Letter Writing 101


Today I’m inspired to talk about How To Write a Good Letter!  Won’t that be fun?

One of our girlfriends, Heather, wrote me a couple of days ago . . . she has a daughter named Olivia; they live in California, and Olivia is going away to college in August.  Mom and daughter have decided to correspond “the old-fashioned way,” as she put it, with hand-written letters.  They’re making a diary of Olivia’s college years to last forever.  Which will someday be priceless for them, and even more, for their great-great-grandchildren.  Heather asked for ideas on writing good letters.  I told her I would think of some and jot them down.  So here we go:

This won’t be about business letters, there’s plenty of that out there on the Internet; I’m more interested in letters between friends, like these planned between Heather and Olivia; moms and daughters, sisters, and best friends; Mother’s Day is coming soon; mom’s adore hand-written letters from their children. (As a hint, your child could read this post. :-))  
The one thing I remember when my mom first taught me about letter writing was that she said never to use “I” in the first sentence. I don’t know where she got that or if it’s a real rule, but it stuck in my head and I pretty much can’t write a letter any other way; if I start with “I,” my mom appears over my shoulder (which is always a good thing).  But I think what it means is that a letter should always begin by making the person you’re writing the focus and main subject — just a little thing like, How are you?  How have you been?  What have you been up to?  Then you can say, “I loved your last letter — you have no idea how you made my day.”  Now the receiver is totally in love with you and you can say everything else you like. 
  
A letter is a gift; so if you think of yourself as “giving,” you will make your letters just naturally more interesting to the person receiving them. Ask yourself  ”what can I give (my person) that she would like?” Such as the name of a good new book you are reading, a recipe, a detailed description of what was served to you at a restaurant, what you wore, a movie review, what your new shoes look like, a great web store for clothes, a funny conversation you had; details make a letter come alive. Little inclusions like a page of stickers, a fall leaf, a cartoon from a magazine, an article you think the receiver would be interested in, the name of a website or blog you love to visit, a bookmark, a CD, a dried flower, a photo, or a drawing in the margins can, of course, add a lot to the gift of a letter and make it into a kind of art.  They turn your letters into “keepers.”
In front of me on the table while I’m writing, when possible, is always the last letter I received from the person I’m corresponding with.  I take care to answer any questions they may have asked; respond to what stories they have written, comment on their new shoes, their new adventures, their hopes and dreams, to keep the thread going, so they know I’m “listening.”  They also spent their time writing to me, and I want them to know I am grateful so they will do it again!  

 Sometimes I have so many things to say I even write the subjects down ahead of time so I can remember to include everything… such as: the bird feeders, what Jack (my kitty) did, tea with the girls (what we ate and wore, who said what), what Joe is doing, a trip we’re planning.  I always ask about their own families and friends, moms, and children; their new house, their upcoming party, etc. I don’t want the letter to be all about me. The idea is to put a bit of sunshine into an everyday world of vacuuming, ironing, grocery shopping, dinner making, the regular old routine. I want my letters to make someone stop, put the kettle to boil for tea, get a cookie, and put their feet up.
Pretty stationery is fun to write on, but it isn’t necessary; lined school paper is fine too . . . and perfect handwriting isn’t necessary either; typing is OK, but
everyone does love a handwritten letter; “There ain’t (as Thomas Edison said) no rules around here; we’re trying to accomplish something!”  Despite all the “rules” I’ve just given you, your own heart will be the true dictator of what should or shouldn’t be included.  A letter should be like your spoken words, imperfect, honest, straightforward and real.  Do your best with spelling and grammar but don’t fret about it.  The only thing that matters is the connection, and that happens with flow of words, and sharing of life experiences.
 I keep my favorite correspondence in a basket with a lid; as I’ve always said, a phone call is nice, email is OK too because it’s the way of the world and staying connected is the most important thing, but an old-
fashioned letter can truly be a work of art and a voice for the ages. The story of my life is in that basket!

There actually is one steadfast rule in letter writing: never, ever send a letter in anger.  If there are words you feel you must say, go ahead and write them, as strongly as you choose, get everything out of your system; then put the letter in a drawer for at least a week.  I guarantee that when you read it again you will tear it into a thousand pieces and be so happy you never sent it.  All conversations such as these are best done in person; you will not need a letter like that floating around in the world.  Needless to say, this goes double for email, do not push “send!”
While you’re on vacation you often face the extreme letter-writing challenge: how to make postcards interesting with so little space to say anything and no envelope to put anything in!  Usually I choose a card with a picture that tells one story, while I pick a subject of the travel that’s different 
and try to be as detailed as possible, expressing the immediacy of a particular moment; such as, “We’re sitting in a sidewalk cafe, at a table for two with wire back chairs that are bent into heart shapes; the sun is shining, little breeze is blowing, there are big white clouds, red geraniums in pots are everywhere; the awning over our head is black and white striped; in front of me is a tall double-decker red bus stopped to pick up a gaggle of school kids in their uniforms, and I’m writing YOU. Joe is playing with his camera, we’re sharing a plate of “chips,” which I’m tearing up and tossing to the little wrens hopping around under the table.  It’s a wonderful trip; miss you; wish SO MUCH that you were here, love you, xoxo. ”  Something like that.
 
