How to Write a Letter

A woman's hand writing on notebook paper

There’s nothing more delightful than sending or receiving a handwritten letter.

While a text message or DM offers you the chance to communicate rapidly and in real time with friends and loved ones, digital correspondence can often feel hollow or superficial.

You’re sending off messages, often to multiple people at once, perhaps distracted by other things on your screen. Or if you do take the time to write something nice, your recipient might respond to your message with a mere quick tap. 

Writing a letter, on the other hand, doesn’t feel like a fleeting moment, it’s a whole experience. You’re taking time to express yourself and think about your recipient and how much they mean to you. And for your recipient, they get to experience the sheer delight of opening up their mailbox and discovering, amongst the usual junk mail and bills, a personalized letter just for them. 

Letter writing also provides you an opportunity to express yourself without fear, re-ignite old friendships, and even mend relationships. 

And the best part? You don’t need much to brighten someone else’s day. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen.

Why you should start writing letters

You can express yourself more clearly. Without the digital distractions of a computer or phone, a blank page offers you a focused space for your thoughts. Writing by hand also forces you to slow down, which helps you gather your thoughts more easily, and actually think about the words you want to say. The slow and deliberate nature of handwriting also enables you to articulate your thoughts without the constant urge to self-edit or delete.

You feel more comfortable about sharing. Posting a comment on social media feels so exposed, and is there for all to see. A letter, on the other hand, on the other hand is one-on-one and feels much more safe. You can share your experiences and personal thoughts without the worry of public scrutiny or judgment. 

Your recipient will also take the time to appreciate your letter. A letter not only harnesses your focus and attention when you’re writing it, it captures the attention of your recipient as well. When you send a nicely worded email or text there’s always the chance that your recipient is reading it while multitasking or getting distracted by new notifications. But a letter encourages them to stay with your message until the end, making the entire letter writing experience that much more meaningful. 

You can channel your inner kid. Letter writing doesn’t have to be formal, let yourself have fun with it. Use colorful pens or add fun stickers. Your recipient will love getting some nostalgia in the mail.

You can include special “surprises” in your letter. A letter isn’t just a handwritten message. You can enclose  an illustration, a photo, a magazine clipping, or a pressed flower. If you have kids, encourage them to write a note or share a drawing. These are all nice ways to round out your letter and send your recipient a little piece of your life. 

You can mend friendships. Maybe you and your friend had a falling out. Or you and a loved one have grown distant over time. Reaching out with a handwritten letter is like waving a white flag. It’s a chance to speak honestly and from the heart, without interruption. And it gives your recipient the benefit of time as well. So instead of responding impulsively over text or email, they are afforded the time to process your  message and the feelings that may arise. They also have time to think about what they’d like to say. Time heals all wounds and writing can certainly play an important role in the healing process

Tips on how to write and structure your letter

If you’re excited to send some snail mail, here are some letter writing tips to help you get started.

Write a draft before you start your actual letter. Not all of us can write the perfect letter on the first try. Take some time to brainstorm what you want to say. You can do free association and just start jotting down whatever comes to mind. Then, go through your draft and circle or underline the parts you want to include in your final draft. 

Think about letters you’ve received in the past. You can also take a cue from lovely letters you’ve received over the years. How did the sender make you feel? What was it about the letter that made you feel loved or cared for? Did they give you an encouraging word during a hard time? Tell you a funny story? Try to channel the spirit of those letters when writing your own.

Start with a simple greeting. Maybe you were thinking about your recipient and wanted to send them a note. Or maybe they have a birthday or special occasion coming up and you want to wish them well.

Share updates on your life, mundane or meaningful. Let the other person know what’s going on with you. Talk about your daily walks or describe a wonderful meal you recently had. People love getting glimpses into other people’s lives and they’ll feel like they’re sharing those experiences with you. You can also include more meaningful updates, like the thoughts and concerns weighing on your mind.You will feel better after expressing yourself and your recipient will appreciate your confidence. 

Think about what you want your recipient to write. Ask them to share updates on their life. Ask what they’ve been up to, how their kids or family members are doing. If your recipient has been going through a rough time, ask them how they’ve been handling it and offer encouraging words or your favorite inspirational quote

Share a memory. You can also include a fun or touching memory. A memorable summer vacation you both shared. Or an inside joke between the two of you.  This lets your recipient know that you're thinking of them and reminds them of all the wonderful moments you’ve both shared.

Written by JiJi Lee


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