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The Forgotten Art of Letter Writing

By Leslie Addison, Human Resources Director

Do you need a new way to relax that’s simple, fun and affordable? If you do, then embark on writing a letter to someone special! Not only is it a way to enjoy a quiet break from your busy day, but it passes on that very same thing to the person at the other end. 

Try to remember a moment, anytime in your past, when you discovered an envelope in your mailbox hand-addressed to you. I don’t mean a bill, or a sales flyer, or the latest Sear’s catalogue; I mean a handwritten letter.  Do you recall that warm feeling of excitement? The anticipation of getting it opened and the smile on your face as you read the words?  I do, and I always considered those moments as unexpected little gifts.  Why, you ask, would I write a letter if I can just type up a quick e-mail and move on to the next item on my list of things to do? Well, let’s consider that very question.

Technology has brought us fascinating ways to communicate efficiently and with immediate results.  We can post messages on Twitter and Facebook, send e-mails, instant messages and texts. We use Blogs such as this. Quickly and easily we can send an identical message to dozens of people in the flash of a keystroke! Using Skype, we actually don’t even have to write anything at all. So why’s all that so bad?  In and of itself it isn’t, but it’s what we’re giving up that’s concerning.  We’re forgetting the art of the handwritten letter and the joy it brings to both parties. 

Letter writing goes beyond just putting words on paper. It’s the process of creating and the satisfaction of the finished product that makes it special. Think of what our Declaration of Independence would look like if it was simply typed in Times New Roman font size 12, and “John Hancock” was just a size 48 bold. The character of the document would be missing; the essence of emotion from each pen stroke would be lost.  Creating a letter is also a hobby to be enjoyed.  The finished product is different each time, never quite knowing how it’ll come out until the end.  There’s a bit of personality in each one.  Penmanship is unique, as is the selection of stationary or pen. Ink on paper is permanent and by accepting that, there’s a bit more stream of consciousness and less worry about the wording. There are no backspace or delete buttons, so often what is written sounds like how you’d speak. How many times have you said, “It was so nice to hear your voice.”?  I believe the same impact holds true when reading a letter written just for you. 

As a culture we are losing our skills in cursive.  Simultaneously, we’ve developed very high expectations for immediate access to, and rapid response from, the people with whom we communicate.  Together, it puts the practice of letter writing in danger of extinction. This age-old form of personal communication can’t go by the wayside to quick e-mails, ‘Reply-all’s, standardized fonts and happy face symbols. Help prevent this from happening!  Get some paper, choose your favorite pen, find a special place to sit, relax for a moment, and compose a letter to someone special. My guess is that by the time you’ve sealed the envelope, adhered a postage stamp and dropped it in a mailbox, you’ll feel more relaxed and a bit happier.  You can also be assured that in a few days, someone will enjoy your sentiments as well!

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