The Art of Letter Writing

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 16, 2009 · 75 comments

in A Man's Life, Dating, Fatherhood, Friendship, Hobbies, Marriage, On Etiquette, Relationships & Family

man-writing

In the days of cell phones, email, and text messages, letter writing can seem hopelessly outdated. But it’s an art worth bringing back, and not because of some misplaced sense of nostalgia either. 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. Ink from your pen touches the stationary, your fingers touch the paper, your saliva seals the envelope. Something tangible from your world travels through machines and hands, and deposits itself in another’s mailbox. Your letter is then carried inside as an invited guest. The paper that was sitting on your desk, now sits on another’s. The recipient handles the paper that you handled. Letters create a connection that modern, impersonal forms of communication will never approach.

For two years before we were married, Kate and I were a thousand miles apart, with letter-writing our only available means of communication. We fell in love over the dozens of letters sent between us. I do not know of a richer and more satisfying way of getting to know a person. Today the collection of letters from that time is one of our most treasured possessions, something we hope our kids will read and get a kick out of. Thus, letters not only serve a purpose in the here and now, they also stand as historical records, giving us a incomparable window into the past. Anyone who has ever come across the old letters of parents and grandparents and suddenly felt transported back to another time and place, knows well the legacy-leaving power of letters. What will we leave our grandchildren? The username and password to our email accounts?

letters

Photo by Chantal

Now is the time to strike up a correspondence with your friends and lovers. I do not know a single person whose countenance does not light up at the sight of a real letter in their mailbox. So many of us, myself included, look forward to getting the mail each day, even though the majority of the time it’s simply a pile of catalogs and bills. The desire for real correspondence clearly hasn’t left us. But if you want a letter, you have to send a letter. It’s up to you take the initiative and begin the circle of communication.

Snail mail has fallen out of favor of late, and many men may understandably need a refresher on its practice. Today begins a series of letter writing articles that will appear on the Art of Manliness. We will cover everything from the selection of stationery to the how to’s concerning the writing of specific letters such as those expressing sympathy and congratulations. Today, we present a simple overview on letter writing.

Supplies Needed

If you’re going to become a letter-writing artist, you’re going to need to acquire the tools of the trade. Getting handsome stationery and high quality writing implements will make practicing your craft all the more enjoyable. We’ll be covering each of things in-depth later on, but here is a brief overview of what you’ll need:

Stationery

stationery

In the art of letter-writing, stationery is your canvas. You’ll want to purchase stationery in a few different sizes for letters and notes of various lengths. Always keep your stationery simple and distinguished.

Fountain Pen

fountain-pen2

Image by Linda Cronin

Using a fountain pen requires a bit of practice and finesse, but provides several benefits. The writing from a fountain pen adds a subtle hint of sophistication and class that’s hard to get from a 20 cent Bic ballpoint. And instead of having to endlessly press down on the paper, you glide a fountain pen across the page, allowing you to write for hours without tiring your hand.

Wax and Seal

wax3

Image by Eli the Bearded

The tradition of sealing one’s correspondence with a wax seal is one with royal roots. Kings and dignitaries applied the seal to ensure their letters were opened only by the intended recipient and to certify who had written it. These days, they just look dang cool and give you a chance to play with fire.

Letter Opener

opener

Image by Living Studios

Once you start sending letters, you’ll begin getting them back as well. Nothing is more annoying then trying to tear open a well-stuck envelope with your paws, so get a nice letter opener to do the job right. My grandpa had one that looked like a  little sword, and I thought that was pretty sweet as a kid.

The Art of Letter Writing

letterwriting

What follows is a brief overview of letter writing, taken  from Hills Manual of Social and Business Forms. This 1821 publication, has, as we have previously discussed, advice that is as fresh today as it was a hundred years ago. We turn now to Professor Thomas Hill for a primer on the basic ins and outs of letter writing:

You have thoughts that you wish to communicate to another through the medium of a letter. Possibly you have a favor to bestow. Quite as likely you have a favor to ask. In either case you wish to write that letter in a manner such as to secure the respect and consideration of the person with whom you correspond.

The rules for the mechanical execution of a letter are few ; understanding and observing the rules already considered for composition, the writer has only to study perfect naturalness of expression, to write a letter well.

Style and Manner

The expression of language should, as nearly as possible, be the same as the writer would speak. A letter is but a talk on paper. The style of writing will depend upon the terms of intimacy existing between the parties. If to a superior, it should be respectful ; to inferiors, courteous ; to friends, familiar ; to relatives, affectionate.

