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With Sincerest Regards: Additional Advice About Writing Personal Letters

Updated on December 20, 2015
Interesting settings can inspire fun, creative letters.
Interesting settings can inspire fun, creative letters. | Source

For those who have already mastered the basics of writing personal letters, there is ample room to explore and better enjoy this pastime. For what I hope are obvious reasons, not every suggestion will appeal to everyone. Nonetheless, hopefully you’ll find at least one or two of these suggestions worthwhile.

The first and most obvious suggestion is to look at writing letters as play and not drudgery. A personal letter is not the same thing as a thank you note or a condolence letter. It is not written to say “Thank you for the wedding gift. We love our new dishes.” or “I am sorry you lost your father to cancer. Please let me know if there is anything I can do.” Instead, a personal letter should be penned because you had a thought or idea to share and you decided that your college friend Janine would love to hear it. Or, due to circumstances outside of your control, you live far from your loved ones and one way for you to stay connected is by exchanging letters.

If you are able to think about writing letters as a form of play and creative expression, the options are seemingly endlessly as far as what you can write about. Of course, it is advisable to know your audience so you don’t audaciously make politically incorrect statements to those in your life who would find these insulting. Personal letters, like the rest of life, are best written with healthy boundaries in place. This means, in other words, that there are matters too personal to share in most letters. There are exceptions to this, of course, as very close friends, sisters, or even brothers may be willing and happy to share more intimate information. Erring on the side of caution is generally wise if you are uncertain about sharing certain information; however, you also should try to avoid the other extreme where you don’t share any information about your life beyond commonplace topics such as weather conditions and work.

Personal Letters Improving The Lives Of Soldiers

Letters can be written anywhere, and this can add to their uniqueness. With tablets and portable computers with long battery life, it’s possible to write a letter atop a mountain (presuming weather conditions allow), on a park bench in Boston, or on a train in France sitting next to a man who smells like he bathed in garlic oil. Even if you don’t bother to describe your setting, merely being in different settings will add spice to your writing. If you don’t believe me, I suggest you try writing letters in diverse settings in order to see how doing so influences the way you write. In my experience, I’ve found natural settings such as parks wonderful opportunities to write letters. Or, during my latest backpacking adventure on the Appalachian Trail, I wrote several letters inside my one-person R.E.I. tent. My only concern writing these letters was that they might smell a bit too much like hiker funk when they arrived at their destination. Their recipients never commented on this, however, so perhaps I was overthinking matters.

Favorite Topics

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If you wish to write you letters indoors, one excellent place to do so is in an airport. Airports, especially the larger ones such as Denver International Airport, offer people-watching opportunities which could help inspire the beginning lines of a letter. Can’t you just imagine the possibilities? I can almost start a letter right now based on one of my last visits to Denver International Airport, and how I saw a man with such a long white beard I wondered, with a wry smile, if he was a fan of ZZ Top.

Another excellent indoor location to write letters is at a shopping mall. Again, the people-watching is one reason to consider this location. It’s also a setting rich with potential writing topics. You could discuss topics ranging from the store closest to where you are sitting, or else branch out and discuss commercialism in a more philosophical sense.

Kids can write the funniest letters

Personal letters can also be spiced up with themes. In other words, you may decide that you want to write a letter about your girlhood crushes to Tracey, a friend from college. Following a theme is one way to avoid falling into the trap of unthinkingly relaying the most current information about your life. It is also a way to dig deep into memory to see what you might uncover. The end result could be a diverting letter as well as a newfound appreciation for the memories you unearthed. Or, instead of focusing your letter on one theme, you can try several interwoven themes. For instance, you may be interested in writing about your time at summer camp as a girl and how this inspired you to go backpacking in Alaska and how this experience convinced you to pursue getting your Master’s degree in Outdoor Education.

Letters can also be made more interesting by adding quotes, stickers, comic strips, newspaper articles, and magazine articles. I’ve received poems, essays, quotes, and beyond inside letters, and I’ve sent out my share of quotes, articles from magazines ranging from The New Yorker to Poets & Writers magazine, and comics. Enclosures are a wonderful way to send along an article or comic strip you think might hit the spot, and, on occasion, it is joyfully received.

Maybe your nearest and dearest would appreciate finding a comic strip enclosed in their letter.
Maybe your nearest and dearest would appreciate finding a comic strip enclosed in their letter. | Source

Speaking of hitting the spot, not every letter you write will be as impactful or memorable as certain others. This is one of the inevitable truths about writing: Sometimes what you have to say is engaging, and yet there are times the words fall more flat than you would like. This happens to all writers, and it is essential to relax and enjoy the writing process. Since presumably your friends and family love and appreciate you for reasons that have nothing to do with the letters you send them, the process of writing personal letters should be as enjoyable, lighthearted, and playful as possible. What are you waiting for? Surely there is a letter inside of you right now waiting to be written.


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