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