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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A case for shorter intro letters

I'm going out on a limb here but I'm going to declare my preference for shorter first letters.

What do I mean by shorter? Well, not super short. Probably about two pages. or the inside of a card plus a sheet of writing paper... roughly speaking. Less can work well, too... because sometimes less is more.

Prescribing the length of a letter is always a controversial area, so I want to make it really clear here that this is just my personal preference. If I get a super-long first letter I'm okay with that, too. But I do have a preference for shorter ones and here are my reasons, put pretty succinctly:

1. We don't know each other yet. A really long first letter is a bit like a really long one-sided  conversation with someone you just met (reminds me of some dates I've been on!).

2. If we're going to be regular correspondents perhaps it's better to leave a few things for later letters. If you tell me everything about you in letter one, what can I ask about when I write back? I'm a fan of the gradual reveal, where we get to know each other a bit at a time.

3. I feel like if I get a really long first letter, then the expectation is that I'll write a reply letter of similar length and content. I'm not great at telling you everything about myself in one letter. I really prefer to share information in a more organic, gradual way... that seems more natural to me.

4. Sometimes things don't work out. For some reason or other we might decide we're not suited as pen pals. This happens rarely, but still it could happen, and if that's the case you've just spent several hours writing me (a relative stranger) your whole life story for no very good reason.

Is this too harsh? I have really been hesitating to write this... but I've seen lots of stuff on the interwebs lately on this very topic and thought I'd add my thoughts. Of course, I've risked offending some people who have written me long first letters... I really don't mean to do that. Like I said, I'm not about telling people what they should and shouldn't do... this is more about me voicing a particular point of view. My hope is that it will promote some thoughtful, respectful discussion.

So tell me what you think...

Love from Kaz

PS I completely forgot about my regular give away this week (told you I've been busy!)... but it doesn't seem that anybody noticed? Anyway, I have decided that I will draw it next Monday. Remember, all followers are entered automatically and one is drawn at random to receive a surprise package of stationery and various papery items from me. This 'usually' happens every three weeks. If you know people who'd like a piece of the action, they have til Sunday night to follow.


  1. I got a 14 page letter from someone and it freaked me out....

  2. I've heard tell of 20-page intro letters. I'm not sure I'd know how to cope with that.

  3. Hey, when I've seen your post header I thought ~ finally! A statement about short letters! I've been waiting all the time for someone to speak out about the pleasure of short letters, since I want to understand other point of views... Though the post didn't turn out as what I expected and I actually agree with you! Well, once again, there is the definition of 'long' and 'short' ^.^ I'd say 3 A5 sheets for a first letter are enough... It can be longer when I've already spoken to the person on the net or if we know each other from a blog or something, but too much information from a stranger would rather put me off... In fact, I'm also tired of putting my heart and soul into a first letter which might be left unanswered, so now I wouldn't go out of my way to make it as long and as detailed as possible... I'm also somewhat afraid of the second letter, so I usually leave something to be written the next time as well...
    As for other letters, I'm passionate about long letters, I love it when it takes me an hour to read a letter and days to reply it, I feel like spending a nice chatty afternoon with a friend... But most important in penpalling for me is the balance... I won't send two pages as a reply for ten (and please, don't take the numbers literally), because I think it doesn't show enough appreciation for the effort my pal has made... But I won't overwhelm someone with 50 pages as an answer to 5 ~ because hey, I guess this is how the recipient would feel...
    Cheers ^^

  4. I agree and disagree. I think the content of the letter should only be a few things like where you live, family, and a few hobbies. But the actual page length wise I'd rather have a well written 4 page letter detailing on only a few topics then a 4 page letter that doesn't develop one's ideas well and talks about many things. I got a letter recently that was long but revealed way too much about herself and put me off especially because she used vulgar language in referring to a famous feminist.

  5. This is an interesting conversation....I guess one measure of "success" or "correctness" is if people like the letters you send they will answer you...if not...well..you know. I think I believe in moderation in most things. A nice, medium length letter -- and not ALL about "me, me, me"...a few questions are nice too. I am lucky in that I have some wonderful and amazing correspondents and I am not complaining at all...

  6. Hi Kaz, I finally received my package from you, its been stuck somewhere and has only just arrived so a huge thank you for picking my name for the giveaway and for the beautiful items you picked for me :-)
    In response to your topic I guess im kind of a "any letter is good" but i do agree that a 20 page first letter would really freak me out :-)
    Did you receive my letter yet?
    Donna xox

  7. It sounds like the package had a bit of a journey to get to you... but glad to hear it has finally arrived, and I'm glad you're enjoying the contents. I haven't received your letter yet... perhaps it has also been caught up. I will keep an eye out for it!

  8. YES! I so agree! When I receive a first letter that is pages and pages long I often wonder how the person came up with so much to say without knowing me at all! I generally figure that if our pen-paling relationship is going to work out, our letters will most likely start on the shorter side and move towards longer as we get to know one another. And, of course, with the understanding that sometimes things happen and the occasional shorter letter should be ok too when the exchange has become mostly longer letters...

  9. Kaz, I agree completely. Letters that are too long, or too intimate, too early on in the correspondence absolutely freak me out. (I do make some allowances for youth, sometimes.) I also like the gradual reveal, and I'd rather have a shorter but well-crafted letter that reveals the personality of the letter-writer.

    If they regularly write 10-page letters and expect such in reply, we are not a good match anyway. (Though I do write 10-page letters at times, it's only to those I know well or really feel I connect with. It's not often.)

    And on a slight tangent, I also really appreciate the shorter letters. Sometimes it's nice to keep it succinct.