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The Art of Letter Writing

Written By: Cindy Lee on December 2, 2008 2 Comments

Dear Friend,

How are you?  I am fine.  Today finds Berkeley weather to be sunny and warm.  Do you like puppies?  Talk to you soon!

Cindy Lee

As a new poster to this blog, I must first introduce myself before jumping into (what I hope will be) meatier topics.  I am also in the class Dave mentioned, in which we’ve examined the technologies of writing over the course of the semester, from etchings to microchips, from papyri to Kindle.  Lacking expertise in ancient runes and often finding myself “bad at technology,” I am fond of letter-writing by hand as a happy medium.  In elementary, I learned to write the “Friendly Letter” whose format is exemplified above, a format on which I have based much of the correspondence of the subsequent years of my life.  What follows, then, will be some of the considerations I take in letter-writing, and please feel free to cross-out “the” and insert “Cindy’s” in the title.

Who is the recipient of the letter, and why am I writing to this audience?  Perhaps I’m seeking a kindred spirit to adopt the three mongrel puppies I discovered under my porch.  The greeting indicates if I consider myself on a first-name basis with my “friend.”

Assuming that I have oodles of time to compose my missive, I can write a heavy tome to send.  My correspondent, however, would then have to slug through the verbose monstrosity or even ignore it completely out of frustration.  It is more economical to be concise; yet, if my letter is immoderately brief, it can fail to deliver the proper message.

While “How are you?” is a perfectly adequate greeting as I rush by someone on campus, it seems merely vestigial in a letter, unless I follow with deeper questions about my friend’s actual state.  “I am fine,” then, presupposes a “How are you?” volley, and then there’s an abrupt shift to Berkeley weather in the example above.  Some letter-writers are more skilled at the segue from social niceties to the meat, and others avoid it altogether.  Both the author and the recipient recognize that the letter is asynchronous communication, and I don’t have to pretend to have waited for a response before tearing off on my newest revelation.

In Pride and Prejudice, there is some commentary on the contrast between Mr. Darcy’s fine handwriting and Mr. Bingley’s blotchy scribbles, and further, how this reflects on their personalities.  My handwriting is neat but small, which (a) proves difficult for myopic readers and (b) might indicate an inferiority complex or social awkwardness.  I could, of course, skip this conundrum by typing out my letters.

  • Typewriter: channeling John Steinbeck
  • Word Processor: playing with BIG fonts, Wingdings, and borders

There is also the matter of stationery.  I have dainty notecards, industrial printer paper, weighty “resume” stock.  A “puppy letter” would probably be best served on printer paper, but handwritten and with corresponding illustrations, preferably in crayon.

The letter-writers before me have used fountain pens, quills, calligraphy brushes, LotusNotes, messageboards, and however else they sought to communicate with acquaintances.  The aesthetics of the medium range from ornamental to austere.  Regardless, the best mode of letter-writing is that which communicates the essence of the message.  I can appreciate a well-produced missive, but the measure lies ultimately in the word.


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2 Responses to “The Art of Letter Writing”

  1. Youki on: 2 December 2008 at 6:23 pm

    hi Cindy,

    I am doing great. Puppies are cute. See you in class tomorrow 🙂


  2. Tom Griffith on: 28 December 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Yes, the truth does lie in the writing, but to write with a fine hand-made fountain pen begs for the author to slow down the movement, to think more of the words as they are to be laid on the paper. The truth is in the words, but the beauty is in the writing of the words. To watch the words laid on the paper with a fine writing instrument can only make the work more appealing.

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