At this stage I only have two or three people that I keep in contact with on a regular basis through letters. And let me say that there is definately something about getting a real, hand-written letter that is very special. Whether it's the realization that someone took time out of their busy schedule to sit down and write, or the feeling from opening a physical envelope and holding the letter in your own two hands to read, letters are a thing that are universally held in high regard.
Sadly, the tradition of letter-writing seems to have fallen to the wayside with the advancement of email, higher postage, and a 'lack of time'. (For the latter, consider this: we as people and a nation have enough gadgets and toys to do our work that people would normally do by hand that we ought to be swimming in free time. But the more 'free time' a person has, the less they seem to do. This is another topic for another time, but I thought I ought to bring it up). And no, an annual Christmas letter that is mass-printed and sent to everyone in your address book doesn't count. I'm talking about letters that concentrate one-on-one with a single person over months or even years--THOSE are the letters that have made it into history. (People like Ronald Reagan, Abigal Adams, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, and Napoleon were all people who wrote letters over the course of their lifetime)
This isn't a post about by-gone eras, however--rather, it's an attempt to show people how to write a good letter that people will enjoy reading (although people always enjoy reading any personal mail, well-written or not) and enjoy writing back to.
~Blank paper (I used unlined writing paper that my grandmother gave to me some time ago, but you can use stationary, lined notebook paper, or whatever floats your boat)
~Pen/pencil of some sort (Since I'm a nostaligic weirdo I have a calligraphy pen and a bottle of olive-green ink that I bought in Virginia some years ago, but I've used anything from a Bic pen to a mechanical pencil to write letters)
~Envelope and letter to be replied to (The envelope isn't terribly important, but it is a good idea to have an envelope at least the width of the paper you're using, so you don't have to fold multiple sheets of paper awkwardly to stuff into a too-small envelope.
When I reply to a letter, I always keep said letter out for reference and in order to reply to key points. If you're composing a letter to start a correspondence, then this step isn't applicable)
~(Optional) Sealing wax and seal (Like I said, this is optional. I just happen to be a nostaligic weirdo that has a letter-writing set that included seals and wax.)
(For a technical reminder: dates and return adresses go on the upper right-hand corner of the page, salutations go on the left side slightly under the date-line, and the beginnings of paragraphs are ALWAYS slightly indented.)
Opening paragraph. I usually begin with an opening of some sort--a general inquiry such as 'How are you?' to ease into the process. It also seems more considerate than immediately bull-dozing into whatever you wanted to talk about, because it shows consideration for the person you're addressing over your personal wants.
Body. This is the most important part of the letter--you can reply to questions, ask questions of your own, give advice (when asked, of course), talk about things that have happened recently--the opportunities really are endless. Some more creative penpals of mine will pepper their letters with drawings; the only reason I don't do so is because I usually write in ink, and drawing with a pen isn't the easiest thing in the world. XD
Closing paragraph. This gives 'closure' to the letter as a whole instead of dropping the reader with a thump. I usually say something about another project/chore/whatever that needs my attention and leave off on a positive note.
Closing. Depending on formality, this can run the gamut of 'Love', 'Talk to you later', 'Sincerely', 'I have the pleasure to be your obedient servant' (okay, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea.)...choose whichever seems most natural for the subject of the letter.
And that's it! Writing good letters has the ability to bring pleasure to the writer and the receiver--I personally have never thrown away any letter that I receive, and as a consequence I have a box and a couple of drawers crammed with letters.
....okay, maybe that's just the packrat within not wanting to let anything go. I don't know. I do hope that this has given you, my anonymous readers, something to consider and try in the near future.
**OPTIONAL--HOW TO SEAL A LETTER**
This part is purely optional. I have taken to sealing my letters with wax and stamping them with a small stamp, so I figured I ought to include it in this post.
First off, sealing wax is not candle wax. Repeat after me: sealing wax is not candle wax. Candle wax is greasier, softer, and more likely to chip off or melt (especially on hot days). Sealing wax is more along the lines of a rubbery cement that takes high, intense amounts of heat to melt and hold a seal impression better. I don't know the difference of ingredients--this is just what I've discovered from trial and error.
I have two different kinds of sealing wax: a rectangular bar, and a little bag of wax pellets. The bar is harder to use and tends to dry VERY fast, so I used the pellets melted in a special little metal 'spoon' specially made for melting wax.
(A note about this picture: my hand seems to be impersonating a spider, but I was really trying to keep the letter folded so it wouldn't pop the soft seal. -_- )
That's it for letter-writing...now go forth and conquer the world with your writing powers of awesomesauce! XD
Your hostess who is currently suffering from delusions of grandeur,