Originality

Do not be guilty of using that stereotyped phrase,

Dear Friend:

I now take my pen in hand to let you know that I am well, and hope you are enjoying the same great blessing.

Be original. You are not exactly like any one else. Your letter should be a representative of yourself, not of anybody else. The world is full of imitators in literature, who pass on, leaving no reputation behind them. Occasionally originals come up, and fame and fortune are ready to do them service. The distinguished writers of the past and present have gone aside from the beaten paths. Letter writing affords a fine opportunity for the display of originality. In your letter be yourself ; write as you would talk.

Purity of Expression

Bear in mind the importance, in your correspondence, of using always the most chaste and beautiful language it is possible to command, consistent with ease and naturalness of expression. Especially in the long letters of friendship and love – those missives that reveal the heart-the language should show that the heart is pure. Let your letter be the record of the fancies and mood of the hour; the reflex of your aspirations, your joys, your disappointments; the faithful daguerreotype of your intellectuality and your moral worth.

You little dream how much that letter may influence your future. How much it may give of hope and happiness to the one receiving it. How much it may be examined, thought of, laughed over and commented on; and when you suppose it has long since been destroyed, it may be brought forth, placed in type, and published broadcast to millions of readers.

When, in after years, the letter you now write is given to the world, will there be a word, an expression, in the same that you would blush to see in print?

Write in the spirit of cheerfulness. It is unkind to the correspondent to fill the sheet with petty complainings, though there are occasions when the heart filled with grief may confide all its troubles and sorrows to the near friend, and receive in return a letter of sympathy and condolence, containing all the consolation it is possible for the written missive to convey.

The length of letters will depend upon circumstances. As a rule, however, business letters should be short, containing just what is necessary to be said, and no more.

Form

formletter

To be written correctly according to general usage, a letter will embrace the following parts:

1st, the date

2nd, complimentary address

3rd, body of the letter

4th, complimentary closing

5th signature

6th, superscription

Position of the Various Parts.

Etiquette of Letter Writing

As a rule, every letter, unless insulting in its character, requires an answer. To neglect to answer a letter, when written to, is as uncivil as to neglect to reply when spoken to. In the reply, acknowledge first the receipt of the letter, mentioning its date, and afterwards consider all the points requiring attention.

If the letter is to be very brief, commence sufficiently far from the top of the page to give a nearly equal amount of blank paper at the bottom of the sheet when the letter is ended.

In writing a letter, the answer to which is of more benefit to yourself than the person to whom you write, enclose a postage stamp for the reply.

Letters should be as free from erasures, interlineations, blots and postscripts as possible. It is decidedly better to copy the letter than to have these appear.

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bob Iger April 16, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Great, inspiring article. People should write more letters…

2 Alexandre de Verteuil April 16, 2009 at 4:13 pm

I have been writing letters for about a year. I think it is a thousand times the emotional value of an e-mail. I love the way you expressed the human warmth that is communicated through a letter. My grand-mother is in a retirement home and she is the only one who recieves any personnal letters. I am also her only grand-child to be writing to her. Can you just imagine how she feels when «I» pop into her mailbox? She shows my letters to all of her friends. I also write to friends. Some of them don’t reply, or worse, reply by e-mail. Since I took on writing letters, I seriously worked on and improved my penmanship as well. Sending a hand written thank you note has become a habit. Sometimes I send a CD with music, files or interesting things I’d like to share. It’s probably cheaper than the bandwith I’d use. Of course the CD comes in a paper CD case (http://www.metacafe.com/watch/712133/paper_cd_case/), made with heavy paper and taped shut, with a handwritten note on the inside.

3 B. D. Buidhe April 16, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Are there any good online shoppes where one may purchase supplies? I am greatly looking forward to this series.

Thank you,
B. D.

4 Nate @ Debt-free Scholar April 16, 2009 at 5:16 pm

I have been meaning to write more letters…now I have no excuse! :)

Got to start writing…

5 C. Biar April 16, 2009 at 5:42 pm

B.D. Buidhe, I would try Nostalgic Impressions for writing supplies. They carry a good variety of dipping pens (even classier than fountain pens), inks, seals, and sealing wax. You can also find some pretty good deals on customized initial wax seals on ebay.

6 C. Biar April 16, 2009 at 5:43 pm

P.S. that’s nostalgicimpressions.com.