Well, I guess that’s all I can think of about the wonderful world of letters. Hope it’s helpful. And to you Heather and Olivia, enjoy your letter-writing project!
One last thing — this kind of goes along with letters; I keep hearing that Congress is trying to do away with the Post Office (!), and that in fact they have begun to close some of them.  If you feel, as I do, that this is going too far (since, for one thing, we have the nicest people in the world working at our post office), would you please email your representatives and ask them not to do this?  Remember how quick they can do this kind of thing so that we don’t even realize what’s happening until it’s too late? Now is the time to tell them that we would prefer they keep their rotten little paws off the post office (you probably shouldn’t quote me :-)).  They have closed tons of Post Offices in England, so we know it can happen.  It’s so sad, and we are the only ones to save ours.  If you don’t know who your representatives are, just Google it (like: “Your state name, congressmen and senators”).  And then, for example, let’s say your senator is Mike Smith, just Google “Mike Smith Contact” and you’ll get their email address; tell your senator to vote for bill #S1789 to save the Post Offices. I knew you would want to know. xoxo 
Have a wonderful day! ♥

110 Responses to Letter Writing 101

  1. Laura from England says:

    It’s my birthday today and as a treat I was browsing your website and came across this article that I hadn’t seen before. What a lovely gift!
    You are so right about the post offices disappearing in England – lots and lots of the smaller ones have closed down although some have been turned into community stores or have diversified to fulfill another purpose as well such as grocery store or tea room.
    I’m off to open my birthday cards and have a cup of tea (it’s 8.00 am here) and wait to see if the postman brings me a card from my brother – he often leaves it late!

  2. Samantha says:

    I loved this about letter writing, my grandmother (Gogo) used to write to me all the time, I loved getting letters in the post and I had penpals too, one of which is my bestest friend still today. I love getting letters in the post, it truly does brighten your day when amongst the bills is a letter hand written filled with news and fun things that the other person has been up too. Thanks so much for sharing this with us, I do love reading your blogs and getting to know the other girls on your facebook page. I am in Aylesbury, England

    • sbranch says:

      Hard to believe the small world, but one of my most favorite pen pals in my life EVER lives in Aylesbury. Her name is Rachel — she makes baked things and sells them at the market on Saturdays I think. We were pen pals for years, then we started going to each other’s houses.

  3. Lois Pearsey says:

    I totally agree, there is nothing more personal or heartfelt than a handwritten letter. My daughter in law has her 5 year old son hand write thanks you notes and mail them when he receives a gift. I treasure each one and have them in a memory box.

    • sbranch says:

      I save those letters and drawings by my nieces and nephews too, and even some from my friend’s children.

  4. Karen P - Wisconsin says:

    “I want my letters to make someone stop, put the kettle to boil for tea, get a cookie, and put their feet up.” This is EXACTLY what I do when I get a handwritten letter from one of my sweet penpals! It’s a real treasure and I love to savor the moment! Thanks for this sweet, informative little blog! Love you, girl! xoxo

    • sbranch says:

      I remember my mom reading a letter in a variety of poses — hip against the kitchen counter, sunlight streaming in the window behind her; feeding the baby with one hand, letter in the other hand. It was a moment in the day that belonged to her. Some letters she would bring to the dinner table to read to us.

  5. ChiChi says:

    Oh Sue, How horrible! How terrible to want to close the post offices. I agree that we must make our voices heard. I will. Thank you for the information.
    BTW, lovely post about writing letters… ChiChi

  6. Penny H says:

    Thank you Susan – these are such wonderful ideas!

  7. Meem Ontko says:

    Your writing about letters is wonderful. One friend and I have written to each other for over 30 years. The day her letter arrives allows me to fix a cup of tea and sit down to read her letter the first time and then several times after that. My husband had three aunts in Cleveland that would correspond with me. They are gone now and I miss their newsy letters with recipes and advice. I write each week to my niece in college; she sends thanks by texting and tells me how wonderful to get the letters. She wrote once during this school year. Letters are a gift; folks are missing a special treat by no longer taking time to write letters. Thank you for your article. Hoping to get a pen pal through your FB post.
    Enjoy your blog and posts. Your recipes have gotten me compliments every time I make one. Just this morning my niece enjoyed your blueberry corn meal pan cakes. Thank you thank you!!

  8. Judy F. from Orange County, CA says:

    I’m with you, Susan on the closing of our post offices. There’s always a need to go there, especially at Christmas when mailing pkgs. out of town. Seems like way too many of our familiar places are no long here. When they closed the Border’s bookstore in my neighborhood, it was such a shame…what’s next, the library??

    I love handwritten letters but sadly those too are fading away. My best friend has lived in Las Vegas, NV for 40 yrs. now and we used to write back and forth, when she first moved away, at least a couple of times a month…what on earth did we have to say all those times? Unfortunately, I can no longer hand write due to arthritis in my hand so typing comes so much easier for me now. It was always a treat to see an envelope addressed to me that’s NOT a bill! We still stay in touch but now it’s her coming here for extended stays or we pick up the telephone.

