5 Reasons to Write a Letter

Recently, I received a letter in the mail from a friend. She and I haven’t gotten together in person for several months, but a few weeks ago, I was thinking about her and decided to write her a letter. She wrote one back. Now it’s my turn again.

In the meantime, she’s been getting my blog posts in her email inbox; she and I have commented on each other’s Facebook statuses. We’ve even exchanged private Facebook messages when I learned that her husband was seriously injured at work a couple of weeks ago.

But, I still decided to write another letter by hand. I put in in an envelope and sealed it, then wrote my name and address and hers on the outside. I added a stamp, then biked all the way to the post office and dropped it in the slot. A couple of days later, it will show up in her mailbox.

Sounds pretty inefficient, actually. Or obsolete. Maybe I’m just being nostalgic. I don’t know. But when it comes to bringing words to life, there’s nothing like a handwritten letter delivered first class.

5 Reasons to Write a Letter

I’ve blogged about letter-writing a few times recently. Today, I wanted to offer 5 reasons to write a letter.

1.) A hand-written note stands outs. The only thing most of us receive via snail mail these days are bills or advertisements. A few of us still subscribe to printed magazines, and some companies still send catalogs. But when I walk to the mailbox and see a handwritten envelope among the clutter, I notice. Immediately. Usually, I rip it open and start reading as I walk back to the house.

2.) Letters are the original social media. While most of us try to keep up with the various new social media platforms that crop up almost daily, the trend lately is a return to the purpose of social media: to be social. To create, maintain, and grow relationships. Writing letters demonstrates a greater commitment to the recipient. It says, I cared enough to take the extra effort.

3.) Letter-writing slows me down. It’s called “snail mail” for a reason. The time it takes to find paper and pen, draft as I go without the luxury of spell and grammar check, locate a physical address, make sure I have stamps, bike to the post office, and drop the letter in, I could have sent 10 emails or 20 texts. I probably would have even gotten a response, or at the very least, my iPhone would indicate if the message had been read. I’ve gotten impatient in my communications. I worry when someone doesn’t reply immediately. I expect everyone to be at my beck and call—and feel anxious when others expect the same from me. The slow process of sending a letter helps calm me down. (Even “slow” is relative. Through amazing technology, I’ve had a letter arrive cross-country in just a day or two.)

4.) It’s not just about the words. What? Isn’t this post and my entire website dedicated to bringing words to life? Yes. But when I send letters in the mail, I can also add stickers, photographs, squiggles, even sticks of gum! (When’s the last time you got a stick of gum in a text message?) While I often just choose a sheet of 8.5×11 printer paper for drafting letters, sometimes I buy cards or pretty stationery. Did you know you can even send a blow-up beach ball through the mail? I’ve seen it done. Of course there’s no guarantee it won’t be deflated when it arrives. (Gives “hand-stamped” a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?)

5.) People love getting mail. My goal is to write a letter every day, but to be honest, I miss a lot of days. But when the someone tells me they got my letter and it made their day, I am motivated to write more.

Recently, I was cleaning out my closet and ran across some old letters. I haven’t kept every letter I’ve ever received, but I have a few. When I go back and read them, something magical happens. I’m transported; the faded paper, the smell of age, the curling stamp and postmark on the envelope all tell a story of another time. But it’s a story for just the writer and the reader to share. No one else can stop by and like it. There’s no way to tweet it or pin it.

Maybe you have a story of your own to share, with just one person. On paper. Why not write a letter to someone today?

Still not convinced? Here are 19 (More) Reasons We Should All Start Writing Letters Again.

Do you write letters? Why or why not? What reasons would you add in favor of letter writing?

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Photo above by Fabrizio, via Flickr, used with permission under the  Creative Commons License.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.

  • reply Sharyn Kopf ,

    You’ve inspired me, Charity! Now I want to write a letter. 🙂

    Here’s another reason: Memories. We rarely keep emails or texts. And, for the most part, they’re utilitarian. Letters, I think, are more about telling stories. Which is why, when you come across a letter from 20 or 30 years ago, you just might enjoy reading it even more than the day you first received it. They don’t just remind you of what was going on in your life at that time, they provide a history for a friendship.

    And, of course, today it’s more exciting to get a letter than an email. It’s definitely more fun than a text.

    Thank you for sharing!

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      reply Charity Singleton Craig ,

      I love that reason, Sharyn! Especially when you talk about the history of a friendship. We have so few ways to track the progress of a relationship. It’s true that letters can be an important means of doing that. Thanks for your comment.

    • reply Glynn ,

      What’s a letter?

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