Letter writing - Is it a lost art?

by Irwin Lengel
(Lakeland, FL)

I recently received a card with a brief handwritten note inside it from my kid sister who lives about 1200 miles away.

She is one of the few relatives I have that does not have a computer and therefore unless we talk on the telephone (which we occasionally do but not as often as we probably should) the only communication we have is by means of the written word.

What with the advent of the computer, cell phones, and now tablets, communication between friends and relatives via the written word has practically gone by the way of the dinosaur.

Did you know that the first recorded letter that was written by hand occurred in or around 500 BC and was written by a Persian Queen known as Atossa.

Another little known fact was that the stamped letter we know today came into being in the reign of Queen Victoria in 1840. It has been written that Victoria was an avid journal writer and maintained a journal from age thirteen until a few years before her death, 69 years later and filled 122 volumes.

There are numerous means of communicating with people for the purpose of preserving traditions and memories. Story telling was one such way as was markings on stone and so forth. In some of our travels out west, we remember seeing walls of caves with markings and pictures on them done by our ancestors as a means of providing us with information about how they lived and communicated.

Thinking back to what we learned in history classes, it was known that the leaves of plants and the bark of trees advanced the use of writing. Ancient Egyptians used the papyrus plant as writing material.

Babylonians wrote astronomical observations on bricks of clay, the Chinese had tablets of stone on ancient monuments and one could spend hours upon hours of research into the many ways our ancestors communicated with each other.

Such is not the purpose of this post though. What I am trying to point out is that the use of personal handwritten notes is becoming a lost art. Think back to the last time you received a personal letter from a dear friend or relative.

Every now and then I take some time out of our busy day and just sit and handwrite a letter to an aunt or sister. Actually, I enjoy doing so as I picture the face and expressions of the intended recipient of the letter and can actually picture the expressions on their face as they read whatever ramblings I put down on the paper.

But let’s face it handwritten notes are not the usual form of communication between peoples today. For one thing, depending on what we are trying to say, they are not written in a few minutes as would be the case with an e-mail.

Depending on what it is we want to say and how we want to say it, drafting a written letter actually requires time to draft each word carefully.

Why does it take more time? Because there are no “undo’s or autocorrects” we can fall back on should we write something we decide we would prefer not to say once the words are on the page. That means we would have to throw the page away and start all over again.

Upon drafting such a letter we might just use whatever paper is available or we might search for something more appropriate based on what will be in the text of the letter. Writing such a letter also requires that we have to make sure we have the appropriate postage and unless we have mail pickup at our home, we also need to factor in that trip to the post office.

Why do we write such letters even if only the occasional one? To show the person on the receiving end that they are not forgotten or perhaps just to bring them up to date with the happenings going on in our lives.

Remember, especially for those individuals (like my sister), chances are that since they do not have a computer, they are not as current with up to date happenings as those of us tuned in to sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

Also, another neat thing to do is to hand write a personal note to an individual you might have just had a telephone conversation with. A short handwritten note acknowledging the conversation carries its own meaning. It lets that person know that you really care about them and are truly concerned about their well-being.

Too often our thoughts merely pop into our heads and pop out almost as instantly and we never do sit down and follow up.

Problem is as I see it, the older we get, the shorter our time is to stay in touch with those that are not seen day in and day out. Being retired allows us the time, as I have said in many of my previous posts, to do what we want when we want.

I, for one, do not want to think about a distant relative and fail to sit down and write them (now that they popped in my head) for whatever reason, only to find out a week, month or two months later, that they passed.

We wonder what it is we can do during our free moments during retirement – get out that pen and paper and write a letter to a long lost friend or relative.

You will be so glad you did. I know I do every time I do it, and - yes – believe it or not, I must admit - I am sure that while I do on occasion write an aunt or sister, as in the case mentioned above, I will be the first to admit that I probably do not do it often enough.

Writing such letters does wonders for one’s well-being when you get that response back.

Comments for Letter writing - Is it a lost art?

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Still Writing Letters
by: Zenobia/ Minnesota

I have just about mastered all the social medias with the exception of periscope and twitter. I still write letters!

I have two pen pals currently, but still write and send cards to my other friends on a regular basis. I just lost a pen pal from over fifty years ago. We started writing when we were about fifteen. She was still teaching and we used to tease each other about the fact that we were still working...etc.

I love going to my mailbox and getting real mail. I love face book and have located long lost friends and classmates there, but a hand written letter sets my heart on fire.

Letter Writig
by: Wendy

IF anyone wants senior pen pals, just click on the two smiling faces (Retirement Community link) to the right! There is a pen pal tab, where seniors leave their "ad" or you can leave yours.

Some want email pals, others want real letter writers via postal mail.

Just saying... there is the perfect letter writing solution for those who still love letters!!

Boston, MA
by: sara

I was really interested in this article - as someone who used to eagerly await the mailman - considered it a red-letter day when I got 4-5 thick envelopes from long-letter pals, and a big manilla envelope containing a favorite "round robin" - those days are long gone - now virtually all my contact is via FB or e-mail - but, I suspect my reasons are pretty much like others who have stopped writing letters (or even sending cards.

The availability of e-cards, cheaper (free) and no stamps required - when you are on a fixed income - it does add up - eyesight has changed - it is no longer as easy to read someone's "henscratching" (particularly MINE :) - some friends have developed severe arthritis in their hands and writing is painful for them.

I'm recovering from a broken shoulder and it's "legacy" seems to be a permanent crimp in the hand on that side - just the ease of communication and ability to send pictures via e-mail and FB - so many reasons - BUT - as I have always loved and collected collections of letters written by the famous (and not so famous) I KNOW what an art letter writing was ...and I'm sorry I'm part of seeing it go

It is Forever Lost
by: Tom Damron--Plano, Texas


Today in school cursive handwriting is not taught, encouraged, or wanted. My grandson is 11 and I wonder how he will execute mortgages, checks, applications and the myriad of forms we all have to sign.

You know our government--it doesn't support cursive but it'll be the first to demand forms be signed in cursive.

It's coming!


Letters are treasures
by: Donna Augusta, Mo

I still send cards and letters. It is so much more personal to get a handwritten note. I have a laptop and a desktop etc. and consider myself pretty computer saavy but, I still have cards and notes that were sent to me from friends and loved ones some of whom are no longer with us. From time to time I look at their cards and know it came from them.

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