    Once again, your blog is refreshing and uplifting. Thank you!

  9. Pam Massey says:

    i love hand written letters and treasure those I received from my grandmother,aunts and other relatives- mostly as a child- I love to read old letters written years ago to relatives- it is a lost art and everyone should be able to write a good letter by hand.

    • sbranch says:

      Would be a terrible tradition to lose — having a little stack of important letters becomes a part of a person’s history and who they are.

  10. Jo in Western Springs, IL says:

    Thank you for this wonderful tutorial! It has encouraged me to start letter-writing with my two aunts in Texas who I don’t get to see very often. They’re special to me and I want them to know just how much. Thanks again!

  11. Paulie says:

    Hello Susan!
    What a delightful reminder of all of the great things in letter writing we lernred in grade school.

  12. Rosie Price says:

    Since you started your pen friend listings Susan some time ago – there was an explosion of friendship across the water to England. I now have 6 regular penfriends and also have connected with some of their friends. It is a sheer delight to receive a letter or package in the mail, often with little gifts, stickers, sea glass, postcards, recipes, decorated letters and envelopes, poems etc. Each envelope is stuffed with love and positivity – we can share the everyday moments with each other and swap stories and photographs. I treasure every one. So thank you – I hope many more FOSB will connect with each other.

    • sbranch says:

      Isn’t that great? It used to be so much harder to find a pen pal, so I guess we can thank the computer for making it easier to find each other!

    • Sweet Sue says:

      Just read your blog on Letter Writing 101—-superb and so true, so true—I would much rather write a letter or send a card with a note in it than talk on the phone or email. It is a lost art yet doesn’t have to be!
      I would love to have some “penfriends”……let me know how you can connect me to your pen friends listings mentioned above in Rosie Price’s May 2013 comment. I would also like to be a pen friend to others……
      Awaiting your reply!! :-) :-)

      • sbranch says:

        Every so often we post an suggestion on my Friends of Susan Branch FOSB Facebook Page for anyone who’s interested in a pen pal to leave their name and contact. We get hundreds of replies to this post … it’s very fun to imagine our friends all over the world connecting in this way.

      • Mamey Brown says:

        Sweet Sue, I would LOVE to be your pen pal…..I’ve wanted a good pen pal for years!! I’m a little skeptical to sign up for some of the sites online, but meeting a “girlfriend” on Susan’s website just might be the perfect match. That goes for anyone else out there. I’m not sure if this is where I should leave my address or not. Please advise…

        • sbranch says:

          Maybe someone will reply to your comment here, but also we often share pen pal addresses on my Facebook page.

  13. Donna W. in AL says:

    What a lovely post on letter writing! I have several penpals thanks to FOSB! I always try to send little goodies {stickers, bookplates, recipes, bookmarks, etc.} with each correspondence. And receive many of the same in return! When time doesn’t allow for a lengthy letter, I send a postcard from my area and give a little history lesson.
    I wholeheartedly agree about contacting our Congressmen/women and letting them know that our Postal Service is very much needed. My husband is a city letter carrier and it amazes me how much his customers depend on and appreciate him. Some many of them look forward to seeing him every delivery day, even the kids. One very hot, humid day, one of the children on his route offered him a cool dip in his blow-up pool! So sweet! Thank you, again for the tips and “Happy Corresponding!”
    ~Donna~

    • sbranch says:

      When I was growing up we had a mailman named “Breezy.” He was a big part of the neighborhood, you would hear people calling out, “Hi Breezy!” He fit in and helped bring us all together. Tell your husband we love our mailmen!

  14. Hi Susan,
    Thank you for a very lovely post reminding us of the luxury of a hand-written letter. I still keep letters and cards sent by family and friends from throughout my life. It is a treasure beyond price to be able to re-read some thoughts from my Gran almost 30 years since she passed away or a birthday card from my teens. These are love cemented into scraps of paper that I can always keep. We are all lucky to get your Willard, but the ones who have been your pen and paper pals are even more fortunate. Sending love from the other side of the Rockies! <3

  15. P.S. I signed the petition and posted the notice on Facebook. I hope they get enough signatures in by the due date. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. :)

  16. Nettie says:

    This is a great blog Susan. I am a huge fan of hand written letters. I have always written to my sons, my husband and people who are important to me. My oldest son bought me a beautiful fountain pen years ago that I love to write with. I am always sure to have ink and pretty note cards on hand.
    Probably my favorite letters are ones I have written to my sons, my husband or my grandchildren. I know that one of my sons carries a letter from me quite often ( his wife told me he had it in his pocket when they attended a very sad funeral of a friend). I think the best of who I am is how I make someone feel and to get a letter usually makes someone feel pretty darn special. It is always worth the effort.
    Thank you for always being an inspiration Susan.

