September 30, 2020

BY STEPH SMITH

Can you recall the last time you received or wrote a letter?

I don’t mean those which are typed in 12-point, Times New Roman on a piece of paper that has been shoved into an envelope, or one sent electronically via email.

I’m talking about a letter of the handwritten variety.

There is nothing better than receiving something that someone has put a lot of work into, and letters are no exception.

The English language, like a lot of things, has changed over time, but the way we open and close letters has stayed very much the same.

A simple salutation, such as hello, can lead to a million possibilities.

Valedictions, such as from, yours truly, love, sincerely and so on, can establish for the reader the relationship the sender and receiver have.

Ironically, the inevitable eradication of the art of letter writing occurred long before the advent of the Internet.

According to an article from the Washington Post’s website, “In 1919, the Yale Review lamented that ‘the art of writing letters has been lost,’ with blame cast on the telephone, the typewriter, the telegraph and even the train — for delivering letters too promptly.”

While email and social media are fast and efficient, they lack substance.

A handwritten letter shows all the emotion and personality of the person who wrote it.

In the words of American actor and comedian Steve Carell, “Sending a handwritten letter is becoming such an anomaly.

It’s disappearing.

My mom is the only one who still writes me letters.

And there’s something visceral about opening a letter — I see her on the page. I see her in her handwriting.”

There are coffee rings and food residue, fingerprints and tear stains.

Handwritten letters allow us to revel in the drama of love, bear witness to tragedy and sadness, glimpse power and feel anguish.

Not to mention their tangibility.

Sure, you can save or print off an email, but it’s not nearly as special and just does not have the same feeling.

There is just something intimate and personal reading what others have wrote that can become almost voyeuristic in nature.

Yet the mystique of the handwritten letter has become both lost and obscure in this technology-filled age. Some of the only times people now consider “writing a letter” are when they fill out cards for Christmas, birthdays and congratulatory events, such as graduations and engagements.

Even then, most people just write the receiver’s name and a short closing, rather than writing a message on the inside of the card, as most cards are already pre-written.

Receiving a letter in the mail is exciting, so why not be excited to write them?

With paper and pens being so readily available to us, there’s no better time like the present to fall in love with the art of letter writing again, or for the first time.

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