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Don’t Dismiss The Power of a Letter

Is e-mail and text messaging taking over how we communicate with each other? For many it is. But the “old-fashioned” letter has its place. The Postal Service processed more than 960 million cards and letters in one day last year and people like Colts’ Quarterback Peyton Manning still like the personal touch a letter brings. Here is why.

For centuries we’ve jotted down our thoughts, feelings and dreams in letters and posted them to family, friends and business associates. Just think of the many books written about our forefathers that rely heavily on personal correspondence like John Adams by David McCullough and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.

So what’s happening to this simply pen to paper correspondence?

For awhile e-mail, and more recently, text messaging, seemed to be taking over.

But don’t be so quick to dismiss the “old-fashioned” letter. More and more correspondence is being sent on fine stationary, note cards and greeting cards by those wanting to reconnect with their family and friends. The Postal Service processed more than 960 million cards and letters on its busiest mail day last year — December 15.

Another case in point: Colts’ Quarterback Peyton Manning. Since 2004, Manning, the all-pro quarterback and MVP for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, has been writing letters to fellow players — regardless of the team they played for — when they retire. “I always enjoy getting a handwritten letter,” Manning says. “I wanted to let these guys know that I appreciate the way they played.”

Manning said it wasn’t about stats. It was about players he felt played with class and pride. To former San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Trent Dilfer, Manning wrote about how Dilfer treated him during Manning’s rookie season.
“I appreciated that he took the time to do something like that,” said former New York Jets’ running back Curtis Martin “When a letter is handwritten, there’s something that says, ‘This is from the heart.'”

Former Chiefs’ offensive lineman Will Shields, former Titans’ tight end Frank Wycheck, former New England Patriots’ wide receiver Troy Brown, and former Ravens’ quarterback Steve McNair are some of the other letter recipients.

The gift of a letter

For many, at the end of the work day, going home and checking e-mail isn’t always high on the priority list. But, according to the Postal Service, 98 percent of Americans check to see if they got any mail.
Finding a personal note or letter among the magazines and pizza coupons is always a pleasant surprise, especially when you think about how the sender took the time to share their personal news, address the envelope and mail it.

And a letter can be enjoyed over and over again.

In The Art of Correspondence: Letter Writing 101, Mary Mitchell writes, “Not one modern communications marvel can replace a letter. It is more than a communication. It is a gift. A letter can have special powers. It can be more intimate and touching than even a conversation. It can be more personal than any telephone call.”

The key to letter writing is to just say what you’d say if you were talking face to face. A letter doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Just a Thinking of You card with a few lines saying you and your family are fine is all it takes to start a string of correspondence with someone you’d like to reconnect with.

About the Author

Marilyn Jones has been a journalist for more than 30 years and is currently a freelance feature writer specializing in travel. Her articles have appeared in major newspapers including the BostonGlobe, Akron Beacon Journal and Chicago Sun-Times as well as regional travel magazines.

Visit her website at