Hand written letters: A Lost Art

In this digital age it is so convenient to get on your cellular device to send a quick text or email to a loved one.  Messages conveyed by this medium are no less meaningful or thoughtful than their hand-written counterparts.  But, sadly, there is a formula to the Art of Letter Writing that has been lost over time.  It was, in fact, the exchange of letters that led to the United States Postal Services which, according to Wikipedia, has roots in 1775!  Since the explosion of the internet – U.S. mail has taken a hit so large that this generation will likely see the demise of the USPS.

Throughout history and, even as late as the early 1900’s, there were large populations of people who could not read, much less write.  Scribes had the extremely important responsibility of hand writing history, important documents, and stories that have been passed down throughout the ages.  Penmanship was an incredibly sought out craft!  Could you imagine the bible being handwritten??  Before technology took over, those thousands of pages were carefully translated and penned by human hand!  I can not even fathom how many hours that might take!  Not to mention the hand cramping that goes with it!

I love writing letters and sending them out to others – little positive messages sent out into the world.  And I know that people enjoy receiving them!  Especially the grandparents who, quite honestly, still struggle with technological advances! (Remember AOL??!!)

Receiving letters means that someone is thinking of you.  Having mailed parcel means that you are disconnected from the web and you have a physical part of that person with you.  You have a tangible piece of their love and well wishes to run your fingers over and read and re-read at your leisure.

Here are the basic “parts” of a hand written letter:

1) Heading – this includes the date, address, and even the spacial placement

2) Salutation – the greeting and/or endearment (or in a business letter it would include a subject line)

3) Body – the largest part of the letter.  This part should be very fluid.  I typically start with a hope that the recipient is in good health upon receiving my letter.  Then I go into the main part of the letter – the reason I am writing.  And then I tie it up with a joyous memory or hope for the future (i.e., I hope to see you soon.  Or I hope to hear from you soon. etc.)

4) Closing – is comprised of a short phrase, typically “Sincerely” or “Your friend”

5) Signature – typically the name or nickname of the person writing the letter.

Simple, right?  Yes and no.  There are many rules to consider when it comes to handwritten letters.  You have to consider the spacing, the heading, the type of paper the you use, and the context/language depending on whether it is a business or personal letter.  In this day and age, I’d be happy receiving a note in the mail written on the scrap of a grocery list!

In my own endeavors I am more concerned with constantly trying to improve my handwriting – this is a very crucial part of handwriting letters.  Beautifully penned messages indicate that you took great care to present your best effort.  It’s all about presentation and aesthetics.

And the most important thing about the Lost Art of Letter Writing is time.   When a person has taken a few moments of their time to convey a message – it’s like a photograph of emotion in a single moment.  It can be a beautiful record of time.  Look at anthologies of Love Letters written over the centuries.  It is such a beautiful and powerful thing.  I still have letters that people have written to me over 20 years ago.  Absolutely, I have emails as well that hold great meaning for me.  But my older letters have stamps on it that are no longer in circulation!  The paper itself is crinkled and weathered.  The hands on the clock continued ticking, it’s evidence written into the lines of our faces, but in my old letters, time has stood still.  It’s content and emotion remained imprinted forever on a sheet of paper that has absorbed the writers energy and passion during a particular period in their life.

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