I’m wondering if you still write letters.
Personal letters between friends and family. Over the last decade (or maybe more like two decades), I’ve noticed that about the only letters that arrive in my mailbox are the kind from Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. You know those very hopeful, you may be our next winner, return your entry form today letters. The writer is giddy with excitement for me, and I’m annoyed.
I wrote letters often when I was younger. I had friends and relatives, as well as pen-pals that I exchanged correspondence with regularly. Then, computers became prevalent in our lives, and I was just as diligent with emails to friends and family, but then it was also many work emails.
Now most emails have been reduced to the equivalent of my mention of the ‘sweepstakes’ letter above. Yes, I do a monthly newsletter for my readers and oh how I hope it reaches you with less disdain than “just more junk mail to delete”. But my point is, no matter how well I do that type of email, it isn’t the same as receiving personal communication. A heart-to-heart exchange.
And there is my true point.
Heart-to-heart communication. We have so many (I won’t say too many) options to communicate and share our thoughts and feelings and beliefs and love, we often forget to truly talk at all. So many chat messages or text messages that disappear into the ether because they are not permanent. They happen in the moment and are crowded out by the next moment, even if the next one is a text reminder from the dentist about your appointment!
Hand-written letters and cards are one of the few things I collect. I still have letters between myself and my grandmother. If a friend writes me a rare letter in the 2000’s, it goes in my memory box. And yes, I do take them out from time to time and re-read them. I’ve even held on to some email communications from friends from way back when most email was of a personal nature. A letter between friends. I had to make a digital folder (memory box) for those but I’m glad I held onto to them because some of those people are no longer in my life, sadly.
Researching information for historical novels is a job.
I enjoy it which is why I write in that genre. Letter writing is one of those small, yet important features in the character’s life because it happens often and as an author, I have a choice between letting the reader know what was in the letter or placing the letter within the book to be read.
So, I find myself checking for proper writing styles for the decade. A married woman or an older unmarried woman would be addressed as Madam. Men (some young enough that we might consider them still boys) are Sir. Of course, if you are closely related, the salutation may begin with Mother or Dear Uncle, but it seems that until after the roaring 20’s first names were not in vogue. My intent is not to lay out all the layers of details and contradictions found in letters of old, only to show it was an art. Understanding some of its “rules” helps to uncover the meanings. For example, if you find a handwritten letter on stationary edged in black, the writer was in mourning.
Writing a letter by hand could become a lost art.
And I for one, hope that can be prevented. Perhaps I will spur you to write to someone today, just because or maybe because it is an occasion such as a birthday. Sure, you can mail a birthday card, but why not tuck a short letter inside also? And let’s not forget that truly needed resource called a “thank you” note. Our world gets smaller, but I believe our contact with it gets less as our methods for exchange get faster. The need to communicate, to create depth of friendship remains as important as ever.