Letter writing is as old as mankind. Remember the Biblical epistles. Classical stories were mostly documented through letter writing. Regardless of race, history and development, letter writing human stories are filled with epistolary correspondence. Today, intimate handwritten letters arrive in our mailboxes far less frequently, they nevertheless retain the fascination they had for earlier generations. If we’re lucky enough to get one, we tend to save it. Discovering a forgotten letter in a desk drawer can bring a dear person and lost moment of time right back into our present. A personal letter is still a very special gift to send someone.
Remember That a Letter Is Not a Diary
Mariama Ba’s one of the most popular works of fiction work is an epistolary novel. So Long a Letter involves the voice of a narrator who details the story of her life and like all other writers she keeps her correspondence in mind. She never lets her readers feel they are not reading that the information therein is not addressed to someone particularly. One of the oldest letter writers, Jane Carlyle makes her subject matter principally herself and her London life, but like all the best letter writers, she kept her correspondents in mind. She did not write solipsistic monologues. She wrote for an audience. That puts her in an entirely different category from the letter writers who bore us, who write as if from the inside of a sound-proof closet.
Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Personality
Like Lola Ogunwole in Imagine This, be ready to reveal your personality. Your audience already knows the letter bears a part of you. Jane Carlyle wrote conversational, improvisational, very alive letters. While realizing the need to keep certain matters private, she valued frankness and directness — Scottish women had a certain reputation for being more outspoken than their middle-class English counterparts. Jane had phrases for her bright, clear, improvisational style. She told a cousin that she liked “splashing off whatever is on my mind . . . without forethought or back thought.” She simply had to “go on so . . . to the end of the chapter.” An ideal letter, Jane also said, should be “the real transcript of your mind at the moment.” Letters like that have a certain dashed-off effect. But despite a lack of attention to punctuation at times, it isn’t carelessness.
Don’t Write to Impress
Don’t write to impress. Be as down to earth as possible. Remember your audience, let your pen go free, be as truthful as you can, don’t fuss over commas, follow your mind where it leads, and consider no subject too small or too large — as long as you don’t lecture. It’s of a piece advice we might attempt to follow today.