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quill and ink pot red

There are no love letters or birthday cards wrapped in ribbon since the advent of email. My days of pining over a pale blue aerogramme envelope, from a foreign county, and the passion of teenage lust and longing are a concept most cannot remember, let alone have ever experienced.

There was also an art to sending mail and adding stickers, confetti and doodles on the edges. You knew that if you applied the stamp upside down, it meant “I love you.” Yup, we tried to sneak a few tricks past the US Postal system.

I still remember shopping for cute stationary to write my letters with and today still prefer a handwritten thank you note. My favorite stationary in elementary school was strawberry scented (along with the roll-on lip gloss……..ahh what a simpler time).

I have collected cards for birthdays and anniversaries. It is still fun to get snail mail addressed to me and gift cards by post. Also, my mother taught me to throw metallic confetti into the birthday cards for a little extra fun. That is one memory and custom I would like to carry down to my own grandchildren someday.

Don’t get me wrong, emails and photos pass through my computer all day long. It is wonderful for so many things and extremely convenient. However, there are still some niceties that I would like to incorporate.

Brevity be damned; show me some personal attention and don’t delete my ideas or threaten me with a “Reply All.” Don’t respond with a smiley face simply because you want to end the conversation.

When I get a “hello” without my first name, I feel that I might be part of a batch email where someone cut and pasted the text, over and over again, but only changed the email address. It does not feel personal, warm, or necessarily for me, but I got lumped in with the other lucky recipients of the email.

I got an email offering me a free iPhone 4 signed by my husband. Immediately it was consigned to Spam. My husband offering to get me an iPhone? Inconceivable. Improbable. We have financial issues. Also, as a born and bred Canadian, he is not known for major spontaneous gift giving. Well, son of a gun, it really was from him. The phone company was offering it as an incentive. So, yeah, sure, I would love a new cell phone. Distrust and doubt have created filters (email humor) between those whom we love and share notes.

Casual emails, in place of a business letter, where words are abbreviated or spelled in shorthand for texting drive me crazy! This is a business communication so I believe that it should be written just as if I were sending a proper letter. “Luv” is supposed to be in pink on someone’s binder and fluffy pen; it is not part of a semi-serious work email.

The regulations of the grammar police are drilled into my head from years of proofreading and correcting papers. I got a perfect score on my SAT’s on the test of Standard Written English. I was proud of that distinction, but such skills are disappearing from the communication landscape. Today, thanks to email, I have seen handwriting from leaders and captains of industry that looks like they never made it past the sixth grade.

Email is meant as a convenience, but should not be at the expense of correct spelling and complete sentences. Emojis are not a replacement for condolences or congratulations. The nuances of Comic Sans versus Helvetica should not be an indication of your intentions.

Speak to me in full sentences. Use your words. Flattery by font will get you nowhere.



  1. What a lovely thoughtful post on the topic, and I agree with almost everything you say….apart from the use of smiley faces….I find they help to set the tone of an email…like taking a quick peek at the writers face…..but then I smile a lot in real life too 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment. You make a good point about the smiley face and have definitely given me a new perspective.

    • Agree with you! But I do wonder, is smiley face appropriate in work email? I must confess that I use them in work emails to colleagues.

      • I think you have to know who you are communicating with. If it is a new contact, I personally don’t use smiley faces. With others, like the contacts for confusion at the bank or insurance company, who I have more interaction with, I can see that it does add a little friendliness in a very limited worded email.

        • scentfragrance
        • Posted July 21, 2013 at 1:58 am
        • Permalink

        Thanks for the explanation! It has been really helpful!

  2. “Flattery by font”—I like that phrase! Interesting perspective. I also agree with the last commenter on the use of smiley faces—it does help me to decipher the tone of the email. But then again, I always tend to use smiley faces, even in my blog posts and comments on other blogs, so I’m a bit biased! 😉 Congrats on getting FP! 🙂

    • Thank you so much! First of all, I did not even know I got Freshly Pressed until you told me! Ha! Or I could give you a wink and a smile back! It is true, our emoticons and emojis can “warm” up our letters. I guess they are the confetti in our email.

  3. With technology, email will probably be a thing of the past, so I wouldn’t worry. I hope though that WordPress won’t be a thing of the past and will stay around for a long time, right?

  4. Dear theempathyqueen,

    I was most delighted to read your post; it was well written and a subject close to my heart. I still love to both write and receive handwritten letters. My…. well… we’ve yet to establish what we ‘are’, but she and I frequently write to each other. On quality stationery and with decorations and jokes that only a mailed letter can accommodate.

