When was the last time you took out a piece of paper and wrote a letter to someone? I mean the old- fashioned pen pal or paragraph message with a postmark --- maybe to your aunt on the east coast or a cherished college roommate.
It goes without saying that the influx of technology and advanced communication tools over the years has made the art of letter writing a rather rare occurrence. But that doesn’t mean it’s something you should give up on. In fact, why not make it a point to pen a purposeful message this summer – whether it’s to a relative that lives far away or to a friend that you haven’t talked with in a while. You would be surprised how it will not only lift the spirits of the recipient but could be good therapy for the sender.
According to the National Pen Company, more than 5,000 traits are linked to how we write. It could be how far apart you space your letters or how large you make your exclamation point that could say a little something about your personality. In fact, your handwriting can reflect your mood and your state of health.
In addition, letter writing can come with benefits including:
It helps you practice your craft – let’s just say every word counts.
It helps you be authentic – another great way to start or hold a conversation.
It keeps you writing by hand – it’s a more conscious way of writing and makes for good practice.
It improves your relationships – especially in a distracted world, letter writing is a more focused and permanent form of communication between two people.
-The Writing Cooperative (writingcooperative.com)
Did you know that the term “pen pal” was first documented in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1931? It originally referred to people who corresponded with one another over vast differences, often as a way to learn about different cultures, languages and countries, and to help improve literacy. From veterans of war looking forward to letters from a loved one to kids at summer camp writing home to their parents, there’s nothing like that feeling when you see a handwritten envelope and folded up letter inside.
In the end, you don’t have to get caught up in the formality of letter writing, but just know that it’s the thought that counts. Sure you can send a quick text to someone, have a chat on social media, or write them a message in an email … but imagine the look on their face when they find a handwritten letter in the mailbox.
As a college student in the 80s, I not only had a landline phone in my dorm room but actually checked my mailbox regularly to see who might have written me a letter. These days I have to remind my college coed daughter to check her mailbox but it’s comforting to know she has grandparents and other relatives in her life that still like to send handwritten cards and letters.
I have always instilled in my children the importance of a handwritten thank you note and as they get older have treasured the tradition of sending them college care packages with heartfelt notes of encouragement inside. Whether you have your own children, nieces/nephews or friends – it’s up to us to keep this artform going and encourage the younger generation to do the same.
Go ahead … grab a piece of good stationery, a fountain pen and maybe even finish it off with a wax seal on the envelope. Trust me, you will feel good once it’s all signed, sealed and delivered!
Mary Anne McAndrew is a Communications Specialist engaged in professional writing, public relations, and event planning for 30+ years