Why write letters?

by Amanda Fleet

When was the last time you held a proper letter in your hand? When was the last time you wrote one? Today? This week? This month? This year?

This decade?

This century??

In today’s largely online, electronic world, the humble letter may seem quaint; odd even. Why send a letter when you can text or email someone?

For many historians, letters are important, often vital documents. They give incredible insight into the minutiae of the day. They can help us to understand a wealth of information, and there are numerous examples of important historical letters. Will the historians of the future have access to Tweets? Emails? Text messages? Will such ephemera survive years, decades, centuries into the future? It's often the small things – the things that aren't likely to make it into official documents – that will be the most appealing to them. That you bought a tartan mask during covid to wear in the shops or on public transport. That the supermarket finally had dried yeast and toilet rolls after a daft mass-panic-buying swept the country. That you did a rainbow to put in the window to show support for the NHS, but forgot what order the colours went in. Who knows? But they may not get any of that from records that survive if all we send are electronic messages.

Of course, that’s all well and good for future historians, but there are other reasons why you might want to send a letter. It’s a very personal act. It’s a demonstration that you care enough about that person to spend time and effort on putting pen to paper. The person you are sending it to will no doubt treasure it. I still have letters sent to me decades ago, and when mail arrives and there's a handwritten letter in there, it's always a very special day.

“Okay, you’ve convinced me… but it’s been so long since I wrote a letter, I’m not sure what to buy or do.”

Okay, let's talk a bit more about what you want to write. Because in the same way you don't want to use a spade to prune a rosebush, what you want to write will dictate (to some degree) what you want to write on.

“I dunno. I just thought I'd send a note to a friend to cheer them up.”

Excellent! They will love that and it will mean so much more than just a text message.

There are some gorgeous correspondence cards – small enough that you don't need to write a thesis to fill them; beautifully decorated to bring a smile to anyone's face. Even if you only wrote, "Hey there! Just sending you this to tell you I'm thinking about you!" it would be a treasured thing.

There are also some great cards available and I would heartily recommend the Viking cards. Bold, bright, colourful designs that will look great on display; enough space to maybe write a little more; still small enough not to be terrifying to those unaccustomed to writing letters. They're also perfect for use as birthday cards.


“What about if I wanted to write a bit more?”

If you're writing in biro, there are paper and envelope sets that are beautiful, but be aware, the paper is “laid” paper (which has a texture to it) which means they don't always play nicely with fountain pen. The Bomo Art Letter set comes with 12 sheets of a 90 gsm paper, with 12 patterned LA4 envelopes, in a box. The design of the box matches the lining of the envelopes.

Also by Bomo, there are smaller letter writing packs which come with 12 sheets of A4 paper and 6 DL envelopes with patterned lining paper. There are three designs – balloons, butterflies, and deer and cone. Each of the designs is foil embossed onto the writing paper. The patterned lining papers come in a variety of designs.

There are also writing sets by G. Lalo with laid paper, available in cream or white. Each set has 10 sheets of 100 gsm A4 paper and 5 DL envelopes.

For the fountain pen lovers who want something that plays nicely with nib and ink, these sets by G. Lalo are silky smooth: G. Lalo Velin pur Cotton and G. Lalo Velin de France. Each set has 10 sheets of A4 paper and 5 DL envelopes

Hopefully, I’ve managed to convince you that writing letters is A Very Good Thing, and inspired you with some fabulous products to help you get started.

Happy writing!