Writing is a versatile art form. In this series of “types of writing,” I’ll not only identify and define different types and styles of writing, I’ll help you find resources right here in Long Beach.
Letter writing defined
Some say that the art of letter writing is lost … or at least on its death bed. In fact, Liz Carpenter once lamented, “What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can’t reread a phone call.”
But I say letter writing has just changed with the times. I agree with Anna Quindlen, when she says, “The age of technology has both revived the use of writing and provided ever more reasons for its spiritual solace. Emails are letters, after all, more lasting than phone calls, even if many of them r 2 cursory 4 u.”
At one time a letter was defined as “a written or printed communication addressed to a person or organization and transmitted by mail.” But, with the ubiquitousness of email, letter writing lives on in digital format and can be more broadly defined as “the exchange of written communications.”
Examples of letter writing
There are two basic kinds of letters: personal and business. The former are exchanged between friends, family and lovers. They are of a more personal nature and often written casually. Business letters, on the other hand, are written with specific business goals in mind and often written following a formal formula.
Much of history has been learned from finding letters written by people in the past, from ordinary foot soldiers to famous political figures. These are the kinds of letters Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was talking about when he said, “Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.”
Other People’s Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See by Bill Shapiro
Yours Ever: People and Their Letters by Thomas Mallon
Women’s Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present by Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler
Business letters have also been used to learn the history of an organization … or to incriminate it. Business letters include sales letters, internal memos and letters of agreement or intent.
Resources for letter writing
- The Encyclopedia of Business Letters, Faxes, and Emails: Features Hundreds of Model Letters, Faxes, and E-mails to Give Your Business Writing the Attention It Deserves by Robert W. Bly and Regina Anne Kelly
- 1001 Business Letters for All Occasions: From Interoffice Memos and Employee Evaluations to Company Policies and Business Invitations – Templates for Every Situation by Corey Sandler and Janice Keefe
- Perfect Phrases for Business Letters by Ken O’Quinn
The Art of the Personal Letter: A Guide to Connecting Through the Written Word by Margaret Shepherd and Sharon Hogan
Writing Letters with Pen and Ink by Edward St. Paige
Personal Notes: How to Write from the Heart for Any Occasion by Sandra E. Lamb and Sandra Lamb
Letter writing in Long Beach
One of the tried and true ways to illicit change is the letter writing campaign … getting enough people to write letters to an organization or political figure so they will take a specified action. Long Beach itself has seen several such campaigns, including campaigns to:
- Bring Fresh & Easy Market to downtown Long Beach
- Bring Google broadband to Long Beach
- Ensure that JetBlue stays at Long Beach Airport
- Reconfigure the breakwater, and
- Adopt an aggressive Clean Air Action Plan
Letters can be powerful communication tools expressing love, friendship, passion and activism. They can be profoundly personal, acting as a “way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart,” as Phyllis Theroux put it.
They can be a time capsule, letting future generations understand what life was like when you were around. Emily Dickenson put it this way: “A letter always seemed to me like immortality because it is the mind alone without corporeal friend.”
So whether you write with pen and paper, keyboard or touchpad … write letters to let those you love and care about that you are thinking of them. Writing letters is good practice for all the other types of writing you will do in your writing career.
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