Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Art of Writing Letters

Power of Words
by Antonio Litterio
During the past seventeen years I've often been asked why I indulge in snail mail correspondence. In general, people understand the purpose of corresponding with someone who lives far away, usually in another country. They can relate to the wish to stay in touch, to improve foreign language skills, to learn about other cultures, to talk about a common hobby, to exchange experiences and ideas, etc. etc. Most of them, however, find it very bizarre to do it the old-fashioned way using paper and ink when there are more modern and more immediate means of communication available. They imagine that it must be rather frustrating to be watching out for the postman every day to deliver the long awaited answer from a penfriend. They are wrong!

In snail mail correspondence time is of secondary importance. Every letter from a true friend is welcome however long it may have taken her or him to reply... as long as s/he wrote with at least a minimum of care. There's hardly anything more harmful to a penfriendship than letters that are dashed off without much thought and that contain nothing but empty phrases as it happens so often in e-mails and posts on the internet. People like me who enjoy writing letters are often introverted, but correspondence definitely is the wrong activity for people unwilling or unable to open up to others. Those who don't want to reveal their true character are well advised to start writing a diary instead of snail mail letters. Or if you find it hard to tell the truth, you might consider writing fiction.

A true amateur of snail mail correspondence will pay a lot of attention to her/his letters and not just writing them. S/he will choose the notepaper with care or will even create her/his own paper like I do. I prefer handwriting my letters because I feel that it's part of expressing myself and showing my penfriend who I really am. To me typed letters always seem a bit matter-of-fact, even sterile. However, there's nothing to be said against typing (in some cases it's even a blessing!) provided that the letters are personal and not just addressed printed matter to put it bluntly. Someone who commits herself/himself to writing letters should always keep in mind that s/he conducts a dialogue and that it's up to him/her to anticipate the reactions and feelings of the other. I admit that the latter is not easily achieved. In fact, it's almost like playing chess against yourself. The reward for all the effort is worthwhile, though: a deep friendship.

In a nutshell, for me and my likes letter-writing is much more than just connecting with people and passing a good time with them. A good letter needs devotion and thought like a piece of art. In fact, letter writing is an art.


  1. One of your pen pals has been writing a letter lately... Thank you for liking to write snail mail. I always enjoy reading your long letters.

  2. Very well written and well said!!! :D Letter writing is indeed an art - I hope it survives the "E-crushes"... >_< Please keep writing!! Love reading what you write!!!

    1. Thanks for sharing... I hope more people especially the younger generation, will appreciate the art of letter writing. I do both snail mail and email, and though I've always preferred the former, I have found some interesting pals via email as well :)


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