Writing letters with the personal touch
Post from Jean Wolfe
Writing letters to friends or loved ones is going out of fashion. Letter writing used to be much more common than it is now.
This was sharply brought home to me when I was in Sri Lanka recently. I was amazed at the number of daily postal collections identified on this post box at the centre of the tea plantations in the heyday of Ceylon tea.
I remember reading about Oscar Wilde sending a letter in the morning and getting a reply in the afternoon on the same day. In Britain there were two postal deliveries a day up until 2003 .. but that seems a very long time ago now.
Writing personally in a letter
Do people write love letters any more? It is hard to tell because they are probably buried inside a laptop or phone. Whereas letters written on paper are easier to track.
Two well-known political figures whose letters have been preserved wrote tenderly to their wives. Ronald Reagan to his wife Nancy:
“I more than love you, I'm not whole without you. You are life itself to me. When you are gone I'm waiting for you to return so I can start living again.
Happy Anniversary & thank you for 31 wonderful years. I love you
Your Grateful Husband”
And Winston Churchill:
“My darling Clemmie, in your letter from Madras you wrote some words very dear to me, about having enriched your life. I cannot tell you what pleasure this gave me, because I always feel so overwhelmingly in your debt, if there can be accounts in love…
What it has been to me to live all these years in your heart and companionship no phrases can convey.”
Hand-writing a letter allows for drawings, doodles and distinctive shapes. Winston Churchill and his wife used to end their letters with drawings. Beatrix Potter famously wrote "The Tale of Peter Rabbit in a letter to the son of her former governess."
We can now send a message saying “c u l8r? . It is much easier and quicker than sending a letter and putting it in a post box. The recipient will get it almost instantly. Is it better?
What words do we use on screen? Abbreviations and smiley faces, hearts, and thumbs up are the onscreen icons which now represent what we used to say in words. Giphs of TV programmes convey emotional references. Images of hands in the prayer position, cakes and wine are becoming the new cliché. Let’s not forget those old fashioned words because as they are now used less they have more impact.
Holiday postcards provided the personal touch
Postcards sent to friends and relatives have been declining as social media has increased. J Salmon, founded in 1880, was Britain’s oldest postcard manufacturer and closed down in 2017 due to lack of business. During 2019 the Post Office recorded a further 8% decline in letter delivery as physical letters are sent less frequently.
Does your postman deliver many letters and cards to your door? Even bills have gone digital so much of the post is now simply junk mail. Letters and cards are fair more unusual and have more impact now there are fewer of them.
The great thing about a letter or a card is that you can hold it in your hands. You can look at it in a way that you are unlikely to look back at a text message or email.
As a giver It takes more time and money to buy, write, stamp and post and proportionally gives more pleasure to look at than a text message or email. Hand-writing takes longer than dashing off a quick msg so gives your brain a chance to become more present. It can be a more calming activity with a better defined completion point and a more “mindful” experience.
Sales of Christmas cards dropped by 20 million between 2005 -2007 and the trend is continuing. What do you do at Christmas? Send an ecard with a image? Donate the money to a charity? Send a physical card with a personal hand-written message?
Donating to charities and sending ecards is good for the planet undoubtedly. But is it good for personal connection and warmth in relationships? I still choose to send a personal line or two in real physical Christmas cards which are bought to support a charity. But I notice that this practice is definitely on the decline. However I enjoy seeing the cards decorating the house and it wouldn’t feel like Christmas if everything I received was on my laptop or phone!
The feel of paper in cards and books
There is also the benefit of the touch of paper. Writing on paper in journals is becoming more popular. , for expressing your thoughts. But maybe some of that popularity is due to the soothing quality about the touch and feel of paper as you write with a pen, pencil or biro.
The resurgence in letterpress printing by small independent companies appears to be meeting a need for cards and stationery with an interesting touch. With letterpress the letters are “squashed” down into the card resulting in a texture that is very interesting to touch. Maybe the glory days of digital printing are being challenged by much older more traditional technology.
Holding a physical book in your hand
Amazon released the kindle almost ten years ago and it was expected to signal the end of physical books. Also that younger people - millennials – would have abandoned traditional paper books. However sixty-three percent of physical book sales in the U.K. are to people under the age of 44, while 52% of e-book sales are to those over 45, according to Nielsen. Book covers are becoming more visually appealing, and many people prefer to be able to feel the bulk of the book, and be able to flick through the pages more easily than on a kindle. I personally love the feel and weight – and even smell – of a book in my hand and have had conversations with others who feel the same.
One to many and One to One
The big promise of the internet is that you can communicate with a lot of people at the same time. This is a wonderful and exciting development. It is easy to communicate with many people through email, your blog, website, social media and publishing your own book. Here at Attract Readers we are completely enthusiastic about the many opportunities that this gives us all.
However we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that it is important to communicate personally one to one as well. Loneliness, and anxiety are massively on the increase, not only among the elderly but within the constantly-on-the-smartphone generations, too.
Appreciation with a letter or card
Sending a letter or a card written in everyday language to relatives, friends or clients is a simple way to let them know you appreciate them. Once you take the time out to write it can become a pleasure – and you often find you have more to say than you first imagined. Particularly if the world outside is not so great, anything you can do to make your world more harmonious is worth doing.
If we enjoy receiving messages of appreciation then we should give them too. Maybe the number of husbands writing love letters to their wives after 30 years of marriage is declining. As women we can support each other with kindness and appreciation.
I was thinking about cards I had sent recently. Then I received a small present from one friend yesterday, and this morning I got a surprise. A card of appreciation from another friend. They say that when you have the intention the universe supports you with a sign!
It could make a world of difference to you and the recipient when you send a card or write a letter. Send a few cards!
Jean Wolfe is co-founder of Attract Readers. She loves to support women to express what is special about them to their ideal reader or customer. She also loves writing, reading and with Ute has spent time recently editing their new book which will be published this year.
Jean is also a very proud mother and grandmother.