are now digital, and the mail is now reduced to offers or discount coupons - who doesn't like finding a letter from a friend just because? Yes, it is officially a bit of nostalgia - something that reminds us of a time, place and people long ago, but it also shows you care. You thought of someone, and took the time to show gratitude. In a fast-paced, sometimes unforgiving world, that is no small thing.

Read more about the history and uses of letter writing at:

SmithsonianNationalPostalMuseum:postalmuseum.si.edu/LetterWriting/index.html

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