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Writing Personal Correspondence: A Lost Art?

Updated on November 26, 2010

Within the last month, my family bid a final farewell to my beloved grandmother. Not long thereafter, I celebrated a birthday, and I was suddenly struck by the unpleasant fact that I would never again receive another birthday card or any type of personal, handwritten note from my grandmother. Now I long to re-read and keep every note she ever sent to me.

You see, my grandmother harkened from a generation that took the time to handwrite personal notes and correspondences to send to loved ones and friends--long before the advent of personal computers. In fact, what made her exceptionally special is the fact that she would always send handwritten notes, oftentimes just to let you know that she was thinking of you. Those notes were very pleasant surprises to receive in the mail, and they always left the recipient feeling special and loved.

I corresponded with my grandparents frequently over the years, and my grandmother reciprocated up until roughly the last three months of her life. Those notes helped us to stay very much connected and close in spite of significant geographic distances between us.

These days it seems that we are moving away from such practices in favor of emails and text messages, which offer real-time convenience. In the process, though, the English language is warping into a modified version of a shorthand type commonly used for such communications. The rules of writing style and grammar are also changing in ways that may not be for the better.

Don't get me wrong, I am grateful to have email and text messaging as a way of staying in touch with people, but I view it as a supplement to, instead of a replacement for, personalized handwritten notes. To me, an e-card, though thoughtful, is not the same as opening a paper envelope to discover the surprise that awaits inside. Even the annual computer-generated holiday newsletter that so many of us receive is more like a generic one-sided form letter that is not the same as a custom tailored handwritten personal note.

During this difficult time of grief for my family, I also became keenly aware that people apparently felt it was acceptable and proper etiquette to send a quick email of condolence instead of dropping a note or card in the mail to share expressions of sympathy. I realize that it is the thought that counts, but the manner of sharing it caught me by surprise.

So, these recent experiences cause me to wonder if writing personal correspondence is becoming a lost art. And, are we becoming distant and detached from each other as a result? Like many, my schedule is very full and jeopardizes my ability to carve out time for myself. But, I can also say that the joy associated with receiving a personalized note makes it well worth the effort to write and send it. It is a small and simple gesture that goes a long way and leaves the recipient feeling appreciated and special.

Lest there be any questions or concerns, I am not affiliated with any greeting card company or the US Postal Service. In fact, I generally make and send my own greeting cards and notes.


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