First, full disclosure: I'm not one who thinks email is necessarily so cold and dreadfully impersonal. It's really only offensive when people use it in a thoughtless way. That said, nothing beats an old fashioned letter sent via snail mail. And I don't just mean short obligatory notes -- thank-you notes and the ones described by the editors of Vogue's Book of Etiquette as "bread-and-butter" letters written after spending a night or more in someone's house. But longer, newsy letters that "come alive with feeling and invention."
According to the Vogue book, "a good, interesting letter is filled with the news, ideas, and opinions of the writer."
Today most people aren't used to receiving longer letters; some might even panic at the sight of three pages of script, assuming they are about to read bad news! On Paper Source's site, in one of the how-to video guides, there is a good tip for setting the tone. Include a long lost picture and start by saying something like, "Dear Uncle Lawson, I recently found this photo in a drawer. Remember that summer when..."
It might surprise you to learn that even in the 60s forward thinking Vogue editors said typed letters were indeed acceptable for informal letters to close friends. "If your handwritng is difficult to read or if you have a great deal to say, typing can be a saving grace." They did not, however, mean thank-you notes and they cautioned against attempting to make type face look like script by using swirly "affected" fonts. Everyone seems to agree that handwriting is always preferable. It's simply more personal.
One of my uncles was very skilled at the art of social letter writing. It didn't matter if his letters were typed or handwritten -- the content was the star. Even as a young student at Hampden-Sydney, and later when he was in the Navy, he wrote meaningful letters to his parents and grandfather. The papers were saved, so now younger relatives who never had a chance to meet him can read them. When my sister and I were very young he sent us long, funny, fanciful letters filled with stories that incorporated my imaginary friend.
If you're going to the beach this summer, consider saving a few shells and maybe a pinch of sand to send with a letter in one of these pretty convenient mailers available at Paper Source.
An elderly person who spends most of her time at home or a very small child would appreciate being remembered. I wouldn't send a 12-year old camper any pictures that might embarrass him, but mail is usually appreciated by older kids, too. With letter writing it is acceptable to treat yourself before you begin the challenge. So plan to indulge in your favorite cold summer drink while you put pen to paper.
If letter writing doesn't light your fire today, check out this audio slide show about Virginia Johnson via Toronto Life.
All of the stamps shown here are via the United States Postal Service. Inspired by 18th Century French playing cards, the "Love" stamp (King and Queen of Hearts) was designed by Derry Noyes and artist Jeanne Greco. The flag stamps were designed by Phil Jordan using paintings by Laura Stutzman. Designed by Ethel Kessler, the tropical fruit stamps incorporate work by illustrator Sergio Baradat. Images seven through eleven feature Virginia Johnson's work as seen over at Toronto Life.