This is “Writing Personal Letters”, section 14.4 from the book Writers' Handbook (v. 1.0).
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 license. See the license for more details, but that basically means you can share this book as long as you credit the author (but see below), don't make money from it, and do make it available to everyone else under the same terms.
This content was accessible as of December 29, 2012, and it was downloaded then by Andy Schmitz in an effort to preserve the availability of this book.
Normally, the author and publisher would be credited here. However, the publisher has asked for the customary Creative Commons attribution to the original publisher, authors, title, and book URI to be removed. Additionally, per the publisher's request, their name has been removed in some passages. More information is available on this project's attribution page.
For more information on the source of this book, or why it is available for free, please see the project's home page. You can browse or download additional books there. You may also download a PDF copy of this book (17 MB) or just this chapter (77 KB), suitable for printing or most e-readers, or a .zip file containing this book's HTML files (for use in a web browser offline).
Personal letters might seem to be a quaint form in the twenty-first century, and there’s no question they have an old-fashioned feel to them. But it’s precisely their unusual, almost rare nature that can make them so powerful. The very act of taking the trouble to find a stamp, envelope, and postal address elevates the importance of your message as the sender. As the recipient, when you open your mailbox and find a personal letter from someone, you tend to honor the care that person has taken to communicate with you in this medium. Imagine being the only job applicant who writes a personal letter of thanks for an interview, or the only former student who writes a personal letter of thanks for a letter of recommendation. Yes, it’s quaint and old-fashioned, but it can also be a very effective way of distinguishing yourself from the crowd. And sending a personal letter to a close friend in a time of need or celebration can still be just the right thing to do.
Personal letters are just that—personal. Hence you can create them in any way you like. You should, however, keep in mind that once you write and send a personal letter, it becomes a permanent, tangible written record, even more so than an e-mail or a post on a friend’s social networking site. So make sure you write information and use a written format with which you want to be permanently associated.
The following lists present some typical features of personal letters.
How would you commemorate the following events in the life of a close friend who lives on the other side of the country? Would you send that friend a personal letter, an e-mail, or a text message or post a message on the wall of her social networking page? Discuss the implications of your choices of medium.