7 Brett April 16, 2009 at 5:58 pm

@BD-

If you’re ready to invest in some really high-quality stationery, check out a place like Crane’s or Dempsey and Carroll. Their engraved stuff costs a lot up front because they have to make a special copper engraving plate just for your order. But it’s less when you reorder, because you’ll then always own that plate. We’ll go into more detail when we do a post just about stationery. Stay tuned……

8 Andy K. April 16, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Brett:
Could you maybe post an article about how to convince your friends/family to go along with this?

I would love to, but I’m 21 and abroad (which really only helps me!), but I’m not sure my friends/family would respond, as my friends are all students (at an engineering school… so they just use the computer 24/7).

Or, fellow commentators?

9 Brett April 16, 2009 at 6:34 pm

@Andy-

I’ve found that simply sending someone a letter makes them reply back. An email sits in your inbox and gets further and further down there and is easily ignored. But a letter from you will sit somewhere in their house and every time they see it they will feel guilty until they answer it. Or at least that’s been my experience. I think people are hungry to take part in the letter writing tradition-they just need someone to start the chain and give them a little push. So write letters to your friends and family and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised.

10 Andy K. April 16, 2009 at 6:42 pm

@Brett:
Ok. I’ll give it a whirl!

Now, I need to get out tomorrow, down to the stationery shop where I bought my first fountain pen, and try this out!

I’m eagerly anticipating your next articles on this!

11 Brett April 16, 2009 at 7:02 pm

@Andy-

Report back and tell us what happened. I’m interested in seeing what comes of your experiment.

12 Joshua M April 16, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Another great article, I am now inspired as well to start writing letters. I am also really looking forward to the article on stationary and it would also be nice to have some articles about the fountain pens and seals etc too. I am actually surprised to see the mention of seals due to the fact that I thought that the post office with all their technical sorting methods would either ruin them, have a problem with them messing their machines or both. I think it is an cool idea I would like to try. Anyone actually use letter seals out there?

13 Kirk April 16, 2009 at 7:31 pm

I love writing letters, not only due to the nostalgia and romanticism of it, but in part because it requires getting away from what is easy and convenient. No spell check is available to you nor any style of font. It takes you out of your comfort zone and rustles your feathers. My wife gave me some wax and seals five years ago. I use them whenever I write letters to relatives or friends.

14 Jace April 16, 2009 at 8:17 pm

I would definatly like to see more info on the seals. Also a discussion of different writing implements, that includes a quill pen

Thanks!

15 C. Biar April 16, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Joshua, many places that sell sealing wax will have mail-able wax. It’s made to be more flexible than traditional wax, so it’s less likely to break during shipping. This, of course, comes with the trade-off that it doesn’t break as nicely when people open it.

I like to seal my actual letter (after folding it in a fancy way) before putting in the envelope for that much more protection.

16 Shaun April 16, 2009 at 8:42 pm

I’ve been a programmer for years now and as such haven’t written anything lonfer thatn a shopping list by hand for a long time. I think my chicken scratch handwriting might ruin the effect…

17 ab April 16, 2009 at 9:23 pm

There’s a book called ‘For the Love of Letters: A 21st century guide to letter writing” by Samara O’ Shea…it’s very good if you’ve never really written a letter and don’t quite know where to start. It’s easy to read with lots of examples of openings, closings, ways to express gratitude, says sorry etc etc and fairly cheap (under $20 i think). Even if you don’t want to buy it I’d encourage you to check it out/flip through it next time you’re at Chapters (or whatever the major bookstore in the States is…..Indigo?)

18 Shalabh April 17, 2009 at 2:37 am

Wonderful! I love to write on paper. And more so, I adore receiving a hand written letter, although I never received more than 10 in my 24 years of life.
Somerset Maugham’s writing style appeals to me and I learn a lot to help me polish my penmanship skills.
I am excited and I’m going to write now

Eagerly looking forward to this letter writing series.

19 Peter Hopkins April 17, 2009 at 4:08 am

Thanks Brett, for an inspiring post. Just a quick thought. Don’t let your lousy handwriting deter you from writing letters. None of us are perfect in our appearance, but our personality shines through any physical defects. Yikes, you should see my handwriting! I’ll look forward to the rest of the series.

With best regards,
Peter Hopkins
http://craneinsider.blogspot.com

20 jcard21 April 17, 2009 at 4:40 am

Excellent article!

Just needed a little proofreading:

“Anyone whose ever come across the old letters of parents and grandparents…”

should be

“Anyone who has ever come across the old letters of parents and grandparents…”

Keep up the good work!

