The dying art of letter writing

Painting by George Goodwin Kilburne (source: Wikimedia Commons)

When I was growing up one of the activities we were allow to do on Sundays (the Lords Day) was letter writing. It wasn't a day for playing with toys, mucking about outside, being silly or noisy. It was the one day of the week where, as children, we needed to "really" behave ourselves. In the morning we attended a family meeting, followed by lunch (either at home or at my uncles house) and a quiet afternoon.  Letter writing was considered an appropriate activity.  

If we stayed at my uncles house for lunch, my cousins and I would sit around the kitchen table and write letters to pen friends then we would walk to the local letter box and post all the letters written that day by everyone (our little bit of exercise). Quite often for birthdays we would receive pretty writing paper and on these Sundays we would trade with each other and I would end up with some very nice cards/paper from my cousins.  Then I would save them for a very special person!

I wrote to a handful of pen-friends, cousins and aunts who lived interstate or overseas. From memory, I started writing letters at a very early age, encouraged by my mother. It was a great way to develop ones writing skills and improve grammar and spelling (mine is is lacking!). Sadly, it is a skill that many a modern child no longer know how to do or has any interesting in learning. 

For centuries women have communicated via the written word . . . writing letters to each other, often on a daily bases.  This treasured method of commutation has been replaced by instant texting, Facebook, blogging, Skyping, emailing etc.. but none are permanent and doesn't hold the special meaning that letters once had.  Many letters from the past have been saved and as a result we have a better understand our ancestors. We can share their everyday lives, the activities they got up to, their loneliness and isolation, their dreams, their tragedies and their joys, births, deaths, marriages, widowhood  . . .  what will be left of our lives to share with future generations.  Not a lot at this rate.

To me, that is all rather sad. 

I don't write letters anymore because I don't have the time.  I was only thinking the other day about letter writing and a letter arrived in the post. A letter from a lady who wanted to know if I wanted to write to her.  Of course I will, it will be nice to re-connect to this very old tradition.

I will admit I can no longer write hand written letters, I am too reliant on the computer to fix my spelling!  But, you can still personalise a typed letter. 

Do you encourage your children to write letters to others?

Do you write letters anymore?


  1. I write a lot of letters!

    I have 10 pen pals and have recently started sponsoring two little girls through Compassion.

    Some I type but others, especially to say my Amish pen pals, I handwrite. I like handwriting letters although my penmanship is lacking. Plus if a pen pal doesn't have to option of typing their reply it seems cheeky for me to take the easy option!

    1. Good to know that people still do write letters and it has died completely. Most of my penpals that I had in the past faded away and stopped writing so I gradually lost them as they went off and did other things.

  2. I am letter writing advocate! I have taught my children to write thank you notes, but that is the extent of their written correspondence, sadly.

    1. I taught my children to write thankyou letters and when they were young I would stand over them to make sure they did it. These days as they are now adults, I doubt they do which does make me a little cross at times as I think it is important to send a message of some sort to say thankyou.

  3. I like receiving letters (I miss getting them!), and I used to write a LOT of LONG letters - in fact over the years I had something like 40 pen-friends. It was a lot of fun and I connected with people from all over the world and learned about different cultures and ways of life. I think it's quite an important things for a child to do that, and I encourage my children to write letters from time to time. I get quite cross with them when they don't write thank you letters despite being reminded repeatedly. Maybe I need to stand over them to make sure they do it like you did with your sons!!!!
    Don't give up letter writing, Jo - my children LOVE your letters, even if they are very slack about replying (or perhaps it's more that I'm slack at ensuring they reply)! :(
    I still connect with some of my old pen-friends - although our communications now are via email, facebook, blogs, and Skype. I miss letters. They are so personal - and so much fun waiting for the postman and waiting in anticipation for a letter from some exotic location around the world!

    1. Its hard work standing over them and by the time mine were in their teens I gave up the battle. I was only thinking the other day I should send letters to the children as I know they enjoy getting them.

      I learn so much about other countries via letter, it's such a great way to learn about other cultures, so glad a had heaps of pen pals too.

  4. Hi Jo,

    I have two daughters that absolutely love letter writing. One of them has a blog that she posts regularly about her letter writing. I, on the other hand have let my letter writing fall by the wayside, but have been thinking a lot about it lately, so I might take it up again. My mum writes lots of letters. She does it at night instead of watching TV :)
    My daughters blog is here


    1. I am so pleased to hear your daughters love for letter writing, there is hope after all. I will go and look at her blog:)

      My mum is now unable to write letters due to her stroke and I know she misses it, but she still loves to get letters from family and friends.

  5. I do miss "real" letters in the mail and not just window ones :-)
    As I went to boarding school for five years we wrote and received lots of letters. It was the most exciting thing to have a letter waiting after school. My mother was wonderful to write a lot. Often a couple of times a week and I was a good correspondant. Like you, most of my communication is done on the computer now, which has its good and bad sides. I do miss the personal touch and the keep sake side of it though.

  6. One of my earliest memories was filling a sheet of paper with scribbles and asking my mom to enclose it in a letter she was writing to my Gramma! I loved letter writing from that day, though I admit that it's a love-hate relationship because as much as I enjoy it, it is a lot of work. I still write the occasional paper letter by hand. I think it's a very good skill to cultivate as it gives a person a piece of yourself and your life, as it were, which shows that you value their friendship in this day and age. There is something so much more satisfying about that than electronic communications!

    I also love pretty stationary. :-) I still have quite a collection. In the same vein, I enjoy making hand made cards to send for special days and also "just for nice".

    I am also saddened that we are losing the connection with "the past that is now" because of the electronic communications which will all be lost eventually. Some things will be no great loss, but there are things I would have kept myself if I could have! My sister and her husband actually printed out their entire email communications and put them in a ring bound notebook. I think that was a good idea! :-)

    1. P.S. I do miss receiving "real" letters too. :-) It is so nice to find a letter from a friend in the mail among all the "Dear home owner" ones, bills, and sale catalogues!

    2. Almost all my mail is bills or trying to sell me something so it is nice to occasionally receive something that isn't! And what a great idea to print out emails and keep them. I "chat" via Facebook message and they are only temporary and will be lost over time which is a bit sad. I wonder about future generations that have never experienced this form of communication, do you think they will want to go back to it as it will be a novelty .

  7. I have a few special people who I still write to in America even though we still communicate via facebook and email too. There really is something so much more personal about letter writing that we obviously both treasure :-) Its oh so wonderful to get something in the mail that isn't a bill ;-)

    1. That's the lovely thing about letters, is the receiving of mail that isn't a bill! I'm that some people still write letters to each other.

      Have a great weekend.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

I wear skirts and dresses

Art Friday: Washing Day

The power of our homes

Art Friday: Views from a window

True restfulness

Idolising poverty