The Importance of Letter Writing in the Digital Age

By Liv Phillips

CatlinSpeak (Portland, Oregon)

Kathy Zadronzy and Donovan Beeson formed the Letters Writers Alliance in 2007. This organization aims to reinvigorate interest in letter writing.

Recently, technology has replaced the necessity of letter writing. Updates on people’s daily life, contacting relatives, and paying bills have all transitioned to online. Mail has become obsolete in many people’s minds.

However, technology cannot replace the same sentiments that letter writing can express. Being an avid letter writer myself, the friendships that I have established via snail mail are a very magical thing. I have reconnected with distinct cousins and made lifelong friends. I will cherish my letters, as they will serve as a placeholder for a moment in time, where I recount memories and establish new ones.

The Letters Writers Alliance was established in order to rekindle letter writing. Their mission statement is: “In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving this art form; neither long lines, nor late deliveries, nor increasing postal rates will keep us from our mission.”

The Letters Writers Alliance is not only reviving letter writing by providing a penpal service, they also reach out to communities by providing letter writing socials. These socials provide people with free stationery, pens, and typewriters to help get more people involved in letter writing.

The dedication of the Letters Writers Alliance has received well-deserved media attention from BBC, NPR, and the Chicago Sun Times.

Letter writing allows for the writer to retain personal privacy, because in this day and age, it is easy for personal documents, photos, and files to be shared online by hackers.

These principals are reflected in the Catlin Gabel english curriculum. The school has also been encouraging letter writing for its students, as it is an integral part of the English curriculum.

“We [the english department] were surprised to find that many students did not know how to address an envelope, and it seemed important to preserve this skill in our younger generations” commented Nichole Tassoni, head of Catlin Gabel’s English department.

Tassoni adds, “Letter writing is also a great way to master the skill of writing for different audiences; for example, finding the perfect valediction can be tricky, depending on the intended recipient. The act of writing out the letter with pen and paper inspires careful thought in matters like these, simply by slowing down the process of writing.”

“It is fair to say a majority of the students in the PLACE program from Catlin Gabel and other high schools in the region have never written postcards and need instruction on how do it. As a result, one of the fun outcomes of the PLACE program is that students learn how to write postcards,” stated George Zaninovich, director of the PLACE program and teacher at Catlin Gabel.

Letter writing is slowly becoming a thing of the past, and with more and more students not writing letters or postcards, we are losing an important piece of history.

Letters and postcards are like time capsules, as they show snippets of regular peoples lives.

Below are images and excerpts from old letters and postcards

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An excerpt from the first letter reads “I have expected to hear from you regarding what I wrote you some weeks ago and hope you will let me know what surrender value the Burberry asked you on the policy.”

 

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This letter from a dad to his son reads “Must close now Andy, 9:20 its time for bed. Greet the wife and your daughter. Thanks again for writing, hope to hear from you again.” He later writes “Everything is swell with me, I’m a tea drinker from Oregon now. Very seldom drink coffee now.”

 

IMG_0506-e1425447763524This postcard sent in 1949 from the Austria reads “we are having a grand trip.”

 

All photos by Liv Phillips

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (www.wantnewsforteens.com).

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