Is Letter Writing a Dying Art?


Oct 08, 2014 by British Blog

On any given day, how many people receive a handwritten letter? Not a bill from the electricity company, or a 'mustn't miss' offer from a favoured shop or supplier, but rather a note from a friend or relative, written with pen and ink and with thought and care?


Fewer opportunities

The chances are, very few people. For as technology eats ever further into people's daily lives, opportunities to handwrite at all, let alone with care and purpose, are becoming fewer and fewer.

Most written communication now seems to take place via e-mail or text message, through social media or video calls. Letters, when they are posted, are generally typed. This is a pity, because a handwritten letter is far more than just a means of communication.



Handwritten letters, when thoughtfully created, can be both artistic objects - a gift, rather than a mere communication - and expressions of care and understanding. The very act of taking up a pen reflects a greater effort expended than opening up yet another page in Microsoft Word.

The combination of attractive handwriting (particularly if a decent pen is used) and quality, tactile paper can make letters into objects of desire, to be savoured, treasured for years and perhaps passed down the generations. Can the same be said of electronic messages?

There is also something about handwriting that gives the writer permission to explore thought and ideas in a way that e-mail and the like discourage. How many times are e-mailers criticised for writing too much? Short is sweet, seems to be an unspoken rule when it comes to electronic communication.

Other media, such as text messages and social forums like Twitter, have a character limit that is actively designed to promote brevity. Yet, without the room to explore and explain, how can people communicate in any way other than the superficial?



Handwritten letters also act as powerful, tangible connections between people. A letter is an item that has been touched by another, created by their own hands, with purpose. When an individual is no longer available, their letters can serve as a very real connection, for family, friends and even descendants that they may never meet in person. The letters that they touched are also touched by those who come after.

Furthermore, handwritten letters will always be accessible. Even if the human race forgets how to write by hand, it will still be reading. Electronic communications, in contrast, can be easily lost as technology advances - who can read the contents of a floppy disk, nowadays? In addition, of course, they can be easily deleted or corrupted.


Looking forward

Few people would suggest that it is time to give up on software and return to the quill and inkwell. However, just as e-mail and text messages are ideal for certain types of communication, they are much less appropriate for others. The age of handwriting is far from over, and the more people come to appreciate its benefits, the better it will be for us all.