Things I have learned about writing letters

I have been actively writing letters for a few months now and I thought I would share some of the insights I have learned.

What makes a good pen pal?

So far I have found that the best pen pals have been the ones that are most open about themselves and their interests. I enjoy receiving letters from people that are different politically, economically, spiritually…whatever. Many people find that it is polite and necessary to avoid hot button topics like politics and religion but I find that I enjoy people that are open to discussing these issues even if we differ. It may not be appropriate to begin a relationship with those topics but once you have built a rapport I do not think any topic should be off limits to an open, respectful and honest debate. I find this is a great way to learn, especially if both sides are willing to hear and listen to one and another.

A good pen pal is one that is good at replying. I do not mean immediately or quickly but that replies to letters thoughtfully. The best exchanges I have had are with pen pals that answer questions and discuss topics relative to the letters you have written. It is important to be thoughtful when replying. I take my time with letters. I read and re-read letters before sitting down to reply and when I reply I always do so with the other letter beside the one I am writing, I find this really helps the conversation flow.

Bascally a good pen pal is one that is willing to dedicate some time to writing, crafting and honing a friendship

Letter Topics

Man penpals write short letters that will cover the details of daily life such as health, work, family, book reports, and the weather. Others will write about the pens, ink, and paper they are using. I enjoy all types of letters and enjoy adjusting and tweaking my writing style and type of response to each pen pal.

I tend to write letters that focus on family life, books and pens. I can discuss politics but usually only in response as I don’t bring it up often.

To draft or not to draft

This is not a topic I really thought was an issue until I saw it discussed on the Fountain Pen Network the other day. I have never written a rough draft of a letter as I prefer a more causual. stream of conciousness style. I do not mind crossing out and re-writing a misspelled word or bouncing around a variety of topics, and I do not mind receiving letters written in this informal manor. I think of my letters and replies as a organic conversation and face to face conversations don’t get a rough draft.


One of the biggest lessons I have learned is patience. Letter writing requires patience when writing the letters as well as when you are waiting for replies. In this day of text messages and email it is hard to adjust to not receiving instant responses and I have had to adapt my patience and writing style. When writing an email it is easy enough to write quite little sentences and paragraphs because the recipient can send a quick message asking for more details and clarification but letter writing does not allow this luxury.

Writing a letter requires more thought and dedication and this is one of the aspects of letter writing that really appeals to me.

I hope these tips and thoughts help you in your own letter writing or encourage you to begin.



Filed under writing

3 responses to “Things I have learned about writing letters

  1. Interesting tips. I’ve just started snailing with a few
    folks from FPN myself, and haven’t had a pen pal since grade
    school, so I am rather rusty at it. Right now it still feels a bit
    awkward but I am chalking that up to new beginnings and imagine it
    will get easier as I go.

  2. Carrie

    Got to agree with all you’ve written. I have had penpals in the past who don’t bother to comment on anything in your letter or to answer questions asked, you quickly start to question why you’re bothering when they seem to be engaging in a monologue.
    I’m not a fan of people writing just about the pens and inks they’re using, to me that’s a paragraph of a letter at most, not a whole letter.
    I just wish I had more time for letter writing.