  17. Marsha Whitestone says:

    Dear Susan,
    Thank you for your lovely insight into writing personal letters. I really feel like handwritten letters are a dying art. Who doesn’t smile and feel happy when they see a letter from a friend in the mailbox? We must support the post office and keep in touch by giving of ourselves to one another. A letter or note says I am thinking about you. I care about you. You matter! Your articles are so loving and so well written. Hearing from you makes me smile and makes my day. Keep up the good work! Fondly, Marsha

  18. Linda... Gardnerville, Nevada says:

    I JUST love to read your blog … It always brightens my day! Keep ‘em coming :)
    Have a happy day… L

  19. Chris Denicola says:

    Having a pen pal (from Susan’s list!) has been one of life’s gifts to me. But I admit that sometimes my letters must be more than filled with “I” … and my mom and grandmother taught me NOT to do that as well so I will listen to them next time!! If anyone is reading this and doesn’t have a pen pal … well, it’s a bit like being a friend … “you have to be a good pen pal to have a good pen pal.” But once you do … new windows to the world will be opened!

  20. Laura says:

    Yes, I agree whole-heartedly with you, Susan! Thank you for expressing what so many of us feel … you are a voice for us kindred spirits. :)

  21. Gail Halper says:

    My niece went to Florence, Italy for her college junior year abroad. My only requested gift was a letter with a stamp and post mark from Italy. She told me “No, I don’t use the mail.” I was so upset. Her generation is so lazy and not very sentimental!

    • sbranch says:

      Well, I hate to say it, but don’t blame the entire generation. I can’t even understand the word no to such a nice request. I would do it for you Gail!

  22. Hello, Oh how I loved your article so fun! I would love to write you a letter and tell you of the happenings in and around my neck of the woods. I so love receiving mail and would hate for the post to shut its doors. Let’s all pray that doesn’t happen. Have a bright and cheery day, Sherrie

  23. Elaine says:

    I love handwritten letters! I send them to my sons (who are living on their own, now). I always write them about what’s going on in the family; grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.. Too make sure they write back, I have made it kinda fun for them, asking a question and making up crazy, multiple choice answers for them to circle. I also leave an option, for “other (explain)”. Sometimes, I even make a fill in the blank section or a response letter in the “mad lib” format. They will 90% of the time, return a copy of the letter, answers circled or filled in and their own personal letter to me. It’s been a lot of fun! I love hand written letters!

  24. Laura says:

    Hi Susan,
    Wow, I must say that I have been a HUGE fan of yours for many years–going back 20 years ago and receiving one of your cookbooks for my 10th birthday. I love all of your personal touches on all you do–your books, calendars and thoughts. You are truly a gift and inspiration to everyone and one of my idols! About 7 years ago, my family and I traveled out to your shop and visited San Luis Obispo….only to find we missed you by a day! :( I was so sad (my Mom had called and let them know we were coming to visit), but I still thoroughly enjoyed your store and felt like I was visiting your home. :) I LOVE your recipes and lovingly read your cookbooks, hoping to visit Martha’s Vineyard someday. About the letters–yes, I truly agree that letters are a lost art but I hope those of us that do write don’t give up! My fiance (now husband) and I exchanged letters when we had to be away from each other, in different countries, for 6 months. I tried to write him everyday, (like in the book The Notebook) showing him how much he meant to me. It was SO special, and I will cherish our letters forever. There’s nothing like written word, the feel of paper, the smell of old letters and the feeling that someone took the time to write, showing they care. Cheers! And again, thank you for YOU!
    -Laura :)

    • sbranch says:

      Ohhh, those letters! What a treasure Laura! So sorry I missed you at the store … maybe someday we’ll meet!

  25. Anita Page says:

    What a delightful article. You have such wonderful ideas. Thank you! I thought I would share with you a few things I’ve done along these lines.
    I am in my fifties and have nieces who are very special to me in their twenties, thirties, and forties. I have recently been copying old family photos, particularly of my nieces’ fathers (my brothers) when they were young, and sending the photos, along with a story about each one, to my nieces at random times. They would never see the photos unless I sent them, and they all just love to get a little surprise in the mail. I suggested to them that they keep them in a binder for future reference. (A nice Susan Branch binder would be a great birthday gift! ) Sometimes I draw and color pictures on the outside of the envelopes or on the story page.
    Also, you know how we all have our special life “stories”. Well, I don’t and have not kept, a journal. Big mistake. But…I lately have been writing down my “stories” about my life lessons, funny things that happened, my ideas about what I’m gonna do when I (hopefully) go to heaven, inspirational things that happened to me, etc., and keeping them in a binder too.
    And don’t forget the old idea of writing a letter to children and using hand drawn pictures of items in the letter. For example, “I planted some (picture of flowers) today. The (picture of kitty cat) watched while I did it.” My grandpa wrote a letter like this to my oldest brother (now 68) back when my brother was very young. His wife found it and framed it for him. That simple letter is now a very special keepsake and hangs on the wall in their home.
    Also, many years ago, I had a couple of relatives who were very special to me. Both lived in other states, one was a widow, the other bed ridden and being taken care of by her husband. I would write letters to them about what I was doing, what I was baking, what I was doing in my garden, what I was sewing, things that I knew they loved too. The bed ridden relative couldn’t feed herself, read, hardly anything. She had owned one of, if not the first, quilting stores in Colorado Springs. Her husband would read the letters to her, and he said it seemed to really brighten her days. He probably enjoyed them too. Anyway, just some ideas. Take care!

