The lost art of letter writing

WASHINGTON – In an age of emails, texts and instant messages, one man is making it his mission to revive a more primitive form of personal communication — letter writing.

“I’ve got nothing against emails. I write emails all the time and I text and I tweet and everything else, as well. It’s a fantastic form of communication because it’s cheap and it’s very, very quick and it’s very efficient,” says Simon Garfield, author of “To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing.”

“But there’s no substitution for letter writing.”

However, current trends say otherwise. In 2006, 204 billion items went through the U.S. mail system. In 2011, that number dropped to 167 billion.

Garfield says this decline can be attributed to people’s busy lives, noting that writing a letter requires time, materials, thought, postage and accessibility to a mailbox or post office.

“It’s far easier for us to write kind of quick lines and quick replies to emails than it is to kind of sit down and write a proper letter,” Garfield says.

And while he does embrace progress and appreciates the “instant gratification” of today’s technology-powered communication, he hopes “the intimacy and the thought that one puts into a letter” will be revived — if for nothing more than keeping records of loved ones.

“We’re going to have to get through passwords and firewalls and we’re going to have to find out how do we access the Cloud when someone we’re close to dies and we want to have a record of their lives,” Garfield says. “Are we prepared to give this all up just so we can communicate more efficiently and more cheaply?”

Garfield offers suggestions on how to keep letters relevant in today’s society. He says this time of year is an especially great time to break out the notecards and pens.

“At the very least, what we should do is write a thank you note for the gifts that we receive, rather than just send an email or a text,” Garfield says.

A pen-pal is another way one can stay motivated to write letters. Garfield says he has one and writes to his pal frequently.

“Now, unfortunately, people think you are a little bit odd if you send a letter rather than an email … But my heart leaps when I get a letter — handwritten or typed is nice,” he says. “Personal communication, it’s all an act of kindness.”

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