The Art of Letter Writing

“The pen is the tongue of mind”.

Letter writing is an art. Since inception of writing, we have been using letters to convey our message. A letter is a warm blooded substitute for a personal visit. It should be written in a way that it touches the heart of the receiver and coveys the exact message and emotion of the sender. As such, the matter of the letter should be properly thought out. One should know the implied significance of the letter. A letter should have continuity, logic, emphasis and purpose. A letter looses its freshness and fascination, if an expression is misuses or abused. For an impressive letter writing breathe the personality into your letter. John B. Oplycke once remarked, “What makes a letter alive? What makes it breathe and pulsate? What makes us read a letter again and again? The answer is personality.”

In public schools the children are often taught to write clearly, legitimately and gracefully. It is always a source of joy to receive a well written letter in lovely and neat handwriting. A letter with a sketch or illustration is treasured in memory. Our parents conversed with us through hand written letters. Yet today, it seems that art of writing is dying. We usually postpone answering letters from friends and relatives because we think it is rude and pointless to scribble two hurried lines. Nobody, it seems, has time to write an elegant letter with family jokes or news. His becoming very common to send greeting cards on special occasions, such as birthdays, Eid, Easter, Christmas, New Year, Wedding, Marriage Anniversary get well cards etc. Though they are well meant, they usually lack the warmth.

Like a living person, a letter should have a personality and a structure. It is mainly comprised of the heading, body and consistency, layout and setting. The salutation and subscription should be proper and appropriate according to the status of the writer and addresses, and the occasion. The letters may be personal or social, public or private, formal or informal, business or employment application and academic or educational. Each kind of letter has its own particular form and function. However, as far as possible the letter should be short and sweet and convey the message in clear worlds and direct language. The heading should be properly written with sender’s and receiver’s name and addresses, telephone numbers, date and appropriate salutation. One never gets and second chance to make the first impression. As such, the opening sentence should be carefully thought out and well written. It should followed by the message, written in a simple language, legible handwriting and clear style. The body of the letter should be divided into suitable paragraphs according to the subject matter. It is not a good habit to talk too much about oneself. Avoid repeated use of I’s and ‘me’. The letter should end with a greeting or a personal note. The subscription should correspond to the salutation. The writer should end the letter with his signature in legible writing.

A letter should be well composed. Visually it should look attractive, with proper margin on all the four sides and appropriate places for addresses, salutation and signature. The stationery, letter head or paper should be invariably neat and clean and of standard size. The written matter should be well composed. The letter should not look either blank or overcrowded. Never overwrite, insert words or write a note or P.S. after closing a letter with signatures. Care should be taken to maintain straight lines, both vertically and horizontally. Likewise, the envelope should be neat and clean and of proper size. Complete address along with pin-code should be written, in legible handwriting. As far as possible, one should always use blue or black ink for writing a letter. In some cases green ink can be acceptable, but never use red ink. Calligraphy pens are most useful for good handwriting. A letter written by a calligraphy pen can be eye-catching and distinct in this age of ball-point pen.

A good letter is like a banker’s cheque. A good business letter can fetch money because words are not only wealth and wisdom but the juice of modern civilization. A letter should be lively, lovely, musical and picturesque, but simple. A personal letter to a friend or a relative should be written by hand. It assumes warmth, which no machine can achieve. The art of writing by hand itself seems to be dying out.

The letters are mass-produced on computers or in offices, ignoring the quality of letter. These letters are full of sound and fury, but signify nothing. It becomes a bad habit to write a letter on machine, which makes a letter impersonal, even to look at. No doubt, it is easier to read. In a hand written letter, even hurried scribble, assumes warmth which no machine can even achieve.