In an era of instant communication, writing letters can seem archaic. However, letters have proven to withstand the test of time, while emails and text messages are ephemeral.
A handwritten letter is an incredibly personal gesture that the recipient can cherish for a lifetime.
Writing letters comes with plenty of amazing benefits that surpass any form of digital communication.
To help you master this writing form, here is everything you need to know to write a meaningful letter that will leave lasting impressions.
Why write handwritten letters?
Before we dive into the handwritten letter format, let us cover the bounty of benefits that come from writing letters:
Writing and reading a handwritten letter is more than just a message; it is an experience shared between the writer and recipient. The letter written can be cherished for years and strengthen bonds between both parties.
In his podcast Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, late-night host and podcaster Conan spoke with actor Jesse Eisenberg and discussed a handwritten letter Jesse sent to him in 2005 after the actor first appeared on his show. Fifteen years later, Conan speaks of Jesse’s letter with incredible fondness and shares how this rarely seen act of gratitude has become the comedian’s keepsake.
Your reader will be pleasantly surprised when they find your handwritten letter among their bills and junk mail.
Since letter writing is a dying art form for many, a handwritten letter is memorable and will help distinguish yourself from countless other people that the recipient knows.
One of the best things about handwritten letters is how inexpensive they are. You absolutely do not have to buy an expensive gift to make a meaningful impression on someone when a personal letter can achieve the same effect and may even garner you more recognition.
Crafting letters gives you the opportunity to be creative through expressive storytelling, careful penmanship, calligraphy skills, and high-quality paper, to create a piece that is uniquely you.
Engage in mindfulness
Writing a letter is an act of mindfulness as we must reflect on every word we write while considering the recipient’s emotions. The act of writing, sliding the letter into an envelope, sticking on a stamp, and traveling to the mailbox, keeps us grounded in the present.
According to Human Development professor Steve Toepfer from Kent State University, handwriting letters creates happiness and satisfaction for the writer that increases with the every letter written.
As opposed to just responding to perfunctory emails, letters are much more deliberate and thoughtful as you make every word count.
Since older generations did not have the convenience of texting and emails, a handwritten letter to a member of this generation will bring them fond memories while celebrating this time-honored tradition.
You can send letters to anyone such as a keynote speaker who moved you, a colleague you want to thank, or a friend you have fallen out of touch with.
Studies have shown that people are able to retain more information when they write by hand because they must spend more time considering what they are writing as opposed to rapid-fire typing verbatim.
What is the handwritten letter format?
With the advent of instant messaging, you may not have practiced writing formal letters since school. Formal letters have multiple guidelines to adhere to that can seem intimidating. The truth is that the handwritten letter format follows a simple formula:
- Your contact information: Your name, address, phone number, and email address.
- The date: The month, day, and year of the day you are writing the letter.
- The recipient’s contact formation: The recipient’s name, title, company, and address.
- Greeting: If you have a formal relationship with the recipient, write Dear Mr./ Ms./ Dr. followed by their last name. Conversely, if you have a more casual relationship, you may just write the recipient’s first name.
- Body of the letter: We will address this in greater detail in the next section.
- Closing: Also known as the valediction, popular closings include “best regards,” “all the best,” “sincerely,” and “respectfully yours.”
- Signature: Always conclude your letter by writing your full name. You may also wish to include your full name written in cursive on the following line.
How to write a handwritten letter
Actually sitting yourself down to write your first handwritten letter can feel daunting.
Writing a letter is similar to exercising a muscle at the gym, the more you do it, the easier it will become. Before you even bring pen to your finest paper, use scrap paper or your computer to organize your thoughts.
After all, you would not want your letter to be muddled with crossed-out sentences and misspellings.
Consider the person you are writing to, what is it about them that inspired you to write them a letter? Are you thanking someone for a new job opportunity, celebrating the success of a college, or sharing how an individual helped shape your career? Whatever the reason may be, ensure that this sentiment is clear in your letter.
Since your reader’s time is valuable, do not let your letter unnecessarily ramble on for several pages.
It can be valuable to write a complete draft of your letter then review your writing and cut out anything that is unnecessary to keep your letter a manageable length while retaining all of the sentiments you wish to convey.
Include specific events or a sentiment that the recipient of the letter has in your writing. This will let your reader know that you valued your time with them and continued to think about their viewpoints.
Reading about a particular event can even help freshen the reader’s memory of you and further distinguish you in this mind.
This is incredibly valuable if you are competing for the reader’s attention among countless other people.
Keep formality in mind as you write your letter. If the recipient is an esteemed member of your company’s management, be sure to avoid trite phrases, contractions, and lax language.
You want to convey your respect for the recipient, and this should be reflected in the tonality of your letter.
If you are known to be a sloppy writer, be sure to write every word slowly and carefully. As handwritten letters are thoughtful gestures, your writing should mirror the care you put into crafting it.
The recipient should never have to struggle to read your writing; otherwise, they may not enjoy reading your letter or hold onto it.
Example handwritten letter
Check out this example letter that is a thank you message from a new hire to their manager.
55 Hester Street
New York, New York 10017
February 6, 2020
100 Canal Street
New York, New York 10013
Dear Mr. Williams,
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for adding me to NYC Journal’s content team. This opportunity is invaluable to me because I have admired NYC Journal since its award-winning article on civil protests in 2010 and commitment to covering stories that matter.
I enjoyed hearing your content plan for 2020 where you and the team plan to do a national survey on wellness trends and extrapolating the results. As a wellness enthusiast, I am excited to channel my passion for this subject with the survey’s data into informative and engaging articles.
Thank you again for taking the time to meet with me throughout the interview process. Your feedback on my writing has been incredible and I look forward to developing my voice even more under your guidance.
Matthew Davis (signed in cursive)
Matthew Davis (printed)
How to format the envelope
With your first handwritten letter completed, congratulate yourself. Now you are almost ready to drop it off in a mailbox and eagerly wait for your recipient to receive it.
The best way to fit your letter into an envelope is with the C-Fold that divides the letter into three neat sections:
1. Fold the bottom of the paper two-thirds of the way up.
2. Make a crease.
3. Fold the top part of the paper down so it aligns with the crease you made.
4. Make your final crease.
5. Slide the folded paper into an envelope.
Just like with learning the handwritten letter format, there is a simple formula you need to follow for formatting an envelope to be mailed:
1. On the top left part of the envelope, write your full name and address.
2. On the top right part of the envelope, place a stamp.
3. In the middle of envelope, write the full name and address of the recipient.
Do not forget to write clearly on the envelope. You do not want all of your hard work to go to waste by getting sloppy at the end!
Also, be sure also to use an appropriate stamp, your recipient may not appreciate seeing a stamp of Gene Simmons in full Kiss makeup or a Halloween stamp in the middle of July.
Now you have mastered the handwritten letter format; you are ready to craft your first letter and let your feelings shine.
Do not be afraid to try out writing a letter to someone who has helped you personally or professionally.
The recipient is more than likely to enjoy receiving a thoughtful letter from you and may send you a handwritten letter back.
Have you decided who you will write to? Through dedicated writing, you may even inspire those around you to write letters and spark new life into this classic art form.