Bold strokes, bold messages

Leslie Arntz

This technological age in which we find ourselves provides instant information, instant gratification and instant communication. The benefits are undisputed, but the drawbacks are less noticeable.

Abbreviations are used in place of entire words, and some words are mauled beyond recognition. By writing in this newly developed cultural shorthand, we give up the skills accrued through constructing meaningful complex sentences. Correctness is forgone for expediency.

What did people do before e-mail, instant messenger and text messages? How did they convey pertinent information without meeting someone face to face?

They wrote letters.

The e-mail pales in comparison to the meticulously crafted correspondence of yore. Letters were written for every use and viewed as equal to direct conversation.

The Victorian era marked the pinnacle of letter-writing skills. Intimate correspondence between those courting was usually conducted through letters. Friends wrote letters. News and announcements were distributed through letters.

It was expected to have the necessary skill to write an appropriate letter for all occasions. Thankfully, there was a number of books published providing instruction on how to compose any conceivable letter.

Some books were geared towards romantic correspondence and others were general guides. All contained the same basic rules.

First, carefully choose the stationery. Subtle nuances of emotion are conveyed through the choice of paper. A wide array of colors and qualities are available. The paper should be unlined, and a person should always use a full sheet.

The writing of the letter should be done by hand in the clear, bold strokes of an ink pen. Your words are to be eternal — graphite smudges away with time. Give each thought or subject a separate paragraph for ease in reading.

Pay particular attention to spelling and grammar. Punctuation adds clearness and strength to the prose. Be varied and deliberate in your selection. Never underline any portion of the text. The choice of words will emphasize the necessary points. Don’t use abbreviations — they indicate the letter was written hastily.

Do not add post scripts. They are seen as uncouth, especially when pertinent information is contained therein. Review over the letter before signing and add further information then.

Fold the letter carefully, evenly and only once. Refolding should not be an option.

In personal correspondence, many like to add “fragments of friendship.” This could be a small drawing, a piece of lace or any other small, personal item.

The letter should then be properly sealed and addressed.

Thousands upon thousands of relationships have grown and blossomed over the course of hundreds and hundreds of years through thousands upon thousands of letters.

Few things convey as much depth and meaning than the act of setting aside time to carefully pen sincere words to another.

Gather your close friends and acquaintances and exchange summer addresses. Take the time over the summer months to maintain distance relationships.

Also, don’t reserve letter writing only for times of separation. Even if you see your friend or beloved daily, set aside personal time to write out your sentiments.

Showing you care is relatively cheap. All it costs is change for stamps, paper and ink — and a little bit of your time.

Leslie Arntz is a freshman magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].