    I have also suffered the frustration of reading e-mails, by clients and seniors, that are poorly written and contain simple spelling and punctuation errors. There is a spell check for goodness sake!

    I’m glad to find people that still want to hold on to what is now shamefully seen as merely traditional means of communication.

    All the best,


    🙂 Oh god… a smiley. What have I become…? 😉

    • Marcus, thank you for the compliment and acknowledging my punctuation and grammar skills!! A few smiles are still ok, as long as we use our words and commas too. Best!

  5. Imho, snail mail is not endangered. I joined a site for sending snail-mail-postcards at random people throughout the world (postcrossing) – and I am confident, snail mail will not vanish.
    I expected a few middle aged, sentimental people like myself on there – but the majority are people in their 20ies – and even a lot of 15+ teenagers – who still love to decorate their cards with stickers, colourful pens, hearts and flowers.

    And no e-mail in the whole wide world could ever reach a person in mourning as a card did, I sent to a complete stranger who had lost her sister.

    There is no replacement for personal snail mail when it comes to emotions. I am confident, even my niece’s generation will pass it on to the next generation. She is 23 now, in 22 years, when she will have my age, she will still send snail-mail. Maybe not to administration, maybe not for business. But to her then senior-citizen aunt. She has just started sending a card now and then 😉
    And the best part of snail-mail – you can switch off your PC while writing it, you can enjoy lovely stationary and you FEEL each word you write, especially when you write in ink.

    • I will have to take a peek at the site you mentioned (see how helpful WordPress is as a community). You expressed it perfectly; the feeling is what is lacking in some emails. It is easy to wish my friends and family a Happy Birthday or Sympathy on Facebook, but taking the time to pick out a card, write a message and share it with someone makes us feel extra special every time.

      • Maybe I should mention, the site is up for 8 years now – and has some hundreds of thousands of users – from literally all over the world.

      • Well, I am missing out on something special. It is great to have so many people who appreciate and use such a site!

  6. I am so with you on this rant. I also one of those who gets, for lack of a better term, bad emails.

    I was taught by good English teachers in the Philippines to write well so when I got to the Middle East and had to deal with bad emails everyday, I became the dumbest. That’s supposed to be an irony but in our workplace, it’s the sad truth.

    I still believe we can do something to change that plight though. I advocated the use of Standard English to all the classes I handled when I was in the academe. I believe that counts. And, writing something like these:

    Anyhow, congratulations!

  7. Nice treatment of a worthy topic.

  8. I completely agree! Not only does email deprive you of the wonderful anticipation before ripping open an envelope, but it also leads to frequent misinterpretation. I wonder how many major misunderstandings have started with what someone thought was an innocent email!

    • Thank you for your support! I agree, there really is a thrill to tearing open a surprise envelope. It is fun when you know what is inside – like a gift card!

  9. I am relieved to know that I am not the only one noticing a plethora of spelling errors in emails/texts. And even though I could probably guess which word was left out altogether, I’d rather not have to. Thank you for this playful rant.

    • You are definitely not alone! The spelling, lack of punctuation and missing words drives me crazy. Perhaps we have auto correct to thank for some of those silly sentences.

  10. It almost feels like this topic is becoming quite a popular topic these past couple days. People seem to be reminiscing to the old days when pen and paper were golden. When email was still not widely used enough to say, “oh I’ll just email it to you.” Nowadays, we say “i’ll just text it to you.” Never is it “I’ll Call you” but it is always “I’ll text you.” What happened to the good old days when emotions and effort could be sensed in the artwork we call letters? Emails have them too… it’s just hard to tell sometimes. Great post. Gotta move this generation back to what was good because there’s no point in changing something that was that good.

    • Wow! thank you for such praise and a great comment. I agree, we are getting smaller and smaller messages and yet having more and more email addresses, twitter, pinterest, tumbler, phone numbers! There is an art to a well-written letter and we seem to be losing the art in the process.

  11. ‘Real’ post makes me so happy, I’m lucky to have a very close friend who send me regular fragile, fun and ridiculous post… It’s probably why we are still so close 8 years after uni having finished, it just feels important!

    • It is a treat. We get so much junk mail and spam, but a card or letter from a friend is very dear indeed.

  12. Love all the article…..It was a fun read ! I love the smiley faces really I can’t write emails without them 😛 They tell about in what tone you were talking …. this avoids big misunderstandings some times ! Lovely post 🙂 xx

    • You are right, of course we like to use our smiles, winks and kisses. I just want to “hear the emotion” too.

