Friday, 18 July 2008

The death of letter writing

I don't as a rule read the 'Woman' section of Friday's Western Morning News but a caption at the head of a column written by Gillian Molesworth caught my eye today. Gillian is I believe an American and has a regular piece under the title "Crossing the Pond". The particular heading that I'm referring to says "Letter in the post conveys so much more than e-mail". For what it's worth I agree with her. We are right in the heart of a communications revolution with so many ways of getting in touch. The downside of all this clever stuff such as e-mails is that we become totally seduced by it all. I am a great believer in using what is appropriate for the circumstances rather than using electronic wizardry as a 'one size fits all' solution.

For many folk, particularly older people and those without computers, there is a particular pleasure gained in receiving a hand written letter. Of course handwriting is part and parcel of an individuals personality and inevitably it means more to get this sort of letter. That's not to say that other forms of communication should be ignored, I don't mean that for a moment. I am absolutely fascinated by the whole subject of communication - one of the excuses for writing this blog of course. A lot of people, more the younger generation I suppose, become over reliant on one or maybe two ways of getting in touch. I'm rather more a 'mix and match' person happy to use the immediacy of email or phone but knowing that the letter in the post is sometimes the right option.

I'll just expand on this a little. I am programme secretary for a local history group and will write a formal typewritten letter to a speaker to confirm details of a talk. This might occasionally be by email if I know the individual from past contact and seems right for the occasion. After the talk, slide show or whatever I will write a thank you letter by hand (blue ink on white paper of course) under a letterhead because I believe that sort of personalisation is important and like me they may well be appreciative of the increasingly rare handwritten letter.

Then there is the matter of salutation: personally I'm very happy if someone says "Hi Brian" and in many emails that is the sort of phraseology I use. And I might end with "Regards" or "Best Wishes" say. But for many people this modern casualness is something they really don't like. I have to say here too that it's usually the younger generation that don't realise it's 'horses for courses'. Choosing between "yours sincerely" and "yours faithfully" at the end of a letter is another area where some people come a cropper.

One of the problems today of course is that so many of us don't have lives which our 'time rich'. The days when you would sit down quietly on a Sunday afternoon with no distractions to write a letter to keep in touch with that special relative or friend seem to be disappearing. I applaud Ms Molesworth's plea to get back to hand writing letters but sadly it might fall on stony ground.

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