a handwritten letter and a bundle of letters tied with string

The Art of Letter Writing

stationery and materials for valentine's day and lunar new year
stamps, paper, and pens and pencils
a hand holding holiday cards in front of a door and holiday lights
Photos by Zoe Diaz-McLeese

Most of the time, getting mail sucks. We trudge to the mailbox, only to find an endless stream of bills to pay, coupons we’ll never use, and catalogs we’ll never shop from. Mail is rarely fun anymore, unless you get a package, or even better… a letter.

There is something uniquely special about receiving a hand-written letter in the mail from a friend or loved one. I started writing letters to friends and family five years ago when I was living in France after college, and it was a fun and unique way to stay in touch with loved ones from around the world. When a friend of mine died unexpectedly from cancer, I had a bundle of her letters to look back on to remind me of her wit, heartfulness, and our shared love of purple ink.

While gifts and presents are always nice to receive, sometimes a thoughtful written letter can be a meaningful and personal way to tell someone that you’re thinking about them.

First, some practical advice for writing artful letters.

Choose the right medium for your letter

Plain paper and an envelope work just fine. Fancy stationery exists, and it’s delightful, but not always necessary. You want to choose the medium that will work the best for the message you want to convey. I’m partial to postcards for quick messages, notecards for special occasions or if I find one that reminds me of the recipient, and sheets of paper for longer missives. Some of my favorite letters use non-traditional stationery, like cute packaging or shopping bags. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

Ensure you have the correct postage

There are few things I enjoy more than cozying up with a cup of tea and the USPS’s Philately magazine, choosing stamps to order from their regular new releases. It’s amazing to me that a tiny artful sticker can allow pieces of paper to traverse the globe. While using a “Forever” stamp is the easiest route, pay attention to the shape of your envelope (square envelopes require more postage because they can’t go through the standard cancelation machines), the weight of your envelope (you can purchase postage for additional ounces), and where it’s going (international letters require more postage, but the USPS sells special Global Forever stamps too). Be careful if using vintage stamps—uncancelled postage can be used at face value if it adds up to the required amount needed to mail your letter. For more information about postage rates, see the USPS website.

Addresses matter

When addressing your envelope, make sure it’s legible and clear—and include the ZIP code.

The most important part of a letter is what you write

Like I’ve said, you don’t need anything fancy to send a letter. Paper, envelope, and a stamp will do. The most important part of the letter is what you put in it. Your handwriting, your message, and your time and effort are the most important parts of your letter. You are a work of art and sharing yourself through a handwritten letter is a personal and beautiful way to let someone know you care. Happy writing!