  13. Eloquently said and with great punctuation and full sentences. I cringe when I read text shorthand in an email, and have always wondered what the smiley face really, truly meant. Thanks for putting my own feelings on the subject into perfectly rendered words!

    • Kami, I am so flattered by your remarks. We are obviously from the same school on the matter.

  14. Got to tell you, leaders and captains of industry could never spell even before the advent of email.
    I used to love receiving and sending aerograms and preferred to take my time writing letters. Sometimes it took days of thinking and re-writing before I placed the stamp in the envelope. It’s taken me longer than most to accept that those good old days of real communication will never return. But it doesn’t stop me from making my emails long and rambling. 🙂

  15. PS. I can’t speak for other people, but I have discovered that what sounds good in my head or funny doesn’t always translate that way in print. So, I’ve adopted the smiley. Here’s another one. 🙂

    • You are so funny!! thanks and yes, I do appreciate that the smiley seems universal. Although, quirky thoughts and honesty are fun too.

  16. I like getting real letters that are no bills or advertising. I by myself never gave up sending postcards while on vacation. Those make people happy. But isn’t Email to letter the same as blog to printed magazine?

    • I think postcards, email, blogs and magazines are all ways for us to comment and share our voice and feelings. Making people happy, or getting them to think, or feel less alone are all part of our communication in whatever form it takes. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  17. Thanks for your thoughts, you’ve articulated exactly how I feel!

  18. My thoughts exactly! Great post!

    • thepalescottishgirl
    • Posted July 20, 2013 at 10:20 am
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    As a teenager, I still love getting letters! They mean that the sender has put a lot of effort into writing it out and sending it, rather than just convenient typing it up on their phone.
    Smileys. I try so hard not to over use them….but I guess I just have to add a big cheesy smile in every message! 😀 😀

    • Firstly, I love your username! Handwritten cards are still special and harder to come by. As far as the smiley faces, you are friendly and that is terrific. You speak your mind and share a smile ~ that can never be bad.

        • thepalescottishgirl
        • Posted July 21, 2013 at 9:34 am
        • Permalink

        Awww thanks! Thepalescottishgirl…me in a nutshell 😀
        Yeah 🙂 I love getting a letter: it’s so much more special!
        Love a wee smiley 😉 😀

  19. Thanks for posting this, keep posting.

  20. I struggle with this topic every day. I am a poet. I have loved writing as long as I can remember. I have started to rebel a little with myself and my family. I prefer a card or a short note. I do not want to be just another contact on a list. Do not get me wrong I love the new media, social networks and all the frills. But there is nothing more exciting that to open a letter from one of my children and feel their essence. Great post. Let’s start a movement to start letter writing again. Our historians will appreciate it.

    • Your gift with words no doubt comes through in all that you write. Regardless, of email and handwritten notes, that is part of what we long for in a sense of meaning and permanency. It is so special to hear from your children and a longer note is always nice than just a quick text (IMHO).

  21. Nice post and also congratulation on beign freshly pressed 🙂
    a way towards a healthy life.. Follow it before you life becomes a slave of medicines…

  22. I read with great interest your e-mail blog. I wonder if my experience with my future wife would have been different if we had e-mail at that time. If you read my blog on love and a stamp you will understand what I mean. We made our relationship in the 70’s because of snail mail. Would it have worked with e-mail?

    • I will have to go through your blog and see some of the interesting views you have. Thank you for reading mine.

  23. Really nice article. I haven’t written a letter since my application for work. And not even in this letter I haven’t written by hand, because it should be written on Pc. Only for those precious people like my former girlfriend I have typed a nice letter even with pen and ink. It lost the personal touch a little bit to write.
    There are some points I agree, but I think and hope it will come back to write more on paper and care about the others.

    • Caring about the other person and is what makes the difference between a letter and a hasty email or text. The email is fast and nice for sharing but a card for an occasion feels so much more nicer. It is wonderful that you do that!

  24. I fell like you would be the most lovely pen pal to have.

  25. Hahaha…brevity is English to today’s generation 😉 I dislike it too especially when I see that they are missing on the power which words command. With everything typed these days, the (soul) connect has diminished but ….(am always out of words here)
    I have a carton full of old cards and greetings – and whenever I look at them, I find so much of me back:)
    loved your post, congratulations on being freshly pressed.

    • We do rush around and are sometimes uncomfortable communicating in long hand. But your comment about looking at those older cards and special letters is so true. Thank you so much!

