Writing The Best Letter
These days it is unusual to receive an actual handwritten letter. Growing up in the days before the internet, it was customary to receive letters, notes, and cards from our family and friends, but today, that almost never happens. Additionally, most children are not taught cursive writing beyond the Third Grade. This is an art that should not be lost on the future generations. Without cursive writing, our children, grandchildren, and so forth will be hard pressed to be able to read most of our historical documents and important letters. While I think it would be overly critical to say that people don’t put thought into their email messages, I still believe that a handwritten letter is superior to an email. Why? Because it shows the thought and emotional connection the person has with their intended reader.
It takes time to write a good letter. Emails and text messages are geared toward brevity. We shorten, if not abbreviate, much of what is contained in electronic communications. There is the assumption that, if the communication is too long, it will not be read in full. When one receives a handwritten letter, especially today, the reader understands the time it took to write the letter, as well as the thought the writer put into choosing the right words. Therefore, the handwritten letter or note is a much better communicator of feeling and connection.
To write the best letter, you have to know your reader. You wouldn’t write a technical, academic type letter to a child. On the other hand, you wouldn’t write a letter using elementary language to the dean of a university. Choosing the right words for the reader is critical. Additionally, in handwritten letters, I believe, tone is more understood than in electronic communications. Many times emails and text messages can be a complete miss on tone, leading the reader to misinterpret the writer’s intentions. This can lead to conflict, rather than connection. When a person sits down to handwrite a letter to a loved one, or even a employment colleague, more thought is put into word choice. That doesn’t mean that there is no room for misinterpretation, I just believe it is not to the same degree as emails and text messages.
Organization of the letter is also important. Much like writing the proverbial 5-paragraph theme, letters should follow a similar formula. The writer shouldn’t jump around on thought because it confuses the reader. Many times, letters are organized around thoughts or sequences. If a grandparent is writing to a grandchild, they might organize the letter around activities–either what they’ve been doing or asking questions about the child’s activities. If a spouse is writing a love letter to their respective spouse, he/she may organize the letter around an explanation of their feelings…”I love you because “a”, “b”, and “c”. The organization is important to convey the message the writer wishes to communicate so that the intention is not misunderstood.
Finally, and it should go without saying, but this part is like the warning on appliances…you have to say it for the idiot who would screw it up. Proper grammar is essential. Making sure that sentences are complete, keeping sentence structures simple rather than complex, and using well-thought-out arguments (avoiding fallacies) is key. Additionally, carefully using active verbs, similes, and metaphors can make a letter more interesting, depending on the reader and the purpose of the letter.
These are just a few tips for writing a good letter. There are many, different types of letters, but these tips apply to most of them. Keep on writing those letters. The post office will thank you and so will your loved ones!
Have a great week!