Friday, March 4, 2016

"Seal an Envelope and Seal a Friendship": Resurrecting the Lost Art of Writing Letters #SOL16 March 4, 2016

Thanks for joining me for the 2016 Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by the team at
TWO WRITING TEACHERS.  Check out more slices here. 
When did you last write a personal letter? When did you last receive a letter? I have not written a personal letter nor received one in a very long time. 

At one time letter writing occupied much of my life. 

In fifth grade I maintained a correspondence with my Uncle Dewey during his tour in Vietnam. Sadly, I did not have the foresight to save those letters, but I do have several he wrote to my grandmother and she to him. 

At other times during my adolescence, I had boyfriends with whom I corresponded. In college I wrote many letters, especially to my Aunt Linda in Minnesota. Sadly, I have none of these letters. 

Prior to my first marriage, my then boyfriend, later fiance and I corresponded frequently. It's fair to say we became friends and lovers through letters. After our divorce, I saved the letters and may one day revisit them. 

For years I wrote letters to friends and always composed a personal note in Christmas cards. 

My days of writing letters ceased in tandem with my marital problems. Now I rarely write letters.

Last week a lovely, gracious, poised student in Communication 1101 delivered her persuasive speech on our need to write letters. 

Melainee writes letters regularly and has been composing them her entire life. As she explained to her classmates: 

I love letters. Not the constant generic college promoting flyer, pamphlet, or package, seniors are currently being bombarded with, or the insurance bill you hand to your parent, but the priceless snail mail that has your name scripted on the front by an actual human and not a machine. I frequently send out letters. Writing them often fills my free time. I rarely have to struggle to access a card and pen with my box of assorted stationary in my room and my small traveling kit, which has accompanied me on many long road trips and plane rides. If you have ever sent me a letter, I can almost guarantee it’s preserved in my letter box. I keep every single one. I, like so many, find them priceless.

In her speech, Melainee acknowledged the role technology, especially texting and email, plays in our move from letter writing. These forms of conversation diminish our voices and deny us the joys of personal contact afforded from letters. 

Although immediate, a text fails to evidence the level of care and concern that comes from a handwritten note. To support her argument, Melainee turned to John Coleman of Harvard: 

Handwritten notes mean more because they cost more. Emails, tweets, texts, or Facebook messages are essentially costless. They’re easy to write and free to send, and you and I produce hundreds of them every day. These electronic communications are rarely notable. Handwritten notes are unusual. They take minutes (or hours) to draft, each word carefully chosen with no “undo” or “autocorrect” to fall back on. Drafting one involves selecting stationery, paying for stamps, and visiting a mailbox. They indicate investment, and that very costliness indicates value.

We invest in one another when we take time to write. To help her classmates envision themselves as letter writers, Melainee ended her speech by distributing cards and envelops to each student in the class. She reminded them of their desire to have close relationships, something she learned through surveying each student, and asked them to write: 

Think of someone that deserves a boost, and instead of giving them a text, give them some of your time. Give them a letter. Seal an envelope, and seal a friendship.
Cc image labeled for noncommercial reuse.


  1. What an awesome student. I love letters too and feel inspired to write a letter.

  2. Melainee is right - and she made her wise point beautifully. I used to love writing letters and have saved the ones my husband I wrote to each other in our college and grad school years when we lived many states away. Perhaps the answer is to start slowly - write one or two a month?

    1. Indeed. One of my goals for the summer is to get in the letter writing habit.

  3. Melainee is right - and she made her wise point beautifully. I used to love writing letters and have saved the ones my husband I wrote to each other in our college and grad school years when we lived many states away. Perhaps the answer is to start slowly - write one or two a month?

  4. My favorite thing to do is write notes to students and stick them in their lockers. I can have face to face conversations, I can send emails to them or their parents. But I love taping a note card with a little note inside their locker. Letter writing is the same thing. Someone took the time to handwrite a note, special for you. Magic.

  5. I love the note in the locker idea!

  6. I hadn't thought about this in a while, but you're right. I haven't saved letters, either, and they are precious (and all too rare nowadays!). I used to write a lot of letters. I corresponded with friends after I moved. I wrote notes that were many pages long to friends I saw all the time, too. Remember passing notes?

    1. I remember collecting more notes in the early days of my career. And yes, I passed my fair share, too!

  7. I save letters. I love rereading them. I think it's a great idea to have students write a letter to someone in the school who has had an influence on them

  8. The art of letter writing is a lost art but I love writing personal notes to friends when sending a greeting card. I have so many postcards from the turn of the century that hold dear little notes that I have used them in class when I was a reading specialist in the schools before I became an administrator.