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For the love of letters

| Monday, October 14, 2019

When was the last time you sat down, put pen to paper, and wrote a letter? If it’s been a while — or maybe never — here are my top five reasons why you should.

  1. Improve your handwriting

This is probably the most trivial benefit of writing letters, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth mentioning. We all didn’t spend hours upon hours practicing our cursive in third grade only for it to go to waste in college. Or at least that’s what your third-grade teacher wants to think. Yet even if you’re like me and are already incapable of writing cursive — or legible print for that matter⁠ — that’s okay. Letter writing is practice and practice makes perfect.

  1. Gain a moment of reflection

Texting is convenient because it’s fast. Writing a letter forces you to slow down and to think. Depending on who you’re writing to, it can be an opportunity for gratitude, appreciation, meditation, just about anything. And years later, the letters themselves will be great reminders to you and your correspondents about what was going on in your respective lives at the time. Write about how the latest Viewpoint war made you feel. Write about Billy Joel coming to campus in June. The latest football game. Squirrels. Anything. See them as your own personal time capsule in the making.

  1. Surprise your loved ones

Getting mail used to be fun. Now⁠ it’s always bills and advertisements. Imagine your mom or your grandpa or even your next-door neighbor’s face if he or she were to open up the mailbox and see a handwritten letter sent from someone that cares about them — and a perpetually stressed, busy, sleep-deprived college student at that. You can be the person to rescue friends and family from the drudgery of modern mail. The postal worker might even see your letter, be inspired and write his own. You could start a movement.

  1. Maintain and make friendships

Writing a letter confirms the importance of a relationship. The act of taking the time out of your day and deliberately putting pen to paper is a big gesture in the era of technology. There’s a reason that the act of writing love letters has survived. If you’re looking to expand your social network, a pen pal is a great way to connect with someone from a different culture or with someone that shares your same interests. There’s organizations that will connect you with just about any kind of letter writing opportunity imaginable, from practicing foreign language skills to appreciating Jane Austen.

  1. Join a greater tradition

James Joyce wrote letters. Alexander Hamilton did too. They’re not called emails to the Corinthians. You might say it’s just because these people were alive before the age of email, but try to imagine Abraham Lincoln’s emails in a museum. It just doesn’t have the same effect. If you want to go down in history, I suggest writing letters. The curators of the future will thank you.

If I haven’t persuaded you yet, maybe an appeal to every college student’s fondness for procrastination from Ernest Hemingway will: “Don’t you like to write letters? I do because it’s such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you’ve done something.”

Next time you don’t feel like writing that paper or studying for that exam, I hope you write a letter.

Contact Hanna Kennedy at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Hanna Kennedy

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