Life Support: How to write a letter

Don't be afraid

Letter-writing is a dying art, but one wholly appropriate to these times. The recession has meant the revival of many pastimes that last year seemed outdated – from vegetable-growing to sock-darning – and letter-writing is bound to undergo a similar renaissance. Better still, letter-writing is one of the few old-fashioned pursuits that doesn't require a term's worth of evening classes to take up, and can be comfortably attempted from the coziness of one's duvet.

Take your time

Letter-writing can be therapeutic, forcing the writer to sit quietly for a moment and reflect. While letters can, of course, be typed, this makes correspondence look business-like and impersonal, so pen letters by hand. However, unlike typed letters or emails – which can be deleted and reworked endlessly – mistakes in a letter require unsightly crossing-out, so think carefully about what you want to say before you begin. All this effort is worth it, though, as sealing an envelope and posting a letter leaves the writer with a sense of achievement that doesn't come with sending an email.

Buy some nice paper

A chewed Biro and a ruled notebook do not a lovely letter make. Beautiful stationery makes letter-writing more appealing, for both writer and recipient. Scribes who are worried about the environmental impact of this paper trail can appease their consciences by buying recycled stationery.

Write to everyone

It may be a romantic pursuit, conjuring up visions of Jane Austen heroines pausing, quill in hand, to gaze wistfully out of rain-lashed windows, but it does not necessarily follow that letters must be romantic. They are a brilliant way of keeping in touch with almost everyone, from the aged aunts you can't face phoning, to friends dotted around the country who you hardly ever get to see.

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