21 Speedmaster April 17, 2009 at 5:11 am

Fantastic post, thanks! ;-)

22 Jeff April 17, 2009 at 5:13 am

I really don’t get some of the recent articles. I understand the value of writing letters, but, seriously, wax seals and fountain pens. I’d think a friend had lost his mind if I received a similar letter without a wedding invitation enclosed. Sorry, it just doesn’t pass my “What Would Patton Do” manliness test. Again, I agree with writing letters, just keep it Manly.

23 Natasha April 17, 2009 at 5:36 am

I love letter writing, but seriously – several types of elegant stationery? It would be easy to shell out a hundred or two hundred dollars before even buying stamps, based on this guide.

If a fountain pen feels too pretentious or costly, a liquid ink pen is an informal and inexpensive substitute. I like to use old postcards or whatever paper catches my fancy. Letter writing to friends and family is a place for self-expression, and shouldn’t involve a big shopping trip first.

24 Jacob Duchaine April 17, 2009 at 5:39 am

Great article. I haven’t written a letter for a while, but this article makes me want to go and grab the materials I need. Thanks.

25 Peter H. April 17, 2009 at 6:31 am

I write letters to my girlfriend back home, and she writes letters back to me. One thing to keep in mind when writing is that you don’t necessarily have to have a standard paper to write with. You might have way too much to say for one paper, or you might have way too little. And yes, getting personalized stationery is not only expensive, but in my opinion much more likely to make the receiver say “what a pompous person” instead of “oh how fun, let me write back.”

Also, in terms of pens, a fountain pen can be nice if it works well. For some reason I have a lot of trouble with mine (which I have primarily for calligraphy, not for writing letters). Before buying them, then, know that they can be finicky. Also keep in mind that fountain pens have the same problem that rollerball pens have – namely, that they exude wet ink. Some kinds of paper, particularly some of the nicer kinds, can be too glossy to absorb wet ink quickly, making it likely that you’ll smudge the ink instead and ruin both the nice paper and your letter. I just use ballpoints at this point – even though they admittedly don’t look as nice on paper.

26 David C April 17, 2009 at 7:35 am

I believe that the copyright for Hill’s Manual of Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms has expired.

You can download a pdf for free at this site.
http://www.archive.org/details/manualofsochills00hillrich

27 Mikeycav April 17, 2009 at 7:54 am

In terms of fountain pens, I highly recommend the following pen from Pilot, the Varsity disposable:

http://www.pilotpen-store.com/product_detail.asp?T1=PIL+SV4B%2DBLK&.

Whenever I sign contracts for contractor work, I like to use this. I think it truly makes a difference, and it doesn’t break the bank.

28 Daniel Pope April 17, 2009 at 8:04 am

One of the greatest elements of letter writing is that the letter develops on its own. You will have written something that in a word processor you would simply delete, but the requirements of script (or even typing on a typewriter, which is not as cool for letter writing, but still contains an element of manliness) mean that you will have to get creative and transform your sentence in the next phrase. A great challenge.

29 Albert April 17, 2009 at 8:10 am

Above the date, be sure to write the location from where you are writing. Where you are is important because it anchors your in the real world.

30 Harry April 17, 2009 at 11:56 am

Another type of letter is often neglected in these articles – petitioning to elected officials. Your Town Councilman/Congressman receives countless letters requesting either assistance in dealing with government entities or expressing support or opposition to proposed legislation. Today most of them have ways of receiving electronic communications, but that serves to make an actual handwritten letter on good stationary stand out all that much more.

I’ve actually got an idea for one to write now and seeing this made me decide that I’m going to write it out by hand, and actually look up the special formalities of addressing a Congressman. I’d consider writing up a guide for posting on AoM – where would I submit such a proposal?

31 Will April 17, 2009 at 4:56 pm

This is actually something I’ve been doing with my girlfriend since we first got together three years ago. It’s interesting to note that one our first letters I would always mention that letter writing was a lost art.

32 Blake April 17, 2009 at 7:03 pm

It was great reading this! I have just started doing this myself for about three months. It is so rewarding. Getting a letter usually is the highlight of my day. Great Article!! It inspires me to write even more!

33 Mario April 18, 2009 at 7:20 am

Thank you, Brett, for another inspiring article. I’ve been writing letters weekly to my eldest two children for almost a year, and we have bonded tighter as a result. I’ve been much more motivated to do so after I ditched the pen and just use the computer, with the retro Courier font. (For some of us, fountain pens, special stationary, and wax seals come off as affected.) I also include a Proverb or two from the chapter of the day. (The book of Proverbs has 31 chapters, so works well for one each day of the month.) I might jot a few of my thoughts on it as well. My eldest son has been particularly receptive and lets his friends see them, being proud that his dad does this.