  26. Maria Sturos says:

    My younger sister and I write letters to each other. If we use the phone, we tie up the line for 2-4 hrs. Isn’t that something? So, we love to write and her letters are on very deep feelings that come from the heart. I save them all because they are a part of her. She is 69 yrs. old and has a wonderful husband and children around her but lost two sons to accidental deaths. I had a wonderful husband who passed away nine years ago but my children and grandchildren keep me busy and happy in my old age. I am 75 yrs. old. I love reading your blog and Williard.
    Maria

  27. caye freels says:

    what a great article about the lost art of letter writing. I recently found tucked inside my Bible, given to me when I was thirteen..now I am in my sixties! there were two handwritten letters my Mother saved..one I wrote on my first Mothers Day to my dear Grandmother about my new baby boy and Motherhood. the other was written on notebook paper with a pencil wishing my Mother a happy day. they are precious to me because bot are in Heaven now and I miss them so.

  28. Patricia LaRue says:

    Just came across this ‘treasure’ on letter writing. My life has seemed to center on letters and I think they are part of my purpose here on earth. I have a bundle of letters from a dear aunt who passed, I have binders full of letters from soldiers, sailors and Marines I’ve written to, and just yesterday I received a letter from a 17 year old boy who I helped teach in a 4th grade special education class. He thought of me, found me address and reminded me that I helped him write a letter to the President of the United States. Letters touch hearts, both sent and received. Thank you, Susan, for all your helpful hints. Now, I’m going to write a letter!

    • sbranch says:

      Love your comment Patricia! It would be a sad world if real letters, in all their inky stampy glory, went away forever.

  29. Susan Olds says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about letter writing these days- how sad it is that so few people write letters anymore. So….Susan, how about adding a link to your wonderful website for a pen pal social network? As for me, I’d love to correspond with someone in England. I lived in England for a few years and miss it so much! What do you think? There are so many kindred spirits who leave comments on your blog, you could start a letter-writing revolution!

    • sbranch says:

      We should do that on the blog. We DO have it on FOSB, my “Friends of Susan Branch” Facebook Page . . . Peg set up a pen pal system there, check with them. We have letter writers connected in several countries, and here too.

      • Margot in Virginia Beach says:

        I think this is a great idea! I am too afraid to go on Facebook, however.
        I found a wonderful book in a used bookstore last Spring, “How to Handle Your Correspondence”. I believe in was written in 1964.

  30. Jenny Page says:

    Thank you for this. After having read the novel I’ll Be Seeing You, I was reminded of my long lost practice of letter writing. It was my way of connecting to the world when I was a stay-at-home Mom and was fairly grounded in life. I have decided to take up letter writing again. It’s such an encouragement to find an envelope in the mailbox from a dear friend. I actually long for it and never find it. I do get some precious emails and texts and Facebook messages, but somehow they’re just not the same as a handwritten letter on paper I can hold in my hand, fold, unfold, refold, and read again and again and again. Sometimes I spend a morning poring over old letters and memorabilia. Such a blessing! Anyhow, I found this blog entry in such timely perfection that I just wanted to thank you for all you do. You bring a bit of sunshine to my day and remind me why I like being a lady and how I should never stray from preserving such practices. Society is so empty of them and lost to personal connection…

  31. Julie says:

    I so enjoyed reading this post. I had a pen pal for many years and it’s just not the same now that we e-mail. I do think there’s something about that instant-ness of e-mail exchanges that changes the way we write. I love the surprise of a letter in the mail, and I love the process of writing –it requires you to slow down when you’re using pen and paper (plus I love pretty papers). And then, the fun of decorating the envelope before sending it off…..I miss that. Susan, if you ever do a pen pal exchange here (I’m not on Facebook.) I would certainly be interested in making a new friend or two to correspond with. Anyone who likes you, I think I would be a fine friend, indeed.

    • Julie says:

      Oopsie. It should have read “Anyone who likes you, I think would be a fine friend, indeed.” tee hee.

    • Sweet Sue says:

      I agree with Julie…..I would be very interested if you had a pen-pal exchange here on your blog as I also do not do Facebook. I would also be interested in making new friends to correspond with.
      Thanks!

      • sbranch says:

        It’s a little different here on the blog, I would love to do that, but when I write a post lots of people respond and not all of them are looking for pen pals and there is only one place to leave a comment. But on Facebook we say: anyone who wants a pen pal, leave a message here, and then everyone who wants a pen pal leaves a message and a contact so they can write to each other. See how that goes? There are many different subjects and comments going on on Facebook all at the same time.

