Monday, September 16, 2013

How to write letters.

File this one under the "love" category: How to Write Letters is a “manual of correspondence, showing the correct structure, composition, punctuation, formalities, and uses of the various kinds of Letters, Notes and Cards,” penned by J. Willis Westlake in 1876. I discovered this via the wonderful Brain Pickings, which is a site you should totally bookmark if you haven't already. There are tons of great excerpts from the book in Maria Popova's article on Brain Pickings, but here's my favorite:

"Take pains; write as plainly and neatly as possible—rapidly if you can, slowly if you must. Good writing affects us sympathetically, giving us a higher appreciation both of what is written and of the person who wrote it. Don’t say, I haven’t time to be so particular. Take time; or else write fewer letters and shorter ones. A neat well-worded letter of one page once a month is better than a slovenly scrawl of four pages once a week. In fact, bad letters are like store bills: the fewer and the shorter they are, the better pleased is the recipient."
In an era where we fire off emails, tweets, texts and Facebook posts without a second thought,  this makes me want to sit down with some of my favorite notecards and pen a handwritten note to all my friends. In fact, I just might do that. And I think that's a good thing.

Photo: My own. A few weeks ago, when I was at my parents', we were going through some old papers of my grandparents' and found a bunch of my grandfather'smy mom's dad'sold letters. I love them. 


  1. I love letters. i love writing them. i love receiving them. there should be more time to take the time to write them.

  2. This is so inspiring. Hand-written letters mean so much to me. My late grandmother and I used to write letters to each other until she passed away, my senior year of college. I still have every letter she sent me, and I am so happy to have her words with me.

    1. Aw, so sweet! I love that. And I agree: total treasures.

      My great aunt and I used to write letters to each other, and I was always so excited because she wrote on a ruler so her penmanship would be perfectly straight. It tickled me--I just loved it.