34 Andy April 18, 2009 at 12:02 pm

YES! THANK YOU!

35 Rod Newbound, RN April 18, 2009 at 1:36 pm

You’re right about the longevity of letters… cherished pieces of paper as important as photographs for preserving family history. My oldest daughter (as the family archivist) keeps love letters written by my parents before they got married.

And my wife has a carefully preserved letter written by her grandfather from the battlefields of WWI.

Thanks for sharing your story.

36 Dan L April 18, 2009 at 4:24 pm

Excellent post. I love to write letters and since I save copies of the letters I send, they also function as a sort of journal for me as well.

Only thing I would disagree on, is the fountain pen point –lefties like me can’t use them without smudging every letter. Besides that, this was one of the best posts you’ve written.

37 Tim April 19, 2009 at 5:09 am

As a southpaw, I run into smudging problems writing anything longer than a grocery list or margin notes in a book. Even thank you notes require focused effort to ensure the writing is not marred by a ink mark created by the side of my hand. I have trouble imagining writing a fancy letter with even a cheap pen that I consider clean enough to put in the mail. A fountain pen, or a liquid ink pen, or a felt pen simply magnifies the mess. Any convenient advice for lefties to keep the paper clean?

38 Ken April 19, 2009 at 5:43 am

Thanks for the post, very informative. Letter writing is an art that needs to be brought back into ‘vogue’ . I am now a missionary in Rwanda, also a retired Game Warden and belong to a group of Christian Game Wardens. We have a card writing ministry that has touched many people over the years. A card is a little simpler than a full letter and yet a hand written note of sympathy or encouragement is a powerful tool. Blessings to you, I really enjoy your site.

39 Julia April 19, 2009 at 3:20 pm

I love writing and tried hard, in different stages of my life, to write letters.

But I think I lost the battle.

Yes, letters are wonderful, but what is their mission now? They are a bad means to carry news (email does that much better), so they are perfect only for permanent things, like express feelings.

I think I lost the faith in letter writing when my husband failed to reply a totally erotic note I sent him when we had to be apart for 2 months. And the most painful thought about it is that his handwriting would make any calligrapher envious.

40 lady brett April 20, 2009 at 8:35 am

thanks for this. i absolutely love writing letter, though i only have one regular correspondent.

no lack of love for the fountain pen, but i’d like to put a plug in for the typewriter. i got a 50s portable about a year ago, and it has been quite an inspiration on the letter-writing front. among other things, my letters are actually legible now!

41 Phil April 22, 2009 at 12:45 pm

@Tim: Try the Uni-ball Jetstream. I had the same problem, but this pen uses gel ink that dries almost instantly. I’ve gone through dozens of pens trying to find a good one for left-handed writers, and the Jetstream is the best I’ve found.

42 Амалия April 24, 2009 at 2:53 am

Excellent post. I love to write letters and since I save copies of the letters I send, they also function as a sort of journal for me as well.

43 Matt April 24, 2009 at 8:52 am

I don’t write as much as I should. I have to agree, on the email writing point. I can send an email expressing concerns or doubt and I expect to get a replay but none comes because it gets lost in the inbox, perhaps not so with letter writing??

44 Leisureguy April 25, 2009 at 7:08 am

I love fine stationery and all the accessories, but modern postal equipment is incompatible with wax seals. I have quite a few sticks of sealing wax along with the alcohol lamp and seals, but when a seal is used on an envelope (and some of my stationery requires a seal, the flap being ungummed), the post office sorting and canceling machine rips off the seal and can even tear the letter. In practice, if the missive is not to be hand-delivered, a wafer seal works better. Alas.

45 Leisureguy April 25, 2009 at 7:13 am

Advice to lefties on keeping the paper clean when using a fountain pen.

This technique is commonly used when teaching italic handwriting, which uses a square-tipped pen—a stub point—that produces writing with varying thicks and thins and is held at a 45º angle to the writing line.

A left-hander orients the paper SIDEWAYS, with the top to the right, and then writes DOWN the page for each line. This keeps the pen tip correctly oriented and also means that the writing hand rests on the unwritten part of the page, free of the ink.

It takes a while to get used to, but soon a left-hander can quickly write elegant script down the page. One student used to pick up the sheet and turn it upright to read what she had written.

It does work well.

