The Art of the Handwritten Letter

Box of memories includes handwritten letters from a Great Aunt in the 1980s

A handwritten letter, while far from extinct, is nonetheless becoming increasingly rare. Three years ago I launched Social Correspondence with the goal of encouraging people to write more letters.  Postings on the site may often be off-topic, but communicating with one another remains of top importance. This post is dedicated to the art of the handwritten letter.

Recently my mailbox held a surprise, a handwritten note from my older daughter, who currently lives in the UK. “A mother like no other,” the big cat and little cat on the cover illustration told me.

The surprise was that it was a Mother’s Day card.   Here in the U.S., Mother’s Day is not until May.   A quick Google search, however, informed me that the British celebrate Mother’s Day on March 26. The card was perfectly timed for arrival before the appropriate day.

It was, of course, the handwritten letter that made this card extra special. It detailed possible activities for our upcoming visit with her in Washington, D.C. Walks, parks, museums and swimming were on the list, all wonderful activities, sure to please.

Mother’s Day, UK 2017

Our other daughter is a true master of the handwritten letter. She has had plenty of practice in the past two years, writing thank you notes for wedding gifts and then, almost a year and a half later, for baby gifts. Her notes, cards and letters are anything but perfunctory. They may not always be timely, but each one is an individual work of handcrafted art, thoughtful, personal and meaningful.  I know this because people often tell me so.

I would recognize either of my daughters’ handwriting anywhere. This is part of what makes each of us unique, the way we form our letters. A handwritten letter also requires that we choose our thoughts carefully, before committing to paper.

This was perfectly conveyed in a recent editorial in the Darien Times (CT).   “Pen and paper doesn’t have spell-check — it doesn’t have an undo button, it doesn’t have a backspace. It doesn’t have an autocorrect. A letter gives us pause — to take our time to think out our sentences, and what kind of message we want to send.”

Newspaper writers are not unknown to wax poetic about letter writing. It seems to be related to those who revere all things in print.  John Fountain, writing for the Chicago Sun Times, recently wrote about the value and meaning of old letters: “In the attic, buried in an old box or crate. Long lost or forgotten pages of life and time. Tattered, yellowed or faded, they whisper secrets,” he said.

Not all old letters whisper secrets, for sure.  But however mundane the content, handwritten letters bring back images and memories of loved ones, both present as well as those long-gone. They tell a story about a relationship with someone you clearly care for, perhaps a grandparent or parent, a dear friend, a spouse or other loved one.

As handwritten letters become increasingly rare, we lose a part of our collective history.  In today’s costly housing market, who even has space to keep those old letters? But I like the optimism of John Fountain: “Handwritten letters predate Gutenberg. They will surely outlive Zuckerberg.”

Let us revive the art of the handwritten letter.  Practice your handwriting and collect your thoughts!  Send a letter today.  Reminder:  Mother’s Day is May 14, 2017

Sources

Make a Note of It. Stratford Star (Editorial) March 23, 2017

Handwritten Letters – Memories and a Personal Imprint by John Fountain. Chicago Sun Times, March 24, 2017

The lost art of letters, and the beauty of our handwriting (Editorial), by Susan Shultz. Darien Times, on March 23, 2017

 

 

5 thoughts on “The Art of the Handwritten Letter

  1. Maxine Chase
    April 28, 2017 at 6:03 am

    I always get excited when there’s a new post from your blog. There’s always something touching in each of your posts and I carry those pearls with me.

    Thank you for all your insights. I would love someday for you to write a book, especially about your past. You have so much to say and such a lovely way of putting it all down. . Your posts about your grandparents, your childhood memories, your pen pals, always draw me in.

    But for now, I am quite content to read your blog 🙂

    1. Marcia Schneider
      April 28, 2017 at 5:11 pm

      That is an endearing comment. Thanks so much! xo

  2. Ed McBride
    April 28, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    I have a box full of handwritten letters from my late friend Charles. We went to high school together and wrote to each other during college. I treasure each one even though they are silly and a walk through the 1970’s and 1980’s which is also scary!

    My Grandmother, Mother and I were all taught by the same teacher (I was in her last class and my Grandmother was in her first class) how to write cursive and all of us had and have similar handwriting. Funny how the method and the teacher carry through and can be recognized.

    1. Marcia Schneider
      April 28, 2017 at 5:10 pm

      What a great history – I love it!

  3. Nancy Taylor
    April 30, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    I have several handwritten letters from pen pals I enjoyed corresponding with when I was about 12 – 14 years old. I have treasured them over the years. In cleaning out old files I still kept them. When they arrived those many years ago they were treasures and they still are. Reading them now I remember my thrill in receiving them as though it was yesterday.

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