The case for handwritten letters

by Andrew W on August 3 2010

in Uncategorized

We live in an age where most of written (or should I say typed) communication is electronic. Even when we do receive a letter in the post from a friend or colleague it is likely to have been typed on a computer and printed out. Receiving a handwritten letter is a rare event indeed, and it is this rarity that makes them so special.

Three reasons why you should write letters by hand

  1. Handwritten letters show that you care.
    With handwritten letters you cannot simply cut and paste from letters or templates that you wrote for other people. If you’re going to spend the extra effort to write letters by hand, you might as well make them personal. There’s little point otherwise, and people will appreciate – and remember – the effort taken.
  2. Handwritten letters encourage serious thought.
    When writing a letter by hand you have to really think about what you want to say – and the words you want to use – before you commit pen to paper. It isn’t possible to hit the ‘delete’ key if you’re using a pen. All this extra thinking helps to improve your writing ability and vocabulary.
  3. Handwritten letters express your personality and character.
    Your handwriting is an expression of yourself. If your penmanship is good, readers are likely to respect the fact that you wrote to them by hand, even if they disagree with what you have to say. A neatly-penned, well-written letter is also a very romantic keepsake for women (just ask your wife/girlfriend). If, on the other hand, your penmanship is poor, the reader might think that you don’t care enough about them to bother writing neatly. They might also think that you are lazy or uneducated, or both.

When should I write letters by hand?

You should always hand-write:

  • replies to wedding invitations;
  • letters of condolence;
  • replies to official state/royal invitations;
  • letters to your wife/girlfriend before going away on long business trips*;
  • ‘thank you’ letters to close friends or family members.

Excepting the above, there are no rules that define when you should opt for a handwritten letter over a typed or electronic one, and you should use your own judgement to determine what kind of letter is appropriate. Bear in mind, however, that close friends and family members will always appreciate a handwritten letter. A prospective employer might also welcome a neat, handwritten cover letter to a CV or resume. This also helps to make your application stand out from other people’s – hopefully not for all the wrong reasons:

What should I write with?

You should write letters with a decent fountain pen (Maketh the Man recommends a Lamy 2000), and on good stationery. Ballpoint or roller-ball pens are acceptable at a push, but they cannot convey your personality as well as a good fountain pen can. Fountain pen nibs are flexible, meaning the thickness of the line they draw corresponds to the amount of pressure you place on them.

For stationery, always use quality (ie, heavy – at least 100gsm) unlined paper in cream or white with matching envelopes. A printed or embossed letterhead is optional, but if used should be simple in design. An elaborate, cluttered letterhead detracts from your message and gives the impression that you think rather highly (too highly) of yourself.

(*This tried and trusted routine will earn you innumerable brownie points.)

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