An Ode to Handwritten Correspondence: Why True Gentlemen Master the Craft

Posted on November 27, 2009 by forgetfulgentleman | 1 Comment

In 1929, at the height of its usage, 20 million telegrams were sent worldwide. The world’s population stood at 1.5 billion people. Today, with a world population of 6 billion people, roughly 600 million emails are sent every ten minutes. Given the explosion in the speed and sheer volume of communication today, is it any surprise that while communication is easier than ever, it is also increasingly impersonal and ineffective? We are inherently social, relational beings, and technology dehumanizes many aspects of our relationships. We, the original forgetful gentlemen, think it’s time to consider the need for a revival of slower, more thoughtfully considered and ultimately, more personal communication.

In the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul, sits the world’s oldest love poem. Carved into a clay tablet, the cuneiform script exclaims “Bridegroom, you have taken pleasure of me, you have captivated me: let me stand trembling before you.” Love may not be forever, but this expression of it has outlasted swords forged by fire, cities designed by the finest architects, the largest machine ever to fly and the most titanic boat ever to sail. To write his verse, the poet would have had to compose the lines in his head or recite them to a friend. Then he would have molded the clay tablet and slowly, but deliberately, carved the verse into it with a reed staff before the clay hardened. Finally, he would have dried the poem in the sun and waited another day for it to cool, when it could be delivered to his beloved by hand.

I love this mental picture of the young Sumerian hunched over his clay tablet because it reminds me of the fact that certain expressions benefit from careful deliberation. Love, of course, but so too regret, longing, forgiveness, curiosity, anger, etc. Communication – the conveyance of meaning from one person to the next – depends on how we frame it. The second-most important question we must face, after choosing to communicate at all, becomes how to deliver what we want to say. In the same way that a smiley face or “LOL” can never replace the sight of an actual smile or convey the uplifting sound of a friend’s laughter, an email, text message, Facebook post or tweet can never compare with the emotional connection created by the tactile feel of paper inscribed by distinctive handwriting with a thoughtful message written only for you.

When we choose to take the time to write, we choose to embrace a deeply personal medium with a 4,000-year-old history. One that expresses the sentiment often left unexpressed through digital communication. Your handwriting reflects your personality. Stationery enhances the emotional connection of the occasion. From selecting a card to adhering its stamp, the exercise demands a personal focus that every recipient can appreciate. The thoughtful expression of a handwritten note captures warm occasions and great milestones as tangible memories through passing time. And can anything compare with the joy of discovering a personalized letter or card waiting in the mailbox?

As you join us in our rediscovery of the lost art of handwritten correspondence, we are sure that you’ll find a satisfaction that the Internet with all its “social” networks simply can’t match. As John Freeman puts it in his book The Tyranny of E-Mail,

“The difference between typing an e-mail and writing a letter or memo out by hand is akin to walking on concrete versus strolling on grass. You forget how natural it feels until you do it again.”

Here are a few easy ways to get started:

1. Two-four-six-eight, who do you appreciate? The best place to start is by simply thanking someone for their kindness or generosity. By recognizing someone else’s positive intentions, you are encouraging more thoughtful behavior and creating a virtuous cycle of thoughtfulness.

2. Keep your message short and sweet. Just because you aren’t Shakespeare (yet) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t express yourself. Often times a single, concise sentence can be more powerful than hundreds of words.

3. Invest in finely-crafted stationery. Quality paper heightens your experience in the same way excellent wine, delicious food, a well-built car, or fine fabric does in other areas of life. The art of crafting a handwritten note is an experience you should enjoy.

4. Good pens go a long way. The feel of a fine pen striking quality stationery will inspire you to do it again and again.

5. Just because. You don’t always need a specific occasion like a birthday or holiday to write a note. Often times the best handwritten notes are written on a whim, simply because you are thinking about someone else at a point in time.

6. Make it a special surprise. If your loved one is going away on a business trip, hide a note in her luggage so she will think fondly of you despite being thousands of miles away. If someone has had a rough couple of days, deliver the note in person to their doorstep.

This post is influenced by and borrows from John Freeman’s excellent book, The Tyranny of E-Mail. If any of this has resonated with you, we strongly recommend you read it.

Creative Ideas for Delivering Handwritten Correspondence

1 Response


January 13, 2010

You bitch!I'll remember that! Did you think my best buddy wouldn't tell me?That's it! I'm not doing your sister!Rob

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