  32. CATHERINE says:

    SUSAN
    I LOVE TO HAND WRITE LETTERS, IT’S A GREAT PERSONAL TOUCH. WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL, THEY TAUGHT US PENMANSHIP AND TO THIS DAY I STILL WRITE LETTERS. YOU ARE KIND ENOUGH TO LET US DOWNLOAD SOME GREAT STATIONARY, SO WHO CAN RESIST? I AM A “NUT” WHEN IT COMES TO SPELLING AND GRAMMAR. I AM ALWAYS CORRECTING PEOPLE WHEN THEY SAY WHO INSTEAD OF WHOM! IT’S ALL IN GOOD FUN THOUGH. THANK YOU FOR THE ARTICLE. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
    CATHERINE
    P.S. I DO HOPE I DIDN’T MAKE AN ERROR!

    • sbranch says:

      LOL! I write emails to my publisher all the time and just pray I’m not making grammatical faux pas .. need a live-in editor! (Had to look up faux pas!)

  33. evangeline says:

    Just found your post on letter writing…I look every day for a post or something I may not have seen on your blog etc. It is where I go for inspiration and joy. Letters are like “chocolate” to me…I want to savor them… and re-read etc. Have not taken time like I used to write…miss it terribly…internet just not the same at all… Am going to start back immediately! I practice handwriting and want to develop a signature and “pattern” all my own. I see so many different peoples handwriting and go “I love how that L looks or look at that V”… do you have any suggestions where to go to see different script to practice technique? It is sunny today and I am inspired.. sit in the sun and write about my little home here in the mountains of NC… Asheville… . I love making my home “homey” and having traditons.. I named our little home Honeysuckle Cottage… so thank you from Honeysuckle Cottage… for your many gifts .. you ROCK!! evangeline

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you Evangeline! I’ve probably squiggled at least two more books worth of playing with handwriting in my life! It’s a little bit of art is what I think!

  34. Raynore Jones says:

    I just have to comment that Mike Smith was our Senator in Louisiana a few years ago. He really took care of us and was proud to be from my hometown too.

  35. Maria in Long Beach, CA says:

    Hi, Susan…Someone(my mother, aunt, grandmother, teacher)also taught me the rule about not starting a letter with “I.” Actually, I was told to use “I” as little as possible so as not to make the letter all about me. Just like you, the whole time I’m writing a letter, that advice is playing in my head. Our family has always been on the small side in terms of relatives, but as a child I loved to write to my great-aunts, my grandfather, my cousin and to my dad(while we vacationed and he stayed behind to work). Sadly, all those people are gone now. None of my friends live out of state, but you made me realize that doesn’t matter. A letter is still a wonderful gift to receive even if it only travels a few miles.
    It was a treat to read the letter you wrote in grade school and thought, “what a small world this is.” I was born at St. Mary’s and currently live two blocks from Minnie Gant Elementary. My son attended Woodrow Wilson High School which is on the corner of Park Ave. And I guess you couldn’t have guessed you’d be the oldest of 8 kids ;)
    Thanks for another beautiful and inspiring post.

    • Cheyenne Renard says:

      Susan I love your letter writing 101 u should have an area on your post for ppl who would love to have pen pals can do so , I would love to have pen pals i have some great friends that i have had for over 40yrs but they dont write me they call or email or facebook me . I am on facebook undermy name Cheyenne Renard also in Willard i think issue # 9 . I would love to write Judy F in Orange County Ca since i am from Huntington Beach Ca and now live in Henderson Nevada. I also would love to write to Maria in Long Beach Ca since my sister worked as a Dr at St Marys hospital my Son was born at Long Beach Memorial 34 yrs ago when it was a nice area. I still love Long Beach area esp the Queen Mary. I was Born in Oct 6th . I love Sue n Joey Hall (Branch ) any thing SB. I love to read n love PBS.Org love Downton Abbey and now the new show Mr Selfridge its really a cute show love the costumes. I love books , cook books quilts movies. Alot like Susan Branch wished i had her watercolor talent , but love the things she loves. I am happy to be alive. My children are grown n I love the color pink, i am in Mary Kay Cosmetics . My hubby was with the studios in LA Univeral and Warner Bros. Robert is awesome very creative . I would welcome any pen pals either facebook me or e-mail me and i will send you my address. I am pretty much an open book what you see is what you get. I am a woman of faith and i Love Children , i have three grands under 4. I am also a Cancer survivor . I love people and it shows. I would love to hear from you . I have a female Cat or furry child like Jack she is babette. I love animals . Love to you Blessings to all Cheyenne XXX Love Tea n Tea houses , i come to OC alot normally ,My mother passed away last Nov 30th so its been hard but i know she is with the lord n much better off . Thank you Have a great week XXX

      • sbranch says:

        I hope you find a wonderful pen pal Cheyenne . . . also if you’re on Facebook, every so often we have a post where everyone who wants a pen pal leaves a message and then you can choose someone and contact them. If you go there now and scroll down a ways, we just did it a couple of weeks ago and got tons of response. Go HERE.

      • Mamey Brown says:

        Cheyenne I would LOVE to be your penpal. Or anyone for that matter: My email address is: mamey@roadrunner.com. I am 42 years old. A woman of faith as well. I LOVE LOVE LOVE SB. I also love to read, journal, garden, cook, crochet, scrapbook, make homemade cards. I too LOVE Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge. Great shows. The wardrobes are AMAZING!! I could not imagine having to get that dressed up just to go down to dinner, but I Love that period. If you are interested to become pen pals email me and I will give you my address.

