The Lost Art of Letter Writing

letters“A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend.” -Emily Dickinson

I have often felt as though I was born into the wrong time. There are so many customs that I find charming, useful and worthwhile that are not considered old-fashioned, out-dated and not progressive. Preeminent among them is the art of letter writing.

I remember being taught in school how to write a proper letter including the various types of correspondence and how each dictated a different voice and style.

My education of letter writing emphasized that presentation was as important as substance; handwriting was paramount. We learned how to loop and swirl letters so that each  beautifully wrapped around the next until the words flowed across the page in elegant cursive strokes. It was artwork.

Sadly, though, this art is quickly becoming lost to a generation of texters whose need for brevity is breeding attention deficits. However, there are more reasons than this that letter writing shouldn’t go by the wayside of petticoats and corsets.

Technically, writing letters help maintain our ability to spell and our grasp of grammar. Texts are a quick and easy means of communication, however I say thanx but no thanx. After all there is going to be an entire generation who won’t even know the “ks” existed.

Writing letters challenge one to find the right words for the expression of thoughts and opinions. Unlike emails, there are no emoticons to convey feelings. And if we relinquish this practice we will lose our ability of emotional expression through language. Although a smiley face is cute, what happens when we must speak face-to-face? It seems that miming a half parenthesis and colon with your fingers could be difficult.

Hand-written letters are personal. They are personal because they are written in someone’s hand, displaying the words and passages in someone’s own unique writing that can’t be copied or matched. They are personal because the writer of the letter and the reader of the letter both hold the same envelope, touch the same paper, feel the same script across the page.

Lastly, letters are important for posterity. Whether written by Aunt Erma or the President of the United States, each letter is a piece of history. Do you remember the letters you received from your best friend or your first love? And how many of those found their way into a special keepsake box? How many boxes do you have filled with printed emails? In fact, Hotmail usually decides when I am finished with an email and auto deletes.

Hand-written letters are more than a means of communication. They are an individual’s small and unique piece of literary work. Because each time you take pen to paper, express your feelings and thoughts and share them with another, you are a writer and the letter is simply your form.

A letter tells a story. A letter holds history. Writing a letter is an art.

So send your emails, type your texts, but don’t forget to occasionally pull out the pretty stationary, pick up your pen and write a letter so that this art is not lost.

Thank you for reading. I’m excited to hear what you think.

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About Sherry Parnell

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