The Lost Art of Letter Writing

by Bridget Geegan Blanton

My cousin and I still exchange hand-written letters. When I see her familiar handwriting on an envelope, I set it aside to enjoy later in the day. It is a gift to receive a letter; a gift of the writer's time. I treasure these letters from my cousin. I'll sit down with a cup of coffee while anticipating the content. She makes me laugh, shares her news and tells me what she's learned during reflective moments. I always come away feeling as though I've spent time with her, and truly I have.

We've become so accustomed to the ease and speed of e-mail that we rarely consider sitting down and writing a letter; aside from the occasional hand-written note that accompanies a greeting card. A letter allows us to go beyond the standard briefing on the events in our lives. As we write, we ponder the details and discuss what's really going on behind the scene. We know our audience and this can affect the tone of the letter; be it humorous, reflective or formal. You might think that I would employ a more formal tone when writing my husband's 90-year old grandmother, but that is hardly the case. In fact, I try to think of things to write about that would make her laugh.

If you find yourself staring blankly at the stationary, not knowing where to begin, consider recent experiences. Recall an encounter or event that may be meaningful to the person you are writing to and soon the ink will be flowing. I recently received a letter from a friend in which I learned the humorous twists and turns that she and her family experienced during a talent show they participated in while on vacation. Once we begin to recap a moment in time, it leads to something else; before long we've got half a page filled. Writing a letter might be old fashioned, but receiving one has lost none of its charm.

Never underestimate how much your correspondence will be appreciated by the recipient. Finding your letter amidst the bills might mean more than you'll ever know. In any case, letters are more fun to receive than e-mail and are far more personal. We all contemplate the appropriateness of sending an e-mail in place of a letter or note. In the absence of a rushed time variable, I would always suggest putting pen to paper. In these days of instant messaging, it is refreshing to receive hand-written correspondence. In the summer months ahead, you'll come upon an opportunity to write a letter. Enjoy the experience.

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