  36. Marilyn Slater says:

    What a lovely way to inspire people to write!! A friend told me about your blog so I had to investigate – sooo very happy I did. Your 101 instructions are perfect for any one, but really great for a procrastinator like me. I feel so guilty not having written all those gems for my children, but it isn’t too late to start. Thank you so much, M

  37. Denise Armstrong says:

    Hello from South Africa. Just read your article on letter writing. I remember when letters were the only form of corresdpondence and we sent Christmas cards in the mail, spent hours choosing & writing them. Our daughter lives in New Jersey, the mail system from here is very costly and unreliable, thank goodness for emails ☺. We send an email to each other everyday with news from the day, feel that it makes her seem closer. It is great to put down the days goings on and how we feel in writing. As you say we avoid the things that may have made us angry. I really enjoy your web page and the Calendar with quotes, memories and recipes. This is the first time I have read your blog, it’s great.

  38. Ellie says:

    Hi Susan……I always love reading your posts!….On this page of “Writing 101″ there is a beautiful, little picture of sheep on the side of a green hill….. I love this picture because it is so simple and peaceful. Is this a print that is for sale somewhere? It has an antique look to it which I also love. Thank you for sharing it and I hope I can find it somewhere……Sincerely…….Ellie

  39. Ann Jane Koerber says:

    This post regarding letter writing struck a chord in me and I wanted to put my “2-cents” in. When I was 20 (45 years ago) and engaged to be married, I received a letter from my Father explaining his feelings of love when he met my Mother, when my brother and I were born and how much in love he was with all of us. The letter was three pages long, on white linen tablet paper and in beautiful script (for a man). He expressed how happy he was that I was marrying a wonderful guy who was “going somewhere” in life and that my eyes twinkled when I was with him. He explained that I looked the happiest he’d ever seen me. You see, my Mother, the one that he loved so much had passed away 11 years before his letter, he worked hard to raise two motherless children and to make us happy……Dad then passed away 7 years after writing that letter. The letter is still in my possession, and, after 45 years of marriage to that “wonderful guy”, I have many, many precious possessions, but none are as cherished as the letter from my Dad! I still write letters and will until I can no longer write……thank you, Susan Branch for your wonderful post on something as simple as letter-writing.

    • sbranch says:

      Thank you for sharing that lovely story. How lucky for you that your dad took the time to write it all down. He must have been a sweetheart.

  40. Carol McAdoo Rehme says:

    I’ve written my mother nearly every week since I left for college in 1971. Through the years, I’ve had a number of elderly pen pals– the best, and most appreciative, letter writers EV-er! — including my husband’s childhood piano teacher, my in-laws, various aunts and uncles, even an old beau’s mother. This process enriches my life with connection and relationship and sharing. I’m still penning several notes each week, seeing each as a gift … and treasuring the responses I receive in turn.

  41. Barb Jensen says:

    What a wonderful idea for Heather and her daughter Olivia to keep in touch by writing letters. My dad wrote me every week when I left home in 1972 to attend college.Each letter, no matter how brief, was wonderful. Every Saturday morning he would go to the bank where he worked and type a letter just for me. Often there wasn’t much news, but he kept me up-to-date on what had happened during the week. He continued the tradition of writing each week after I graduated from college, got married and had three children. His last letter to me arrived just days before he died in 1993. Recently I found all the wonderful letters he wrote his parents and sister when he was in the army during WWII. He was gone four years and sent them weekly letters from basic training all the way through his journeys through Africa and Italy. Truly, a hand-written letter is a gift. I keep in touch with four very dear friends via hand-written letters. I think we went to the same letter writing school as I follow the same rules you do!

    • sbranch says:

      Your dad was a writer! I think my mom is too although she would never think of herself that way, but all those letters do say something.

  42. Judy Mapston says:

    I would like another pen pal. I have two and love it..

  43. Susan Norbut says:

    I love to write and doodling on the edges is the greatest! I have letters that were written from WW2 (not to me) and they evoke such pictures in my mind!

  44. Love Love this post Susan,it gives me so many ideas on the correct way to make my letters so much more interesting. Last year I started writing to a pen pal in New York that I picked from your list. So glad we found each other,we both love to garden,are retired Nurses and have loved you and your books for years. I’m going to print a copy of this so I can keep with my letters that I save from my pen pal. Someday I hope to visit her,she lives close to the falls which is on my bucket list ! It is a shame about the post offices,here in Kansas a person started a site where you could send letters to rural areas to try to save some of the smaller post offices , I thought that was a great idea, my Mom is a retired rural mail carrier. So thanks again for this great post!

