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Most Sincerely: How To Write A Personal Letter
Most of us lead very busy lives. Under these circumstances, it becomes easy to heavily use instantaneous methods of communicating such as text messages, facebook posts, and email. Nonetheless, the pace of our modern lives does not eliminate the benefits of sending and receiving personal letters. Personal letters can be written and read under a wide variety or circumstances—such as in a park, on an airplane, in a diner far from home, and beyond—and are a tangible reminder that a friend or family member took the time to say hello in such a personalized way.
Writing personal letters is a fairly simple, straightforward process once you know the basics. You first need to determine who you wish to write a letter to. This choice could be inspired by an upcoming birthday, graduation, or anniversary, or else is could be a “just because” letter inspired by no particular upcoming event.
Next you must determine if you will be handwriting this letter, or if you will use a typewriter or computer. If you will be handwriting the letter, make sure to find a functional pen, pencil, or marker and enough paper. Fancy stationary can be used, but a plain sheet of white paper is also sufficient. For those using typewriters, you have to supply the correct paper and find a place to type this letter. If you prefer to type on a computer, it is essential to know where you can print the letter once finished. If you don’t have a printer at home, most public libraries offer the option of logging onto their computers, retrieving the file from a flash drive, and printing it there for a small fee. The additional supplies needed by anyone writing a letter are an envelope, the address of the person you are writing, and the correct amount of postage. If you don’t know how many stamps you will need, it is advisable to get the finished letter weighed at a post office to ensure it gets the correct amount of postage.
Most personal letters begin with a greeting. While it is permissible to start with something as simple as “Hello, friend,” the recipient of the letter may appreciate being address by name instead. “Dear Jim” or “My old friend Jim” or “My sweet older brother Jeff” or “Dear Becca, my old partner-in-crime” are possible greetings. You should compose the greeting, as well as the entire letter, in a way you think the recipient will appreciate while still showcasing your individuality.
Following the greeting you have many options how to proceed. One option is asking a few questions before sharing news from your life. These questions can range from the very basic “How are you today?” to more personal, philosophical questions such as “Are you happy with your life?” and beyond. Pet owners often appreciated inquiries about their pets. Similarly, asking a friend about his or her gravely ill grandparent is a kind, loving gesture.
You can also answer questions in the body of the letter. This happens most naturally when you are answering a letter which contains questions, yet you can also answer the questions asked by this friend or family member during a recent email, phone conversation, and beyond.
The body of the letter can be broken up into several paragraphs, or else it can be one large paragraph. Other options for the body of the letter include commenting on a book you read last month, or telling a story about your oldest child going to kindergarten, or even expounding on your personal philosophies concerning politics, religion, and beyond. Since you should take at least twenty minutes to write a letter, this gives you the opportunity to delve more deeply into certain topics than you typically would in an email or text message.
You can also use the body of the letter to note the special occasion—such as a birthday, anniversary, college graduation, birth of a new baby, retirement, etc.—which initially inspired you to write the letter. This is an excellent time to offer encouragement, and, at least for some of us, it is easier to offer (and even receive) a written compliment compared to a spoken one.
Yet the body of the letter is not confined to upbeat content. While excessive complaining is generally unproductive and depressing, the body of a letter provides a place where you can express your concern about the local school budget cuts, or even share that you don’t know if your husband wants to stay married to you. By sitting down and writing such news, the letter writer may be inspired to think more deeply about the current struggles in his or her life. Such self-awareness can be enormously helpful, and, moreover, by sharing your real, imperfect self with others you can strengthen those relationships.
There are as many ways to close a letter as there are to begin one. While writing “Most sincerely,” followed by your first name may be sufficient, you may also be inspired to close with a phrase such as, “Your loving daughter” or “With much affection” or even with a more casual closing messages such as “Must run. Take it easy!” The signature, even if you have typed the letter, can be handwritten to add a special, personal touch. You can also add a personal touch by adding stickers to the page or using fancy stationary. In addition, enclosures such as newspaper articles, comic strips, or photographs of your family can be inserted in the envelope before you seal it. It is also advisable to write your return address on the letter itself in case the recipient accidentally throws away the envelope before recording this information.
Personal letters, while they may never be as commonplace as they once were, remain an invaluable form of communication. Virtually anyone can learn how to write personal letters, and this skill and act of writing them will enhance the writer’s life, as well as the recipient’s lives, in countless ways. What are you waiting for?