The Beginner’s Guide to Writing Letters

Letter writing is a tradition in my family, so it’s fantastic to see it coming back into style as a fun and crafty hobby.

The Beginner's Guide to Writing Letters

If you’re a letter writing newbie who’s not sure where to begin, I have a few ideas that will inspire you to pick up a pen and keep your local postal worker busy.

Stock Up

Starting your stationary collection is a lot of fun. Most stores will have a small selection of cute cards, pretty paper, elegant envelopes, and an assortment of office supplies and accessories. It’s really easy to go overboard and buy more than you need, so here’s my recommended starter kit:

A set of blank cards in an assortment of colors are great for daily use or can be customized for any occasion. If you’re concerned about sending the same style to someone too many times, jot a note to yourself about who already got that card and keep it inside the package. If cards or letter writing is too intimidating, postcards are a fun option, too!

Quick-drying, waterproof pens are essential for addressing your envelopes or sending out postcards. It will help you avoid smearing the ink as you write. I like to have a variety of thicknesses and colors for fancy lettering or adding an artsy flourish to the envelope.

Don’t forget to buy postage stamps! If you go to the USPS website, you can pick and choose exactly the style you want, from flowers to dragons, magicians to food, and specialty stamps for every occasion.

If you don’t have a spare drawer or cupboard shelf to keep your new letter writing supplies in, a plastic bin or basket is handy for keeping all your stuff in one spot.

That’s it! Simple, no? Letter writing can be as simple or over-the-top crafty as you want it to be, so start yourself off with the basics and build from there.

 

Start a List

If you want to write letters, you’ll need someone to send them to! Perhaps you already have someone in mind. Friends and family are a good place to start. Send a love letter to your special someone. Share an encouraging quote with a friend. Reach out to a favorite author, musician, or artist via their agent or workplace address. If you’re really at a loss, you could also give Postcrossing a shot!

If you feel awkward about asking for someone’s street address it’s okay to let them know that you’d like to send them a card. The only reaction I’ve ever gotten was excitement over getting real mail.

Keep your phone contacts updated with addresses, set up a Google Doc with your regular mailing list, or start an old-fashioned address book that lives with your letter writing supplies so that you can stay unplugged.

 

What to Send

With modern methods of communication, it seems silly to send messages that we’re already sharing on Twitter or should arrive at the speed of SMS – thus the decline of the good old-fashioned letter in the first place. So, what to do?

  • Share a silly story or highlight of the week. This goes over especially well with family members who aren’t on social media. It’s also a good way to go if you don’t share personal news on social media.
  • Use special occasions or unique holidays as your excuse to send fun cards. Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, and National Hot Dog Day will seem a little more special for the effort you put in.
  • Sending gifts through the mail is fun, even if it’s something small. My grandma will often share a packet of seasonal tea with her letters. A gift card for coffee or groceries makes a nice just-because gift. My grandpa used to send clips from his favorite newspaper comics. A sheet of stickers, a coloring page, or a bookmark easily fits into an envelope. Just don’t send anybody a lapful of glitter and it’s all good.
  • If you’re artsy, this is your chance to get creative! Make a card from scratch, copy off a favorite quote, write a poem, include a doodle, or put a hand lettered message inside a blank card.

 

In the Know

Sending letters is easy, so don’t be afraid to give it a shot! There’s not much you need to know, but if you want a little more information, here are my top 10 pro tips:

  1. Address the envelope before you stuff, stamp, and seal it in case you make a mistake. Be sure to include your address on envelopes so the letter will come back if it’s a wrong address or if the letter gets lost. You don’t have to write a return address on postcards, though.
  2. Never write or put tape over the top of your postage stamp.
  3. If you want to send a letter to someone outside of the United States, you’ll need to buy a special international postage stamp. Take your letter to a post office if you only want to get one.
  4. Place an extra piece of paper between your hand and the stationary to avoid smudging ink on your letter as you write.
  5. Securing the flap of your envelope with tape or a sticker is a good idea if the adhesive doesn’t seem to be doing the trick.
  6. Feeling creative? Make a bunch of cards at once, but save them back and mail at intervals to spread the love.
  7. If you’re including gift cards or sharp-edged objects with a letter, reinforce the envelope with some tape along all four sides.
  8. A surface with a little give is actually better than a hard one for writing. A desk blotter is nice, but a large mouse pad or placing a dish towel underneath a piece of cardstock works, too
  9. If you write a lot of letters, you can buy personalized return address labels from almost any print shop (I recommend Zazzle). They save a lot of time, and can be super cute!
  10. Don’t take it too seriously. Letter writing sounds super formal, but it’s just another way to express yourself and show that you care. You can LOL and OMG, you can send a message in code, you can skip grammar, or just cover a piece of cardstock in stickers.

 


I hope you’re feeling inspired to give this lost art a try! If you’re already a letter writer, please share your own pro tips in the comments. I love swapping ideas.

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