46 Tim April 26, 2009 at 5:50 am

I’m a lefty who writes extensively throughout the day. From filling out forms to keeping a comprehensive daily planner/journal (not diary), although I don’t write many letters these days I plan to change that. Advice for fellow southpaws, try blotter paper as you write or even normal paper. Just dab it onto the newest writing to remove any excess. It should help. Sometimes I’ll place a blank page under my hand so it rests entirely upon it and move it down the page as needed, exposing only the new writing area. Alternatively, you could write with a crooked left hand, above the newest writing.

As for stationery, higher quality papers like Rhodia, Whitepages, Letts, or Moleskin take ink much more nicely than cheap paper, with much less bleedthrough. Fountain pens and rollerballs are my favourites, and use water-based ink. Ballpoints are a paste and gels are, well, a gell. The former produce the nicest ink lines on good paper, and you can invest in a nice pen with multicoloured interchangeable refills.

47 Ben May 3, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Excellent & inspiring article. I haven’t used a fountain pen since I was creating Egyptian hieroglyphic scrolls about fifteen years ago. While that was enjoyable, I think I will give letter writing a whirl. It sounds like great fun!

48 Missive Maven May 8, 2009 at 5:37 pm

I have many letter-writing resources and recommendations on my blog, http://missivemaven.blogspot.com/. It’s all about writing letters. And yeah.. I have a whole selection of elegant stationery!

49 Joel May 20, 2009 at 9:06 am

I like the idea, but I cant think of anyone in my life who I would like to keep in contact with in this manner.

I can’t think of who I would want to write to, or what I would want to write about.

50 Joe Van Cleave May 26, 2009 at 7:21 am

I’ve found using fountain pens such as Pelikan’s, which use a screw-driven, o-ring sealed piston to fill the body of the pen, instead of cartridges, offer an additional level of enjoyment to writing, since you can buy bottled ink, and even mix colors to make your own custom blend. My favorite is Parker’s blue/black Quink.

As for the best paper, for regular 8.5″x11″ lined paper try using Staples’ “Eco-friendly” paper that is made from bagasse, the pulp residue from sugar cane processing. This paper is thinner than normal printer paper, but has that crisp, crinkly feel, and takes fountain pen great, without bleeding or skipping. It reminds me of old airmail paper.

I’ve forgotten about blotter paper; anyone have a quick lead on where one can find blotter paper?

Back in 2001/2002 I was on an extended business assignment and communicated with my spouse using, not only phone calls but, fountain pen letter writing. I applied wax seals to the envelopes and didn’t notice any problems from the postal service.

Great article, and informative responses.

~Joe

51 Carl Muthman July 11, 2009 at 2:28 am

I have always believed a hand written letter is second only to face-to-face for real personal communication. The wax and seal don’t quite fit in with my lifestyle or my group of friends. My dad had stationery and I thought it was neat stuff. This may be the nudge to get me motivated to get my own. I had a relationship with a lady many years ago and we wrote back and forth. There was surprising anticipation in waiting for the next letter and total joy to when it got there. My own perosnal flaw with this is that I have such terrible penmanship.
Just keep posting these skill articles. Some of these skills just didn’t get handed down or retained if they did. It also doesn’t hurt me a bit to learn a little class and etiquette, even if it just one point out of the article it is of benefit.

52 A.A. JOSE July 11, 2009 at 8:28 am

It’s great indeed !Thanks and congratulations !

53 Norman Haase July 11, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Great job guys! As a long-time purveyor of fountain pens, I really appreciate your series.

54 Dave Valdez July 13, 2009 at 11:19 am

While we’re talking about this laudable effort, can we address the topic of improving handwriting? How does one make bad handwriting better? After all, nice stationary and impressive items aren’t going to do much for a letter if the handwriting is illegible.

55 Pablo July 14, 2009 at 10:54 am

I absolutely agree with the last comment, one of the things that most dissuades me from letter writing is my poor handwriting and the mess i may leave with my sweaty hands, i find it difficult to hold a pen for extended periods and get messier as i progress, all this leads to me being afraid of committing to a long hand written letter, which i would love to do more often.

