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Why I Still Write Letters

May 2, 2013

A man was complaining to his brother that his son in college never wrote him letters.

“I’lll bet you $100 that I can get him to write me a letter.”

“You’re on.”

Two weeks later the man showed his brother an envelope addressed from his nephew.

“How did you get him to write you? And so soon?”

“Simple. I wrote him a letter explaining that I understood college was expensive and I wanted to help him out by sending him $100.”

“So, he wrote back to thank you?”

“No, he wrote back to tell me I forgot to include the money.”

Is there anyone who likes email any more? If you’re in business, you probably set aside an hour or more per day just to sort through your email. My inbox has been as high as 1000 unopened emails. Anytime it’s below 50 I count myself successful. But, barring the occasional email from Mom typically

TYPED IN ALL CAPS ALTHOUGH SHE’S NOT ANGRY OR YELLING, BUT PLEASE CALL YOUR BROTHER,

who looks forward to that? Your coworkers probably text you if they need something quickly. Don’t get me wrong, email is an important business tool. But, as a way of communicating, it leaves a lot to be desired. That’s why I like letters. Regular typed, or better yet hand written, stick it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and wait three days, letters.

I like to receive them, and you have to send them to get them. I have a group of friends and family that I’ve known for 30 years or more. They span a range of locations and professions. One is president of a television studio in California. Another is a pod caster in San Francisco. One runs his family’s garage in Spanaway, WA. Another is a software tester in Seattle. We don’t have a schedule, and sometimes we’ll go months without sending a letter. But, nothing brightens my day like finding a letter from one of them in my mailbox. . .my REAL mailbox, the one with the little red flag on the side.

Letters are inefficient. They take days rather than minutes to arrive. You have to pay $0.46, plus the cost of the envelope. They take longer to write.

Those are exactly the reasons I like them. When someone sends me a letter I know that they cared enough about me, about our friendship to go to all that trouble. In a day and age where I have 588 Facebook “friends,” many of whom I’ve never met, and over 500 LinkedIn! connections, it’s good to be reminded of people who I have a physical connection to and a history with.

And when I sit down to write a letter, I put more thought into it. I like to write by hand on a yellow legal pad. 20130501-231940.jpgMy handwriting has never been great so I have to slow down and focus to make my missives legible. Again, it helps me to slow down and think through what I want to say.

One of the funnest part of letter writing is to write to someone who I haven’t written to before. They are always shocked. I’ve gotten letters and phone calls talking about what an event it was to get a letter.

And it goes without saying that sending a handwritten note after an interview leaves a much more lasting impression than a quick email. Although, if you can’t find a stamp, send the email rather than doing nothing.

So, write your mother!

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