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Writing a physical letter

Published August 04. 2012 09:01AM

Today's world of cell phones, email, text messages and twitter accounts, handwritten letters can seem hopelessly old fashioned.

These modern technologies make the process of writing a letter and sending it through the air waves so much faster and easier.

Text messaging refers to messages being sent from one mobile phone to another.

Email describes a system for sending and receiving messages over a computer network.

Twitter is accessed through your personal account set up on a computer or an Internet enabled phone. This form of communication is known as tweets. Tweets are made up of very short messages used to talk directly with your friends or followers.

For most of us, texting and emailing have become a part of our daily lives. I admit I keep in touch by texting and emailing family and friends the majority of the time. Even my husband, who said he would never text, now uses it daily.

But, when is the last time you have written a real physical letter?

I am not talking about a few words scribbled at the bottom of a birthday card. I am referring to actually sitting down with a paper and pen and putting your thoughts on paper. When we write these kinds of letters we have to think about correct spelling and vocabulary and the right use of grammar.

I am a letter writer. I love to write letters. When I first moved to Pennsylvania, my mom and I wrote letters back and forth all the time. Funny, as busy as I was with raising a family, keeping house and making meals, I still found a half an hour to sit down and write to her, mostly telling her of our daily activities or explaining one of the kid's latest shenanigans. I still have many old letters that she sent to me. I love to pick them up and reread them. It is like a walk down memory lane.

Some parents feel that today's children are not learning valuable communication skills in letter writing or phone etiquette because of the constant texting. Correct spelling and grammar are not important in texting. Most words are abbreviated and texting has a language of its own. An example of a text would be "OMG Did U C? LOL TTYL." Translated into "Oh my God did you see that? Laugh out loud. Talk to you later."

I decided to learn for myself how the younger generation feels about old fashion letter writing.

This week our grandson, William, who is vacationing here from Adams, New York, and our grandson Nick were spending the morning at our house. Both boys are in junior high and both text. So I decided to put letter writing to the test for them. I explained how when I was their age we did not have such a thing as texting to communicate with our friends. Especially in the summers, we wrote letters back and forth. They both listened very patiently and even had a few questions for me. Then I pulled out the tablets, pencils, pens, envelopes and stamps and asked them to write a letter.

Complete silence.

I think one of them had a mild panic attack and the other one broke out in a cold sweat. Both assured me that nobody writes letters these days and they were on summer vacation (meaning they only write in school). After some prodding and holding the promise that we would visit a new archery place that just opened, William chose to write his mom, and Nick decided to write a cousin who lives farther away. Both wrote their letters, addressed and stamped them with no obvious psychological damage done to either.

Letter writing is an art and a way to preserve a little history of the present time, not like email that will probably be erased or a text that will be deleted. A letter can be saved and reread in the future. A written letter has more character. Personal handwriting has much more warmth and personality than cold typewritten words can ever have.

Writing a physical letter and sending it through the mail cannot compete with the fast paced world we live in today, but it is still fun to sit down and write one, and even more fun to receive one in your physical mailbox.

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