Once upon a time, letter writing was the way to communicate! Now, however, letters can’t compete with the efficiency of phones, emails, and social media. The disadvantage of electronic correspondence? The loss of personal touch: digital messages are intangible, and most will fall by the wayside as the days pass. That’s where letters really shine: they capture a piece of the author with handwriting, ink choice, stationery, and enclosures. For that reason, letters stand the test of time — and they make the recipient feel special! (Need more reasons to write one? See this article.) Today, we’re going to examine how to write a simple and elegant letter.
Letter Writing Supplies
The list below outlines a few basic supplies for writing a letter. Remember: letters are just as unique as the people who write them, so if you want to add or subtract from the list, you absolutely can!
I always begin by choosing an envelope. Your envelope selection should match your creative mood on any given day. If you aren’t loving any of the envelopes in your collection, you can always make your own!
If you would like to write on the envelope with a dip pen and ink, you might take a look at the How to Choose the Best Calligraphy Envelopes post. In the post, you’ll learn which envelopes “play nice” with calligraphy, and which to avoid!
You can use any paper that appeals to you! If you’ve got the time, you can use paper that has been cut to fit your chosen envelope. To figure out the proper dimensions to cut your paper down to, measure your envelope horizontally and vertically.
Once you know the measurements, subtract 0.25″ from the horizontal number, and multiply the vertical number by 2.5. As an example, my envelope here ended up being 6.5″ wide by 4.75″ tall. As a result, I cut out a 6.25″ x 12″-ish piece of paper. (You have some wiggle room on the vertical measurement of the paper because you’ll be folding it up anyway.)
If I have a lot of time and patience, I’ll write a letter using a dip pen. That said, I’m perpetually lacking time, and often my supply of patience isn’t much better … so I default to using a fountain pen. The Pilot Falcon is my favorite for its clean, vivid lines. That said, any pen works! Pick one you like in order to make the letter writing process even more pleasant.
If you’ve got extra time, try writing your letter with a dip pen. A crowquill nib works great for writing tiny Spencerian (or similar) letters! You can see an example of a letter written using a crowquill nib in the photo below:
Wax Seal (Optional)
A wax seal is a totally frivolous and unnecessary element of letter writing. But, if you’ve got one, it adds elegance and a touch of nostalgia to your work. I use a low temperature wax seal glue gun to apply seals to my letters. You can purchase one at Paper & Ink Arts. Or, for “old school” wax sticks, check out Nostalgic Impressions.
The Letter Writing Process
Decorate the Paper
If you’re not using pre-decorated stationery, you can embellish the paper to add some personality to it! In the photo below, I used the Geometric Embellishments concept from the Two Simple Envelope Embellishments tutorial.
Write the Letter
If you have opted to use unlined paper to write your letter on, it’s a good idea to put it on top of notebook paper. Then, use a light box to see the lines underneath. If your paper isn’t too thick, then you probably won’t even need the light box to see the lines underneath.
If you can, try to write in cursive. That will give the letter a nice, vintage feel!
As far as content, you can find several letter writing prompts in the The Letter Writer’s Complete Resource. Here are some basic prompts I use:
- Write about what’s going on in your life, especially if it relates to your letter recipient.
- Ask questions — either specific (“What is your favorite restaurant right now?”) or more broad (“Where do you see yourself in ten years?”).
- Answer any questions the person may have posed to you the last time you corresponded.
- Make recommendations for recipes, good television shows, or music.
Once you have written the letter, fold the top of the letter down. The fold should be just a tad shorter than the vertical length of the envelope — in my case, that’s 4.5″. Fold the bottom up over the top, and you’ll find that the bottom fold is significantly shorter than the top and middle folds. That’s perfect! You can now use your wax seal to secure the letter shut.
Decorate the Envelope
There are several mail art tutorials on this website, and you’re welcome to use one that appeals to you in order to create an artistic envelope! I opted to make an envelope that echoes the design motif of the paper.
An elegant Janet Style return address contrasts nicely with the geometric hand-lettering on the front of the envelope!
Once you have decorated the envelope, you can slip your letter inside and send! For tips to ensure that your letter reaches its intended destination, see this article.
Just a quick note: the instructions in this article assume that you have an hour or so of free time to craft your snail mail correspondence. You can always shave off time by using lined notebook paper, skipping the wax seal step, and writing the address quickly! When it boils down to it, we all write letters differently, and I hope that you’ll take my steps as suggestions (rather than the rule) next time you sit down to write.
Happy snail mailing!
This article was first posted in September of 2016. It has been updated to include new photos and information.