“News and gossip, the sticks and straws out of which the old letter writer made his nest, have been snatched away. The wireless and the telephone have intervened” – Virginia Woolfe
Fears of new media leaving traditional practices by the wayside have been a long debated topic, particularly when it comes to how we communicate with one-another.
As you can see, Virginia Woolfe expressed concerns that the likes of the telephone looked to do-away with putting pen to paper. We hear many arguments that social media is overtaking the handwritten letter, and while we can’t deny it has become a large part of our lives, is it really reducing our love of the written word?
Popular trends and most used sites shift year by year meaning we’re constantly finding different ways to communicate. Over the last few years Twitter has emerged as one of the most popular social networks, as you can contact hundreds of your friends at once with bite-sized messages. But this type of correspondence can seem quite fleeting. Even a message from someone you haven’t heard from in quite some time can get lost in the shuffle of notifications and promotions, but we can end up keeping letters for years at a time.
To investigate further, we quizzed 1,000 members of the public to find out their online and offline correspondence habits and see if we really have lost touch with writing letters. Here’s what we learned from our survey:
Comparing the amount of letters we write to the amount of tweets we send out, the difference was stark. On average, we’re sending sixteen tweets a month compared to writing just one letter. 64% of people even admitted to not writing any letters over the course of a year. This would suggest that we only consider online when it comes to communication, but that isn’t the case. When asked what form of correspondence means most to them, 69% of people still chose the handwritten letter compared to just 17% preferring an email or a tweet. Some may point to convenience as the main reason to message someone electronically, but this very same point highlights how important letters feel. It’s instantly recognisable when receiving a letter that you know someone has taken their time to sit down, carefully consider what they want to tell or ask you and want to hear back from you. Across the country and through age barriers, we found people love receiving letters, so why aren’t we writing more of them? Perhaps what’s holding us back is a lack of personal information. When asked how many home addresses (a formally well-known piece of information) we know of our friends, the UK averaged just 27%. On top of this, a third of people admitted to knowing 5% or less of their friends’ addresses. We found the older you are, the more you appreciate and are inclined to write handwritten correspondence. Both the amount of people choosing letters over electronic mail, and the amount of home addresses known increased with age. Looking across the UK, Sheffield is the most on top of their friend’s contact details, knowing 39%. Looking at some of the UK’s most tweet-happy cities, Oxford tops our list with forty-two a month from each of its residents for every letter they write. This isn’t surprising with the high amount of student residents as 24% of the city’s adult population are in full-time education, the highest proportion in the country at a time where Oxford’s population is growing at its quickest rate ever. Again, this doesn’t seem to reduce their appreciation of the letter, with 65% of their citizens saying it means more to them than methods of online communication. In fact, across the UK, no city gave a lower score than 62% when it came to loving the letter. As a country, we seem to love receiving letters, but are reluctant to put pen to paper! This is where we come in. Pick up the Pen This Year! To encourage people to write more letters this year, we’re suggesting some easy tips that can help you get into the habit of writing more letters, and hopefully receiving more too. Get an address book A simple solution to one of country’s problems! By chronicling your friends’ contact information in a dedicated address book, you can better keep on top of where they are and how they’ve changed over the years. A casual perusal may land you on someone you haven’t been in touch with in quite some time and spark a new letter. Pick out special stationary Even the most well-meaning person can be daunted by a blank, white page and the need to fill it. Rather than pulling some paper out of a notebook or printer tray, be sure to invest in some special stationary dedicated to your letter-writing. Not only will the recipient appreciate it, but you’ll find using them becomes a ritual. Choosing a fountain pen will not only get you in the writing spirit, but is also a luxurious writing experience with its smooth flowing ink Using the same pen and paper just to write letters keeps the moment special! Don’t worry about your handwriting One of the most common feelings for wanting to type rather than write is that our computers can correct things. Spellcheck keeps everything correct and fonts make all of your word look uniform. However, those eccentricities are perfect for writing your letters. A fountain pen will improve your handwriting over time, though try not to worry about writing your neatest or making everything perfect from the start and you’ll find yourself writing much more naturally. Keep your correspondences going Once you’ve gotten into swing of handwriting letters, be sure not to make it a one-off thing. Getting back in touch with one person can spark a chain of regular mail, and introduce you to more and more people. The more you write, the easier you’ll find it and the more you’ll find to write about! As we’ve discussed before on the blog, keeping a healthy amount of handwriting in your life can have many benefits and writing letters is the perfect chance to get hands on with a more personal way of communication. We all love seeing the letter come through the mail, so let’s start sending more ourselves!