  45. Mrs. Sandra Lopez says:

    Way a lovely idea. My mother was a teacher for many many years and one of the many beautiful things she thought me was to always (now better than sooner) you must send your Thank You notes to your relatives and friends who so graciously has reached out to greet you and know how are things. Just a simple note to let them know you are thinking of them
    I love writing and still so much enjoyed receiving notes.
    Thanks you
    Sandra Lopez

  46. Helen says:

    You certainly touched a lot of hearts with this post……comments have been going back and forth for almost a year! My dearest friend of 48 years passed away in January 2012 and part of my heart went with her. She left me with precious memories and years of thoughtful gifts…that comfort me as I look around my home and “see” her presence in each room. A small suitcase that my daughter bought me holds all those years of letters and cards in her handwriting……irreplaceable……thank heaven that they were saved…..not knowing that one day there would be no more. I continue to add little things from her as I find them, to the case……a bookmark with a note on the back….a holy card….a Christmas gift tag….and the letters from our local library thanking us in 2012 and 2013 for the gift of books we purchased in honor of her birthday. The first year we requested that the money be used for illustrated children’s books including poetry and this last year we chose books on quilting. The library puts a book plate in the front of each book with Karen’s name….letting all borrowers know they were purchased to honor her beautiful life. I love thinking about all these books out in the world being passed from hand to hand and providing enjoyment for so many…..she is still making a difference.

  47. Marietta Crews Crapps says:

    Dear Susan,
    I loved this blog. I’m 61 and though never good, my handwriting has deteriorated over the years to where I can barely read it myself, much less foist it on someone else. I do try to handwrite thank you notes. For longer epistles, I rely on typing. I try to choose an interesting font. I’m pretty computer savvy, and text too. I learned how precious handwritten letters are when recently I had a brief episode affecting my health. Though it was minor, many friends and relatives from all over sent lovely cards. Now I’m sending thankyous to them. Those cards with personal messages inside meant so much! I will try to be more conscientious about keeping up with correspondence, handwritten and electronic. Thanks for the good reminders.

    • sbranch says:

      I’m writing a new book and in the process I’m going through old letters. Yesterday I found a three-page letter from my grandma who was very special to me. It’s all about HER, I’d asked her lots of questions and she was answering them, but she goes on and on about how much she loves my mother in the absolute sweetest way. So I called my mom and read it to her, and we cried and had my Grandma back for a few minutes. That’s the power of a letter.

  48. Monica Wilson says:

    I have so many wonderful stories of how letters have come back to touch me. The most special was last summer after my 91 year old mother passed away. I was cleaning out her desk and found in the back of a drawer a set of letters that my father had written to my mother after they had been married about five years. My mother, along with my brothers and I, were in Norway for a month, visiting my grandparents. My father wrote to my mother almost every other day and through those letters I got a picture of their early marriage and the love they had. I wish I had the letters my mother wrote back to him, but even so, this was a wonderful window into their young lives.
    Another thing I like to add when writing a personal letter is a pretty stamp and address label. Many times I chose a special stamp that the recipient will enjoy getting. (When I go to the post office, I always ask for any new or pretty stamps! :-)

  49. Janet Faught says:

    Hi Susan, I have loved your work for a long time. I didn’t know you had a blog. Actually, one of my pen pals told me about it. I am enjoying it very much. Have you heard of the Letter Writers Alliance? It is a great place to get pen pals. Its on the net.

    • sbranch says:

      Wonderful information Janet, and the perfect place to put it . . . we do get lots of people asking and have put Girlfriends together via our Facebook page — it’s always fun.

  50. Mary Beth says:

    Just read this little gem this morning and immediately shot off a note to my 20 year old son. He may not write back, but does love to get mail! I included a few bucks for a cuppa coffee and told him to pretend we were enjoying it together. He is spending the summer as a ‘wine-maker’s assistant’ for his internship and I will miss him immensely. Thanks for these great ideas and for all the folks who added to it. I want to be like “Gogo” above and be the mother and grandmother who sends encouragement to her loved ones. Thanks Susan and Happy Memorial Day Weekend. LET SUMMER BEGIN!

  51. Lorraine says:

    I “love” printing your free stationery, but have not been able to locate. Please advise where I can find it. Thanking you in advance for your assistance.

    • sbranch says:

      Click on Shopping at the top of the page. In the column on the left, at the very bottom, it says FREE STUFF. Click on that and there you are!

  52. Mamey Brown says:

    I responded to an email from May of 2013, but if people don’t read all the messages I’m afraid they might miss mine. So I will repeat, I hope it’s ok. I’m looking for a pen pal myself, so if anyone here is interested, respond to this post and I’ll give you my email address and we can exchange info. Happy letter writing everyone!!

    • sbranch says:

      That’s just fine Mamey — maybe Louise would like another pen pal? (Her message was just before yours.)

  53. I belong to two #PostCircles and love love love writing letters. I currently have 9 penpals including one in Fulsom, California. Nothing better than opening the post box on a rainy day to find something lovely to open. I also still have all of the letters I wrote to my husband from the time we met until the time we moved in together, 4 months later. We will have been married 9 years this June.xx

  54. Mamey Brown says:

    Susan, I just wanted to THANK U for putting the penpal post on the FOSB facebook page again! I signed up and I have 4 “girfriends” interested!! THANK U, THANK U, THANK U!! I’m thrilled. U truly are a “girlfriend” even tho we’ve never met!!

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