Writing Letters

by janetkayfetz

The name of my blog is “The art and craft of writing and speaking.”

I’ve focused my discussions mostly on the academic world. For writing, that includes looking at many of the things we need to think about when we write a formal academic text.

But what about other wonderful kinds of writing? Like the art of letter writing? I experience a different kind of joy when I pick up a pen and write a letter than I do when I use a keyboard to write an email or ecard.

Please enjoy this lovely piece on writing — and receiving — letters.


 “Yesterday morning, I sat at my desk, took out pen and paper, an envelope and a roll of stamps and began to write. No, I wasn’t mailing a check or returning an online purchase — or recreating a scene from a Jane Austen novel. I was writing a letter.

This activity has become a weekly ritual for me, as I keep regular correspondence with several faraway loved ones. It started last year, with a postcard that my mother sent me — I taped it up next to my desk as a reminder to write back. Over time, my address book has grown to include friends of many different ages and locations: a girl from my high school now attending college in Ohio, cousins and aunts in Montana, a woman who I know well who lives in my home neighborhood. My wall is now covered with a collage of bright postcard photos and pages full of curling dark script . . .

The vast majority of students probably haven’t written and mailed a letter since the days of post-birthday-party thank-you notes. It’s true that our culture has fully shifted away from this by now — and of course, this is partially for good reason. It’s impossible to deny that it’s actually much faster and more effective to keep in touch with people via text, email or Facebook. But there’s still something to be said for keeping actual physical correspondence, intentionally choosing to forego the ease of the computer in order to have a more meaningful exchange of ideas.

Writing a letter isn’t something that you can just dash off in a few minutes, replete with misspellings and abbreviations — you have to actually grab a piece of paper, sit down at a desk and think a bit first. The simple act of choosing to write a letter already shows an investment in your interaction with the person to whom you’re sending it, that you have something worthwhile to say and have taken the time to do so in a full and complete manner.

And there’s something to the materiality of a letter, the thrill of unfolding the piece of paper and knowing that another set of hands far away has held it too. Unlike emails, letters aren’t in danger of disappearing into cyberspace with one false click. My mother still has a box full of the letters she sent to her parents in college, which she let me look through over the summer. Leafing through the pages, I could see the development of the handwriting, as well as of the woman who wrote with it. Somehow a folder of emails just doesn’t have that same effect . . .

[There’s] just something about opening my P.O. box each week to find a stack of thick, handwritten envelopes, which no high-pitched ping or Facebook notification tone will ever be able to match. And it would be irresponsible of our generation to sacrifice this simple pleasure entirely, for the sake of mere convenience.”

From A Weekly Ritual, by Emma Fallone. In The Yale Daily News, Nov. 8, 2013. http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2013/11/08/fallone-a-weekly-ritual/