There are those who say that the art of letter writing is fast disappearing.
Fortunately for those who worry about our writing habits, the situation is not desperate yet. Mountains of mail still go out of and come in to homes, offices, and stores every day, and a great many of the letters are not prefabricated messages. There is a good reasons: a long distance call is much more expensive than a stamp and a few sheets of stationery.
The Friendly Letter: Think of it as a long distance conversation.
Here's what you should do:
1. The first thing is this. You've heard it before and you will hear it again. Any time you write a paragraph of more you are writing a composition. A letter is no exception.
2. Don't just ramble along. Write in paragraphs. Don't fire away in all directions. Select one or two items to talk about and then develop them into full-fledged paragraphs, with topic sentences, details, vivid language, and all the rest of it.
3. Start right in with an interesting opening, as you would with any well-written piece. If you must inquire about health, do so at the very end somewhere. You don't have to lead up to the beginning. Begin!
4. Tell your news first. If the letter you are answering has some questions in it, answer them afterward in a paragraph or two - with details.
5. If you think you have nothing to write about, take a tip from what has been learned about letter writing from ex-servicemen. Ask any one of them what he looked forward to most eagerly when he was away. He'll tell you it was a letter from home. Then ask him what he enjoyed reading about. He'll say this:
What did Mom cook for dinner last Sunday? Has that leaky faucet been repaired yet? How's my kid brother (or sister) behaving? Have you had the first snowfall?
Where are you going on your vacation?
The questions summarize the main point about what to write in letters. The person absent from familiar surroundings wants to hear about the ordinary things of his former environment so that he can identify with it once more. The one who is back home is interested in that which is different from what he hears, sees, and does every day. The one who should decide what you should write about is not you but the reader of your letter!
Don't think of yourself and what has happened to you as the only source of interest. What seems dull to you may be exciting to one who is away. You can work the weather into an attractive paragraph if you try, or a ride in a bus, or an incident in class, or a discussion with your parents. Imagine what you would talk about if you were in the same room with the reader. That's what you should write about.
Don't feel that you must give an excuse for bringing the letter to a close. When you have nothing more to say, you are finished. Offer some final greeting, if you must, sign your name, and let that be an end to it. You aren't being abrupt when you do this; you are just being sensible and avoiding being a bore.
6. Use your best English, not to show off but to make what you have written worth reading. There's no question about the truth of this bit of advice. Forceful, vivid writing creates interest in itself. Be proud of your language. You'll be pleased at the compliments your well-written letters will draw.
7. Whenever possible, try to involve the reader in the situations you describe. This establishes a point of contact and a feeling of being a part of the experience.
Plan your letters and they will be a joy to receive.
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