The Art of Correspondence: Letter Writing 101

Not one modern communications marvel can replace a letter. It is more than a communication. It is a gift. A letter can have special powers. It can be more intimate and touching than even a conversation. It can be more personal than any telephone call. Think you can't make your words work on paper? Here's how to write letters that will touch the hearts of those who read them.

Open and shut: The letter format

Some people have trouble getting started but, once started, can continue comfortably. It's a good idea to mentally go over the main things you want to say before starting. You can begin with a bit of good news: "You will be glad to hear that ..." You can also describe what you've been doing that day or depict the room in which you're writing. You can also refer to the most recent correspondence or the last time you met the person you are writing to.

Don't open a letter by apologizing for not writing sooner. You can say something like: "You may have thought I'd forgotten all about you, but really, you have been in my thoughts often lately. It's just that there's been a lot going on. For instance ..."

Letters, by their nature, convey news. Therefore, in the body of the letter, talk about what has been happening to you and to those you both know. Talk about shared interests. Keep the tone conversational, and let it flow.

End formal letters with a "Sincerely," and progress toward familiarity with "Yours truly, regards, best wishes, affectionately, love" and so on. The most informal and affectionate letters may end with "Miss you," or "Write soon," or More later."

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