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Snail Mail: Why You Should Start Sending Handwritten Letters to the People You Love

I don’t mean the band Snail Mail, but the actual, physical mail—the type that comes in an envelope. Writing letters with pen and paper and sending them to someone via the postal system may seem like an ancient practice of bygone days, but handwritten mail has a unique, personal quality that modern modes of virtual communication simply can’t touch. Here is a collection of reasons why writing and mailing handwritten letters to your friends— whether the envelopes are artistically decorated or plain—is a fun and rewarding way to spend some of your free time. 

The Unique Physicality of Pen, Paper, and Handwriting 

You can’t hold a text message. You can hold your phone, you can screenshot a text conversation, but it’s only intangible digital information swirling around in the ether displayed on a screen. With a handwritten letter, your family member or friend can hold a physical piece of paper with your own thoughts penned down onto it. That being said: no one’s handwriting is the same. As voices have particular cadences, rhythms, and inflections, your handwriting has a particular spacing, slant, and style that is entirely unique to you—it’s quite like a visual manifestation of your voice gliding across paper. Plus, knowing that your hands brushed the paper the recipient holds and the fact that it has traveled a long distance heightens the romanticism of having it. You can choose whatever pen best suits your personality; whether it’s a voluptuous, dark blue-ink gilded fountain pen or a strawberry-scented glittery-pink felt tip, writing with a utensil you love is such a satisfying experience.

Being as Artistic (or as Not Artistic) as You Want 

Making snail mail is a perfect medium for expressing your visual artistry if you so choose. Many people like to make little collages on the envelope, complete with elaborate calligraphy headers and collectible stamps. While this certainly isn’t a requirement, for those of us who like to get a little artistic, it’s a fun activity to do on the side. I myself like to tailor the envelope to the personality of the person who’s receiving it; my best friend loves botany and vintage items, so her envelopes always include plant stickers and vintage postal stamps. If you associate someone with a specific color, place, activity, or art, include iconography of those categories on the envelope! They’ll appreciate the effort you put into making them feel special and represented.

If you’re looking for an excuse to buy some new stationery items, snail mailing is the perfect reason. You can head to your local craft/office supply store, invest in a felt-tip calligraphy pen, and start practicing lettering to really give your envelope headers a wow factor. Etsy is a great place to shop for snail mailing craft items such as stickers, paper pieces, and ephemera (my personal recommendation is the shop OfMothandMoon!) You can get as artistic as you want: break out the watercolors, the wax seals, the glitter. Plain envelopes will also get the job done, and won’t subtract from the sentimentality of the gesture. Besides stamps and envelopes, which you may already have lying around, you won’t have to buy anything. Get creative with what’s already around you: cut up old magazines to collage with, press flowers, make intricate doodle designs. Collect your own omnium-gatherum of items—it’s all what you make it. 

Strengthening Connections and Building New Ones

A letter says I’m here. It’s is a step up on staying in touch, especially in college when your high school friends are scattered all over the place. While anyone can connect on Instagram or Twitter or FaceTime, not everyone can say that they write letters. Especially after the pandemic challenged our ideas of togetherness, reaching out to someone in a non-conventional form could make their day! In years to come, you and your best friend or partner can reminisce over all the letters you sent back and forth to one another, and have the physical, nostalgic memento to cherish. They can hold a little extension of you that you wrote to frame, tape on their wall, or keep nearby in a drawer. 

You can also build new friendships by striking up a pen-pal relationship with someone you don’t know. There are plenty of pen-palling accounts on Instagram where you can connect with people across the world. While writing a letter to a stranger may seem odd or even scary, you never know what might become of it, (you may meet your new best friend!) Just make sure to be safe and don’t give your mailing address to suspicious characters. Not everyone you send a letter to will reciprocate, but sometimes you may look in your mailbox to find that someone else has returned the favor.

Being Intentional and Honest  

It’s easy to quickly slam out a text or email and not give it a second thought, but when writing with a pen, you must be deliberate about your sentencing. Handwriting necessitates that you spend a little time thinking about what you’re going to say before you make any mark on the page. When writing a letter to a friend, there’s more room to fully flesh out your thoughts than in a text message, which gives you more room to talk about your life, friends, hobbies, or whatever you want! You don’t necessarily have to pen down pages and pages; a humble postcard with a short note is still sentimental. Whoever gets your envelope will know that you spent the time and energy to make them a nice, compact, little paper message that traveled a ways to reach them. 

Hopefully you’ve at least considered writing up some letters to send out into the world. If anything, it’s a productive and rewarding way to pass the time, and you never know if it could snowball into a passion.

Clara Allison

Emerson '25

Clara Allison is a first-year student at Emerson College. Mostly she enjoys sleeping, writing anything that demands writing, petting good cats, reading good books, long, solitary walks, vanilla sugar wafers, staring into the void, and lying in hammocks– among other things.
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