Practical Communication

Is the Art of the Handwritten Letter Really Dead?

Is the Art of the Handwritten Letter Really Dead?

As January is a time for reflection on the past and planning for the future, I decided to go back through every blog post I’ve written since I began the Practical Communication Blog on May 31, 2011.

In reviewing where my blog began and thinking about where it’s going, I came across this particular post written in September 2012 and found it worth running again. About a week or so after it first ran, I received a “rich” feeling, thick envelope in the mail from my friend Patty. I was surprised, and remember thinking, “Is one of her children graduating already or getting married?”

I eagerly opened the envelope to see what important event prompted the posting of such beautiful stationary, only to find that it wasn’t an announcement of a family event, but a lovely, heart-felt, hand-written note. I won’t reveal her private correspondence, but to summarize, it said that she’d read my blog and wanted to send the letter to let me know how much she appreciated our friendship over the years.

I’ll never forget how I felt reading that letter and I will keep it forever. 

To understand what prompted her to send it, read on. If you weren’t a follower back then, enjoy. If you were, I hope it reminds you of the importance of such communication. 


Last summer, when my daughter was writing thank you notes for the high school graduation gifts she received, I was shocked to see that she was printing the notes.

When I asked why she wasn’t writing in cursive, she said she’d never really learned how. She was the victim of a time in our education system when apparently learning how to do something more than print or sign your name was determined to be unnecessary.

When I asked her what she was going to do someday if she had to write a letter to someone, she replied, “No one writes anymore. I’ll send a text or email.” I was dismayed and a little sad, but didn’t think much of it at the time.

I recently began thinking about this exchange when I was cleaning out my closet and came across a shoebox I’ve had for almost 25 years. In it, are notes, cards, and other handwritten items from when my husband and I were first married. After I got over how gushy we were, I wondered, “Will people do this anymore?” “Will they have a box of treasured cards, letters, sticky notes, and even messages on the back of receipts?”

What about that note with a little treat, placed lovingly in a child’s lunchbox that makes his or her day?

Or the handwritten note from a vendor, thanking you for your new business. Will the one-liner at the end of an invoice that reads, “Thank you for your business,” be the best we’ll get when we trust our business to someone else?

I can’t imagine printing out hard copies of emails with similar content.

The digital age has brought unimaginable speed and convenience to our communication. No more waiting days for letters to come across country or weeks for a letter from another continent. Our texts and emails arrive in seconds. And although I’m guilty of sending them myself and appreciate receiving an email note of love, friendship, appreciation, celebration, or condolence– it’s too easy.

A text that reads “10X”, thanks, for those of you over 40 and “142”, I love you, is nice, but does it compare to something you can hold in your hands?

For those of you who remember receiving something other than bills and junk mail in the mailbox, do you remember the thrill of waiting on the mail carrier to bring that cherished letter? Or the surprise while sitting at your desk and opening a handwritten note from a grateful client or vendor?

Imagine the smell of paper and ink, the feel of quality paper in your hands, the thrill of seeing the postmark and imagining the route the letter took to get to you. What about the exotic stamps you saved from far-away places?

The next time you plan to send an email, consider the impact of that electronic communication versus taking the time to actually put pen to paper and share your thoughts. When you’re just about to start typing that text, consider its the permanence and historical significance compared to a piece of paper saved in a box for 25 or 250 years?

As for my daughter, I think it’s time I remind her of “the mailbox.”

When she was 2-years-old, she received a dollhouse that had a little working mailbox attached to the right front porch rail. My husband started putting little notes in the mailbox, so that she would find them in the morning. They were just short notes written on 1 x 2 inch scraps of notebook paper,

“Have a good day today!”, or

“Good luck on your test!”

When she outgrew the dollhouse, we removed its front and mounted it on the wall so they could still use the mailbox. When even that became too childish, she replaced the mailbox with a magnetic board, where her father continued to place notes every morning until she graduated from high school.

To this day, she still has EVERY little note he ever left her- 16 years worth. I have the evidence stored in our fire safe where she insisted I put them when she went off to college.

I wonder if text messages would have meant as much?

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One Comments

  1. Beverly Brooks
    00:59 am

    I, too, am saddened by the lack of correspondence via “snail-mail” these days. I was a greeting card junkie, and frequently purchased several at a time knowing who they would be just perfect for. But many are still stacked up in my desk, as e-mail has become instant gratification for me too. I know it’s been awhile for those poor cards because I only paid $1.29 for some of them instead of today’s $3.99! I will ALWAYS appreciate a hand written note over an e-mail any day, marveling at how many hands, machines and trucks it has traversed. (I often think of that mailbox delivery system that your daughter and your husband shared, and how a simple 1×2 inch piece of paper becomes priceless.)

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