A blog for anyone who understands the joy of writing and receiving handwritten letters.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why letters are better

A recent letter has got me reflecting again on why letters are different to other forms of communication and - in my opinion - often better.

My brother Geoff wrote me a lovely letter after I had sent him a pretty random card with some ramblings. I can always count on him to give me a very considered and eloquent response.

He wrote, "I started  with 'Dear' and not 'Hi': this seems to indicate the tendency for letters to be more formal than emails. The difference is interesting, because one might think that the only difference is the medium, however, it's clear that the medium influences the style."

Geoff has put it very well. I think that the medium does indeed affect the style. Now, I know not all letters begin with 'dear' (I must be a bit of a traditionalist because I tend to always default to 'dear'), but I think the point remains true.

For me, I am not sure it is a difference of formality and informality, eg letters are more formal and emails are more informal. For me, it is probably more a difference of tone. In (personal) emails I tend to be light, jokey and talk about outward things, ie where i've been, what I did, who I saw, etc. Business emails are another matter again - they are crisp, to the point and usually devoid of any irony or humour, in case the reader misunderstands me.

But in a letter my tone is more introspective. I have noticed that since I have been writing letters so regularly I no longer journal... not even a little bit. This is hugely significant because I have been a life-long journaler. Does it mean I'm now inflicting all those inner, agonising ramblings on my penpals? Geez, I hope not. But I do tend to veer toward more meaningful stuff than just where I've been, what I've been doing, etc. I'm much more likely to write about how I feel about where i've been and what I've been doing... it's a subtle difference but an important one.

I love that I am now swapping letters pretty regularly to friends that I live close by and see often... because it feels as though letters add an extra depth to the friendship. I mean how often would you say to a friend if you just bumped into them down the street or met up for a coffee, "You know, I really value our frienship - it means a lot to me"? But this is the kind of thing I'm quite likely to put in a letter to a dear (!) friend. :-)

There are other differences between emails and letters, but I'll save those thoughts for another blog. Enough late-night rambling for now.

Let me know what you think.

Love from Kaz


  1. I always start with "dear", it just seems to start everything off right, sets the tone for the whole thing. I also think there are things that can be said so much more easily in a letter. I think that writing it down just allows you to phrase it just right, in a way that isn't always possible in a conversation!
    Lovely blog by the way xx

  2. Thank-you :-). Lovely to have you here.

  3. I think you merely find yourself avoiding your journaling because you don't have as much time to dedicate to it. One of the reasons many people choose to journal is because they have an affinity with writing and the written word as a form as expression.

    You don't necessarily have to be offloading any kind of emotional 'baggage' when writing to pen pals, in order to get your 'fix'; it's merely the act of putting pen to paper, writing, recording and creating something that gives you your little high.

    I would however recommend setting aside some time every so often to dedicate a little time to journaling. Even if you only find yourself giving a brief update of what you've been up to. It's still journaling. And you might find yourself just allowing a few thoughts and feelings about letter writing to come trickling out too if you give yourself the time and the space to journal it out

    I'm not saying you're doing anything wrong by not journaling; I'm just a confirmed journaler and I know that we can sometimes be a lot less candid and likely to soul-search when directing our writing toward others. Sometimes it helps just to turn the communication and investigation back inwards is all.

    But enough of that, I'm still loving your blog. Keep up the good work.

  4. Yes, it's true that merely the act of putting pen to paper does give me a little buzz.

    I did pick up a little notebook the other day (actually there's a pic of it in my latest post) and have started jotting things down, but not in a true journalling sense. It's more ideas, shopping lists, random thoughts, light bulb moments, to do lists. A very haphazard collection but that, combined with the letterwriting, seems to be satisfying my needs right now.

    Plus, I really do a lot of my thinking, reflecting, journalling about letterwriting right here on this blog.