Can you remember the last time you put pen to paper and wrote in your best handwriting a letter?

I suspect not many of us can. It seems that letter writing is a dying art and that our access to electronic devices to contact friends, loved ones and business associates has taken over.

But next time you need to correspond with someone, take a few moments before you fire up the laptop and begin tippy tappy-ing on the keyboard or grab your phone to send a text message. Ask yourself if what you’re saying could would be better conveyed in a personal, handwritten note?


A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do. You savour their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping. ”

— Catherine Field, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/opinion/04iht-edfield04.html?_r=0">New York Times</a>

Lakshmi Pratury, founder of Ixoraa Media and co-host of TEDIndia 2009, mourns the loss of letter writing. Her father had written to her many times over her lifetime.

“After he died, I realized that no one writes to me anymore, she says. “Handwriting is a disappearing art. I'm all for email and thinking while typing, but why give up old habits for new? Why can't we have letter writing and email exchange in our lives? There are times when I want to trade all those years that I was too busy to sit with my dad and chat with him, and trade all those years for one hug. But too late. But that's when I take out his letters and I read them, and the paper that touched his hand is in mine, and I feel connected to him.”

Pratury argues that letters can be part of the value legacy you leave your children. But writing can them can also benefit you in the here and now. After all, Debretts, that trusted source on British Etiquette and social skills, says that the elegant flow of ink on crisp sheets of vellum are the very building blocks of civilisation.

Writing by hand focuses the mind. There is no delete button, no backspace, so words must be considered and chosen carefully before being committed to paper, making their meaning all the more succinct. Handwritten notes are both personal and permanent; a love letter is worth a thousand texts.”

— Debretts, <a href="">Art of Letter Writing</a>

I think they have a point, don't you? (Or are you the sort of person who sends your other half a text message for Valentine’s Day?)

Even if you don’t buy into the romance of handwritten letters, putting pen to paper can have plenty of practical advantages. I like entrepreneur Andy Bailey’s advice on writing by hand:

“When looking for a job, letters and email can work hand-in-hand. The speed of sending email lends itself to a quick ‘thank you’ immediately after an interview. A handwritten letter, which will take some time to get there, is a thoughtful follow-up that’ll keep you fresh on someone’s mind.”

I think he sums it all up perfectly when he says: “In an age where handwritten letters are almost obsolete, your colleagues, friends, family and business connections will relish the feeling of receiving a personalised letter. Nothing says care, concern, congratulations or contentedness like a letter, and that is something you can write home about.”

So don’t throw away your old fountain pen just yet.

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