When was the last time you received a personal letter that was not sent by email, but regular snail mail? What type of attitude did it put you in when you received a nice handwritten letter or note outside of the stack of bills that sometimes become daily accessory items for your mailbox? After retrieving a huge box filled with an array of high school and college items from my mother’s house, I found at the very bottom, a smaller box containing letters previously written to me from some of my old friends. There must have been about fifty letters in this box before I discarded them. I couldn’t resist this last opportunity to read every one of them again. After about an hour of non-stop reading, I made a cup of hot tea and sat down to continue my journey “back down memory lane.” I remember rewriting most of my letters, especially if I made a spelling mistake or if my sentence structure wasn’t as I intended it to be. Judging from the amount of paper I wasted on editing, you would think that I was mailing them to a major book publisher instead of a friend!
Letter writing created a manifestation of memories bridging the distance between the sender and recipient. People were as meticulous about picking out decorative stationary to write their letters on, as much as the letter itself. This connection through written communication promoted the exchange of conversation, creativity and artistic expression.
The standard format that I followed practically every time I wrote a letter to my friends, immediate family who lived out of town, old sweethearts or occasionally some of my favorite teachers, was composed of the following basic elements:
1. The Heading (Name and Address)
3. The Greeting (Dear So and So)
4. The Body (The message you are writing to the recipient)
5. The Closing (Sincerely, Yours Truly)
6. Your Signature
7. Post Script (There is the occasional comment that was not mentioned in the Body of your letter, but made after the signature, called the P.S. or P.S.S. The P.S.S. was an additional post script).
Sometimes on the back flap of the envelope, the writer would put a smiley face or an acronym like S.W.A.K. (Sealed With A Kiss) which indicated that a love letter was enclosed.
Penmanship in elementary school was extremely important years ago. It came as a surprise to me and some of my friends who are parents that cursive writing is not taught in most schools anymore. Therefore, the meticulousness and pride taken in one’s penmanship is not as evident today as it was when I was growing up. But a personalized letter or note makes you stop, sit down, read and appreciate the thoughtfulness behind the folded message. Personalized letters displayed a unique voice, taste and style. It showed that a lot of thought, even if it wasn’t especially pleasant, went into the written expression.
So why not do something out of the ordinary and make someone smile today by writing a personalized letter to them instead of an electronic one. The memories will be worth the effort, especially if the person is miles away. You will get a great deal of satisfaction from simply taking a few minutes to write an endearing personal message whether on some nice stationary or not. That would be a special gift and welcomed relief for someone to receive in the mailbox amid the endless bills.