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Tips for Writing to a Penpal

Updated on April 15, 2016

Penpalling Isn't A Job, It's A Hobby

You don't have to have an English degree in order to write fun and interesting letters to your penpals. Use your creativity and most importantly, write from your heart. I've been "snail mail" writing for about four years now. Snail mail means that you are sending letters through the mail, not emailing each other. The main thing that I've found to be the most appreciative is when penpals handwrite their letters. It's a more personal approach and takes a bit more time than just typing everything. When I get a letter in the mail, I enjoy seeing the handwritten sentiments from distant friends. So I'd like to share some of my penpal writing tips with you!

*All photos used on this lens were created by me, lillyannsmommy, using Photoshop CS3.

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Tips & Etiquette

Another thing I've noticed after four years of penpalling is that some people only answer questions that you asked in a previous letter. They don't come up with their own questions to ask you. This tends to make me think that they either don't have the time or they just don't care to ask you anything in return. So be sure to ask questions! Get to know your penpals!

Don't push someone to write you back. They may not be interested if they think you don't have anything in common with them. In your first letter be sure to include as many interesting facts about yourself as possible. Do you collect something weird? Do you have a strange hobby? Let your penpal know! Sharing random details about yourself and your life will most likely get you a response. Also, never tell someone that you expect to get a response as soon as possible! Let them write you back on their own time.

If you are writing to someone from another country, let them in on details about where you live. Tell them some interesting facts about your town, your state, your country. Most people who choose penpals from another part of the world want to hear about a different culture or way of life.

Make Your Letters Eye-Catching

Another great tip that I love and try to do myself is decorate your letters! You can find some great stationery for free on several different sites (I will share some links I've found later on). You can also create your own stationery using Photoshop or WordPad. You can even take some regular writing paper and use stickers, markers, glitter pens, pictures, draw some doodles around your writing... the decorating possibilities are endless! You can even decorate your envelopes, but make sure the addresses are clear and easy to read.

Add Flare (and some gifts) to Your Letters

I just love sending and receiving different items in my letters. My penpals and I trade stickers, scrapbook supplies, poetry, postcards, and many other things. I have one penpal who is a very good artist and she draws me pictures every once in awhile. Another penpal does dream interpretations and she tells me about them in her letters.

About two years ago I discovered a new way to meet penpals and like-minded people, other than the obvious penpal sites, called a Friendship Book (abbreviated 'FB' in the penpal world). The best description I could find on them was the Wikipedia definition: "Fbs are small booklets made by stapling paper together, or are sometimes just sheets or strips of paper. They are usually decorated and the person who starts the book writes their name and address as the first person sending the book. People often include a list of interests as well. The FB is then passed around from penpal to penpal, and can often also become a way for one to meet new penpals." There are also other types of Friendship Books ranging from Slams, Crams, Deco Books, Lyrix, and Qoutz which I will discuss in more detail later.


Other Types of Friendship Books

One con about sending Friendship Books and the like, is that sometimes it can take years to get them returned to the creator. They may get lost in the mail, people simply refuse to send them on to another person, or someone forgets to send them. It's considered common penpal courtesy to pass the books on to another penpal as quickly as possible.

CRAMS: Similar to FBs but don't contain any personal information. They can be a complete book or simply just a sheet of paper. The point is to "cram" as many names and addresses into the space provided.

SLAMS: Contain a series of questions for each person to answer. Some questions could be "What is your favorite...", "Sign your name if you like / don't like...", or "Sign if you've seen this movie". They usually start with a "sign in" page where each person signs their name or puts an address label and the date. Then there are several pages of questions and at the end there is a "sign out" page where you again sign your name and the date.

DECOS: Usually larger than FBs and each person gets to decorate a full page in the book. The front cover is decorated by whoever created the deco. The deco may often have a theme. In which case, each person decorates their page that has something to do with the theme (for example, the theme could be turtles). Decos can be decorated with any type of material you can think of unless the creator has stated that some things cannot be used. Decos are returned to the creator once they are full.

Friendship Sheets: Same as Friendship Books, only there is just one sheet of paper that is covered front and back with address labels and / or signatures.

LYRIX & QOUTZ: Very similar to decos except that with Lyrix, each page is decorated using lyrics from songs and other decorative items. With Qoutz, they are decorated with the person's favorite qoutes.

Widely Used Abbreviations

~ A/A = Answers All (meaning the person will respond to all letters)

~ A/O = Answers Only (this could mean the person answers only letters from females but they will specify what they will answer)

~ ICR = I Can Return (meaning this person will return the FB back to the creator)

~ LLP = Long Letter Penpal (this person prefers lengthy letters)

~ N&N FBs = Nice & Neat Friendship Books (this person wants only well made / decorated FBs)

~ NSW = New Swappers Wanted (meaning they are looking for someone to swap items with)

~ NPW = New Penpals Wanted

~ SNNP = Sorry No New Penpals (they are not looking for new penpals)

~ DOB = Date Of Birth

~ SAHM = Stay At Home Mom

~ WAHM = Work At Home Mom

~ SASE = Self Addressed Stamped Envelope

New Guestbook Comments

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    • lillyannsmommy profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Danville, IL

      @srsddn lm: Writing this lens brought back memories of my old penpals as well. Thank you for checking it out!

    • lillyannsmommy profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Danville, IL

      @ItayaLightbourne: I love having penpals from other countries. It's so interesting to hear about their culture and lifestyle. Thank you for checking out my lens!

    • lillyannsmommy profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Danville, IL

      @Rosaquid: Oh wow, what made you stop writing? I enjoy hearing penpal stories. Thank you for checking out my lens!

    • srsddn lm profile image

      srsddn lm 

      6 years ago

      It is like a flashback. Used to have many penpals during school/college life. Very nice and useful tips

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      6 years ago from Topeka, KS

      I had one when I was a young girl and she lived in England. What fun that was!

    • Rosaquid profile image


      6 years ago

      I had a pen pal about 40 years ago! It was fun. Thanks for the tips!


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