  26. Much like franhunne4u I am also part of an internet community that supports snail-mail, only I fall under the 20-somethings group.
    I have always loved mail and have kept every letter from my grandparents. This collection is now a true treasure. I have saved emails from my grandparents too but there is a loss of personality with the typed-screen-words. Without the final letter from my grandpa before he succumbed to cancer when I was three would I be able to recognize he handwriting or know that we spent our last visit together walking down a path marveling at flitting robins?
    Now I enjoy sending out creative mail to friends around the world and delight in testing the abilities of the postal service with decorative packaging. So far every single letter has made it to its final destination, albeit sometimes a few months late.
    The website where I am a member is:
    I also plan on sharing images and musings on my mail art in future blog posts on my blog which you can see here:
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, it is a joy to read such an articulate post.

    • I look forward to seeing your art and posts. Having recently lost my mother and grandmother, I agree with you, I am so lucky to have those special handwritten cards and letters. They do become art in our hearts.

  27. I also agree! Receiving handwritten letters or cards in the mail are such a treat. I personally never received mail from abroad, but my mom often received those light blue envelopes you spoke of from family members in India. I recently wrote about the joy of snail mail: Remembering Atticus and India Arie | pen . paper . storm
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you for your comments. Yes, those aerogrammes were many years ago. I look forward to reading your posts.

  28. Ha! I loved your post. Flattery by font… brilliant!

    • I am so glad that you liked my post!! With words and humor, you never know who will appreciate what you say, so your compliment means a lot to me. Thank you!

  29. I’m bringing back the love letter if it’s the last thing I do! Great post xx

  30. Receiving and writing a hand-written letter is something else. My husband and I would write to each other while he was in the military. So, this article brought back great memories and also touched a nerve! Great post!

    • Those handwritten notes, the anxious waiting for the mail and excitement at receiving a letter from him are, such fond memories and a written history shared only between you two. Precious!

  31. I feel so sad, I have never received a hand written letter before, probably postcards..but oh, those were so good too!

    • It is an art form that will work its way back. Sending your friends notes and postcards might encourage them to try it. Thanks for reading and joining the dialogue.

  32. lovely post topic, writing is a lost art, really makes my day when I receive a postcard or letter in the mail, thanks for inspiring people to write letters again 🙂

  33. Thank you for the lovely writing. I too continue to send lovely cards to friends and family with a note just to let them know I really am thinking of them….enough to write and stamp something just for them. You write well, and I, a former English teacher, appreciate that.

    • The fact that you are a former English teacher and appreciate my skills means a lot! Thank you so much for reading my post and your lovely comment.

  34. It reminds me of the letter I gave to a classmate in graduate school; it was not my best letter but I think I put a lot of effort writing it. In the end, it was unrequited, I’ve moved on.

    I don’t know but there is something special about receiving physical letters enclosed in an enveloped. And I am looking for the people who could appreciate reading my words written on a piece of paper.

    Love you post! 🙂

    ~ Knight of January

    • Thank you so much for your very lovely comment. Unrequited, or not, I am sure that your lovely was very nice and there are many who would appreciate your handwritten thoughts.

  35. Nothing like getting that hand written note in the mail. Thanks for reminding me I have two thank-you notes to send out to my instructors from last week.

    • I am sure that your instructors will appreciate that handwritten note. There are so many complaints and so few compliments in what we do. The words of thanks and appreciation last long in the memory.

  36. Reblogged this on Ann Talks.

  37. Nice write up! I miss the good old days as well when I used to post letters to my cousins and wait for several days to get a reply.

    • Though the waiting was hard, it was fun to tear open a letter for me!

        • Shirley R Graceya
        • Posted July 24, 2013 at 3:46 pm
        • Permalink

        Yeah… I so know what you mean 🙂

  38. Thanks for posting this, keep posting.
    Hosting 1 India

    • Thank you so much for reading my post and your comment! I will try to keep posting and hope that you, and others, enjoy what you read. Or, when that fails, that it gives you some food for thought.

  39. Many thanks for your thoughts. I’ve kept all of my letters through the years; mostly from grandparents and friends. I cherish each one. Today, although email seems to be the number one communication avenue in work and distant family, my husband and I continue to write letters to each other. There’s much to be said about feeling the paper upon my hands, the lingering essence of his fragrance and knowing each word was penned from the heart…

  40. Saved as a favorite, I really like your site!

  41. Thanks for posting this, keep posting.
    Hosting 1 India

  42. Thanks for posting this, keep posting.

  43. Thanks for sharing your idea keep on sharing

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] with real people and building real relationships based on trust and loyalty. This editorial on snail mail vs email has a quote that […]

  2. […] Letters Are Lovely for Poetry and Verse, but Email Will Prevail for Better or Worse. […]

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