56 Aaron Rocha October 8, 2009 at 11:16 am

Extremely good blog post!
I have been thinking on how to improve my writing and correspondence for several years. I came across a company that dedicates itself to helping folks, including men, to become greeting card senders. Utilizing the convenience of the internet, one can select a card, enter his or her message, customize it with a picture and even select some gifts, click “Send” and off it goes. They take care to put it in an envelope, stamp it and send it.
Anyway, I rant, I have been looking for a blog like yours to teach my team to write from the heart and sincerely. I think your website will be very helpful, I will pass on this blog link.
Sincerely,
Aaron Rocha

57 Ahmasi December 19, 2009 at 1:37 am

The words above ring so true and profound. The intimacy of letter writing cannot be touched or matched by electronics, and I’m a natural born geek who loves tech but I’m also a very proud fountain pen lover, even before the tech! As a child, I watched my father write his sermons with his Esterbrook! That was the beginning of my love affair with writing and fountain pens. I have a small, modest collection, most of which I use daily, trading off one pen for another over a period of time! Nothing feels like a nib on touchdown; like a figure skater on fresh ice! This was a very lovely, memory inducing blog; thank you!
Yours in script,
Ahmasi

58 Paul K January 4, 2010 at 5:21 pm

I could not agree more that letter writing is a good thing. Apart from the natural intimacy of a letter it affirms one’s true friendship with the correspondent. In order to write real letters to each other you have to share that most intimate detail – your address. How many people who claim hundreds of Facebook friends would dream of giving more than a handful of them their actual address?
Personally I find that email and the internet has achieved the sublime result of ridding my letterbox of brown envelopes and bills so I can genuinely look forward to the thump of a letter on the mat knowing it is almost certainly something to give pleasure.

59 Patrick April 5, 2010 at 6:04 am

This is genius,
I came upon such a notion when I was in high school years ago; and would write both letters and post cards to girls I liked. And found one day when I’d returned from a short trip that those members of my class previously written were saddened ( and expectant) that my travel had not warranted writing them as was known to be my custom.
And when I would court a girl, did not merely write “notes” as the standard for my generation; having missed “text messaging” narrowly. But instead with fountain pen and calligraphy that now even after a decade some times it is recalled by those who I haven’t seen in years passed that I was well regarded for my putting ink to paper.
Both family and friends / girlfriends kept some sort of value based on the longer a letter I could produce to them ( I later found out ) and that the longer the letters became the higher my reputation grew. Also finding that if you write the way you talk it is received all the greater by your reads. They’ll say “It’s like, I could totally hear you saying that! Just like you were standing here telling me about it…,”
And that I think is when we’ve done our job best.
Thanks for writing these great sections !

60 Erica April 21, 2010 at 8:19 pm

My goodness The Post Office should hire you as PR. You make letter writting sound like it may just be as fun and cool as playing the Wii. I was inclined to visit your site after getting Jenny’s email from sublime stitching. The two of you Rock and I totally get why you two would get along. The both of you are taking traditions ( that were taken as everyday normal ) and are doing an awsome job of making them Bi**ch’n again. Rock on.

yours truly (and all that jazz),
Erica

61 Cameron October 3, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I had a professor in college that made us hand write and mail one personal letter every Friday. I don’t remember the specific criteria, but most of them were written to people who’d had previously had a positive impact on our lives. It had nothing to do with the class. He was just trying to make us better people. I unfortunately did not keep the habit, but that was almost 20 years ago and still have people mention those letters occasionally.

62 Harrison Moore November 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Hello everyone, I am an artist working in London and I am looking for people to take part in my social art project, it is all about writing letters. I saw this thread and couldn’t resist leaving a comment. Below is a link to my group where you can download the brief:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/482550538445298/

I do hope you can take a look, perhaps you can even take part yourselves and tell your friends, it would mean a lot. Thank you for your time, kindest regards.
Harrison Moore

63 Robert Gunnoe February 7, 2013 at 11:55 am

I am inspired to write more and to improve my use of ink pens in creating personal correspondence. I read this morning that no one is commenting much on the fact that the postal service will no longer be delivering mail on Saturdays, because, “no one writes letters anymore. ” What a shame.

64 Samir March 10, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I have a fountain pen and all of the materials but I have nobody to write to!

65 Tit May 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm

My girlfriend is leaving for a few months, so i’ll suggest we try this. It looks quite magical.

Btw, great site! Keep it up!

