The Art of Writing Letters in College

“If I ever received a handwritten letter, I would cry,” read the Tweet. Under it lay a picture of cursive handwriting flowing across elegant stationery. I sighed — imagine checking your mailbox and for once finding an envelope addressed to you. Imagine the anticipation as you tear open the envelope and the romance as you pore over the contents enclosed. Unfortunately, people just don’t send letters anymore…

Then it hit me. I had never sent a letter before. So how could I expect to receive one? Feeling inspired, I grabbed a sheet of paper, a pen and some envelopes and started writing to some of my close friends. I had no idea what I was doing. But a few days later, my phone erupted with thank you texts and Snapchat pictures of my friends showing off their envelopes. And within a month, I had received three handwritten replies.

Now I try to write as much as I can, and I’ve learned that writing letters are even more rewarding than receiving them (here’s some scientific proof). But putting your thoughts into letter form takes some practice. To help you get started, here are some of my best tips to perfect the art of writing letters in college:

  1. 1. Get your friends’ addresses

    This one may seem self-explanatory, but addresses in college can get difficult. People are constantly moving their residences and you have to keep up with apartments, dorm buildings and even room and mailbox numbers. That’s why I keep a roster on my phone of everyone’s addresses and update them each semester — it makes things much easier when you’re trying to send a letter quickly.

  2. 2. Pick your stationery

    For me, stationery is the best part of writing letters. Of course, you can use regular computer paper and a business envelope, but there are so many more options out there. Retailers like Etsy and Hobby Lobby have a wide array of paper, cards and envelopes, sometimes in matching sets! This stationery really shows that you put extra thought into your letter.

  3. 3. Know the format

    A letter should have a date, greeting, body, closing and signature. Usually, the body is the hardest part to write and often leads to writer’s block. When getting started, I like to pretend that I’m physically talking to the recipient and they asked what I’ve been up to. Then I write what I would’ve said. Don’t worry about sounding particularly eloquent; most people are just happy to receive a letter.

  4. 4. Engage your recipient

    You always want your written communication to be two-way. Comment on something your recipient has done or posted on social media lately. Ask about their life. A letter offers the perfect opportunity to ask those lengthy questions that feel awkward over text. Demonstrating interest and concern about your friend puts an extra special touch to a letter and improves your relationship overall.

  5. 5. Jazz up your envelope

    A letter isn’t the only thing to put in your envelope. For a fun surprise, include other small items such as pictures, sketches, stickers or even a bag of your favorite tea. You can play with the outside of your envelope too by drawing or painting on it or including a wax seal (see some envelope art below for inspiration). And of course, don’t forget a pretty stamp.

 

Writing letters can be a bit daunting at first, but with a little practice, you can revive a lost art — and make people smile while you’re at it.

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 56, others by author