For most of us, handwritten letters don’t show up in the mailbox everyday … which makes them a real treat! It’s a win-win: the writer gets a creative respite as she or he crafts the letter, and the recipient is introduced with a delightful bounty a few days later. This post provides a little refresher course in how to put together a ordinary yet elegant letter that is both joy to make and a joy to receive!
Before phones, email, and internet, letter writing was the way to communicate! Inevitably, however, letter writing has lost its place as the most popular mode of communication. It is much more convenient and efficient to give someone a quick call or write them an email. The disadvantage of electronic correspondence is the loss of individual touch: emails, calls, Facebook messages, and texts are intangible, and most will fall by the wayside as the days pass. That’s where letters truly shine: they capture a lump of the author with handwriting, ink choice, stationery, and enclosures. For that reason, letters stand the test of time — and they make the recipient feel very special! In today’s blog post, we’re going to examine how to write a standard and plain yet elegant letter.
Letter Writing Supplies
The list below outlines a few basic supplies for writing a letter. Keep in mind that letters are just as unique as the people who write them, so if you want to add or subtract from the list, you absolutely can!
I always begin by choosing an envelope. Your envelope selection should match your creative mood on any given day. If you aren’t loving any of the envelopes in your collection, you can always make your own !
If you would like to write on the envelope with a dip pen and ink, you might take a look at the How to Choose the Best Calligraphy Envelopes post. In the post, you’ll learn which envelopes «play nice» with calligraphy, and which to avoid!
You can use any paper that appeals to you! I generally use paper that has been cut to fit the envelope I have chosen.
To figure out the decent dimensions to cut your paper down to, you’ll want to measure your envelope horizontally and vertically.
Once you know your measurements, subtract 0.25″ from the horizontal number, and multiply the vertical number by Two.Five. As an example, my envelope here ended up being 6.Five″ broad by Four.75″ tall. As a result, I cut out a 6.25″ x 12″-ish chunk of paper. You have some wiggle room on the vertical measurement of the paper because you’ll be folding it up anyway!
If I have a lot of time and patience, I’ll write a letter using a dip pen. That said, I’m perpetually lacking time, and often my supply of patience isn’t much better … so I revert to using a gel pen! The Pilot G-2 .05 is a dearest because of its reliability and vivid ink.
Even tho’ I usually don’t write correspondence using a dip pen, I think it’s gorgeous when people do! If you’re feeling like writing a dip pen letter, go for it. I received one of the most beautiful dip pen letters from Jodean Cooper last year … what an amazing artist!
If you don’t have Jodean’s patience, however, you can be in the regular pen camp with me. Just pick a pen that you love using, and you’re all set to go!
Paraffin wax Seal (Optional)
A paraffin wax seal is a totally frivolous and unnecessary element of letter writing, but if you’ve got one, it adds elegance and a touch of nostalgia to your work. Paraffin wax seals were once a very popular — and necessary — way to seal letters!
I always note the irony of using a glue gun to apply such an antique element to letters … and yet, you can’t hammer the modern convenience. If you’re interested in a paraffin wax seal glue gun, you can purchase one at Paper & Ink Arts ; otherwise, you can find «old school» paraffin wax tucks in a myriad of colors at Nostalgic Impressions .
Letter Writing Process
Decorate the Paper
If you’re not using pre-decorated stationery, you can embellish the paper to add some personality to it! In the photo below, I have used the Geometric Embellishments concept from the Four Ordinary Envelope Embellishments post.
Feel free to experiment here! You can embellish both the top and bottom of the stationery, as I did in this example, or you can choose to embellish only one edge.
Write the Letter
If you have opted to use unlined paper to write your letter on, it’s a good idea to put it on top of notebook paper. You can then use a light box (< that’s an affiliate link — but it’s a quality and cost-effective little machine; the one I use is needlessly more expensive) to see the lines underneath. If your paper isn’t too thick, then you very likely won’t even need the light box to see the lines! (Printer paper is excellent to write letters on because you can generally see right through it sans light box.)
If you can, attempt to write in cursive. That will give the letter a nice, vintage feel!
As far as content, you can find several letter writing prompts in the The Letter Writer’s Accomplish Resource. Here are some basic prompts I use:
- Write about what’s going on in your life, especially if it relates to the person you are writing to.
- Ask questions — either specific («What is your beloved restaurant right now?») or more broad («Where do you see yourself in ten years?»).
- Reaction any questions the person may have posed to you the last time you corresponded.
- Make recommendations for recipes, good television shows, or music.
Once you have written the letter, fold the top of the letter down. The fold should be just a tad shorter than the vertical length of the envelope — in my case, that’s Four.Five″. Fold the bottom up over the top, and you’ll find that the bottom fold is significantly shorter than the top and middle folds. That’s ideal! You can now use your paraffin wax seal to secure the letter shut.
I realize that sealing paraffin wax isn’t exactly something that everyone has laying around somewhere. If you don’t have any, washi gauze, a cool sticker, or a DIY paraffin wax seal will work just as well!
Decorate the Envelope
There are about a gazillion mail art tutorials on this website, and you’re welcome to use one that appeals to you in order to create an artistic envelope! I opted to make an envelope that echoes the design motif of the paper.
Next, write the recipient’s address and put on some stamps! I opted to use George Style lettering for the name and Sans Serif (with slightly slanted «O»s) for the address.
An elegant Janet Style come back address contrasts nicely with the geometric hand-lettering on the front of the envelope!
Once you have decorated the envelope, you can slip the letter inwards and send! Here are some tips to go after to ensure your letter reaches its intended destination:
While letter writing is a fairly basic topic, sometimes it’s good to come back to the basics! Reminisce that the instructions outlined above assume that you have an hour or so of free time to craft your snail mail correspondence. You can always trim off time by using lined notebook paper, skipping the paraffin wax seal step, and writing the address quickly! When it boils down to it, we all write letters differently, and I hope that you’ll take my steps as suggestions (rather then the rule) next time you sit down to write!
Glad snail mailing!
Thank you, Lindsey for your post and free practice sheet!
I also find it lighter to cursive write than print. All the forms that must be packed in printing give me trouble, as I default to cursive. -))) I am from Europe, so English cursive is a bit different for me. I am learning. Thank you for being so generous.
Love the idea of cursive written letters. However even just a holiday cards are now infrequent. I love your posts on card making, with watercolor and dip pen.
What slams do you use with the glue gun? I used your link to look at the old fashioned rams and eyed a myriads of stamps! I never fresh they exist!
I agree — cursive is lighter to write than print! It was actually invented as a quicker alternative … you hardly have to pick up your palm to write it. ?? The glue gun that I use is a low-temperature gun that came as part of a set with special plunges. However, I personally think it’s lighter to use paraffin wax and a flame. I’m not sure where in Europe you’re from, but I’m writing this from Italy (Florence), and I’ve seen a lot of stationery shops around with sealing paraffin wax. It’s undoubtedly available here!
Alanna Ti’a says
Love all your posts! I am woefully behind on bday cards. However, I send paraffin wax sealed cards all the time and have never had to use extra postage. They sometimes take a little longer to get to their destination, but I’v never had one returned for lack of postage. ??