66 Stuart M. July 6, 2013 at 8:13 am

I’m a bit late here, but maybe some people are still reading. I have always been an avid letter writer. I tend to be a shy, reserved person, and I find I feel completely free and uninhibited while writing a letter. A fountain pen is the only way to go, preferably a wider nib that varies the width of your strokes depending on the angle you hold it at and the pressure you exert on it. My mother died in January and I received her fountain pen. I swear it contains her spirit! It writes very easily and happy thoughts just flow effortless out of it. My Dad gave me his Mont Blanc No. 149 that he got as a retirement gift. I swear it contains his spirit too! It is thick and temperamental and really lays down a lot of ink. My Dad also gave me some Crane’s paper and envelopes, but I am not too happy with it. Especially the Mont Blanc will mysteriously stop writing on the paper, and I have to retrace my letter several times to get the ink flowing again. I worry that I may have smeared some body oil on the paper which interfere with the ink adhesion. But everyone praises my penmanship and my letters very highly. Unfortunately, my family is very bad about writing me back. They usually wait until I am Skyping them to acknowledge receiving my letters. This was a very unsatisfying situation, so I joined a free pen pal website, and my letter writing adventures really began. I have about eight pen pals, but only one has really developed into a close friendship. In my introductory letters, I use normal A4 copy paper and Microsoft Word to position some of my favorite photos that I have saved in My Pictures on a blank page, maybe three staggered upper left, right middle and lower left. After printing the page on a color printer, I handwrite text describing the pictures in the blank spaces around the pictures. It makes for a very artistic effect and the text flows around the pictures like a “river” of thought. Subsequent, more personal letters then are written on the Crane paper. Last, one shouldn’t forget the envelope. I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to get a letter with a dull, boring Pitney Bowes postage meter stamp on it. I carefully torment my local postal office by sifting through very postage stamp they have before picking out the most beautiful stamps I can find. If I can put together several pretty stamps to make up the right postage, I do so and avoid the boring standard air mail stamp. You know, beautiful stamps don’t cost any more than the ugly stamps do. Now, I admit I had forgotten all about the wax and seal method for decorating letters. I’ll have to look into that. What I have been doing is buying sheets of flag and airplane stickers and using them to emphasize the “internationalness” of my air mail letters. After writing the address and affixing the postage stamps and Par Avion sticker, I position a few of my airplane stickers in the blank spaces and use the tiny flag stickers to create jet contrails that snake all over blank spaces, making loops, circling the address, etc. My pen pals go nuts for this, and I consider this playful decoration my just reward for having finished a good letter. One problem I am having with so many pen pals is remembering whom I wrote what. If I’m not sure, I just plead old age. Oh, I almost forgot, I speak two languages fluently and another two so-so. Handwriting in a foreign language is so much more fun. I have one pen pal who speaks three of the languages I do. We write our letters in three languages!

67 T November 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm

C. Biar, I know it’s coming a few years late, but thanks for the website suggestion. Cheers.

68 M. Meeks January 2, 2014 at 11:35 pm

Hello to all the comments. I am a girl and it is very manly to receive a letter from my man. He expresses so many things and it’s like he is beside me talking to me. We both have a knack for writing not professional. I am left handed and I hold my hand down from the writing, with no problems. I will get me a feather pen and ink, I want to see how it goes…I love this blog, keep up the good work.

Thanks,
M. Meeks

69 Kenny A. January 16, 2014 at 10:07 am

I have been, for over 2 years now, writing letters to my two Godchildren. I started writing just before they were born. I have given the loose letters to their parents, but have recently started writing letters in Composition notebooks. I purchased a cheap beginner calligraphy pen, which I use to write. I am going to compile these letters into a collection (in the style of Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to his Children) and deliver them, once completed, at an appropriate time, when they are old enough to appreciate my efforts and advice.

70 Denesh February 6, 2014 at 1:03 am

The words used are simply mind blowing. It may not be the ordinary words we commonly use but I have picked up on some as I was reading through this page.

71 M.Bazlur Rahman March 12, 2014 at 4:49 am

This is for the first time I visited this web site.This is really awesome inspiring and knowledgeable for those who wish to put their thought on papers. surely I will remember so many excellent and nice words used to communicate feelings. Hope to visit the site in future.
A lot many thanks and regards to the contributors.

72 Carlo March 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Be still my joyful heart! For a long while, I’ve felt like a lone soul in the world of handwriting letters. Thank you for this post as it verifies what I’ve long felt—and done—for so many years….

73 Jerry March 31, 2014 at 3:41 am

The first thing that occurs to me after reading this article is the longevity of the article itself. The first comments appeared in 2009, and at the time of this writing–2014–the article lives on.

I like to think that the article lives on because the message is as timeless as the act of letter-writing itself.

When you think about it, how long does anybody keep an email, no matter how poignant? By contrast, I have letters written to me by my friends that date back to the 1980s. Once in a while, I dig them out to reread them; immediately, my friends come to life.

Someone once posed the question “Why did WW2 marriages last so long?” Someone else posited the idea that, because those couples wrote to each other so extensively during the War, they got to know each other in a way that no other method of communication could have effected.

Thank you for a great article.

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