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In Praise Of Handwritten Notes

Ah, nostalgia…these quaint little sticky squares were all the rage before email took over.

In an age of email and texting, is the writing on the wall for letter writing?  

Very thought-provoking question, isn’t it?

Birth and marriage announcements, expressions of love or anger, congratulations and sympathies were once the domain of the handwritten note. 

I remember writing very long and elaborate letters. I would find a quiet time and place, carefully place all my different colored pens and fancy paper on the table…and write. Actually, I printed. The point is that I have sent hundreds of hand written letters to friends and family over the years. I loved it. Letter writing was more than the sum of words. It communicated that I cared. I loved to put my personal touch on letters. I used to write my children special letters to open when they were at camp or I was away from them for a while.  I would write the entire letter backwards so that they would have to put the letter up to the mirror to read it. They loved the element of surprise!

That was then – this is now…and besides the little love letters that I give to my husband, I haven’t written a letter for a long time.  I’m feeling kinda’ guilty at the moment.

Today they are increasingly tapped out through cellphones and keyboards – fleeting, informal, destined to be consigned to the digital recycle bin, the scrap heap of history. 

It’s true. Children who are growing up in the digital age are uninterested in hand written letters.  It seems old fashioned. They’ve probably never received a letter or written one.  Call me “old” but I think that’s sad. Although schools are stil mandated to teach handwriting and cursive, it becomes less of a priority as kids get older.

No matter what we think, cursive writing isn’t going to be used in the traditional way much longer. You can’t  even apply to university without computers. So the change is here.                                                                                        David Booth, professor of curriculum at the Ontario Institute for Studies in  Education

An envelope with a handwritten address is rare, beckoning the recipient to open it immediately.  It happened to me a couple of nights ago. I stopped at our mailbox and there it was –  nestled deep within the pile of flyers, bills and requests from charitable organizations, was a Christmas card.  I couldn’t wait until we got home  – I had to rip it open and read it in the car. When we got in the house, we made a point of putting our first Christmas in a special place and my husband promptly texted the sender a “thank you” note. Ironic, huh?

When I read this article about a “letter writing club” in Toronto, I was captivated.  However, the fact that letter writing requires a club – a place to escape the communication temptations of the outside world – personally challenged me.

I’m not a strong supporter of New Year Resolutions but if ever there was a time to start a new “tradition,” it’s now. I need to do some serious letter writing in 2012.

Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company. Lord Byron
To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.  ~Phyllis Theroux

No Comments

  1. Karen Perrott

    I remember receiving some of those lovely colourful , printed letters from you – especially when you were in Bratislava . I think I even still have some of them and cherish them!

  2. Kathy taylor

    Diane, why don’t you send this blog to a newspaper editorial section and to the post office? They could probably use it in their promotions for mail and stamps!!
    Yes, ’tis true…sadly… Happy Anniversary !!!

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