Letter writers make point with a pen

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The Independent Online
FORGET the fax machine. Hang up the mobile phone. The real way to make a lasting impression is to use pen and ink.

Word processing and junk mail have prompted a reaction and led to a steady growth in personal letter writing. It is the latest way to show you care.

The practice has even caught on in business, with companies abandoning type in favour of the handwritten envelope. Julian Cowan Hill, 26, director of Executive Languages, a company spec ialising in teaching foreign languages to business people, said it had decided late last year to write all its envelopes by hand.

'We never type letters. We try to deal at a personal level with everybody and try to target them as much as possible. If I receive a typed envelope I know it is going to be from some boring people,' he said as he posted two handwritten letters in central London.

The rise in letter writing is most marked among the highest social classes with nearly half of all personal letters sent by the top three socio-economic groups.

Volumes of 'social mail' have risen by a third since 1989 and a further increase of 7 per cent is expected this year, according to the Post Office. Fountain pen sales, which make up about half of the pounds 226m market in writing equipment, are buoyant, with Parker Pens reporting a 20 per cent increase in each of the past two years.

Yvette Turner, head of consumer mail at the Post Office, said: 'It's a way of getting through. If you receive a lot of letters, then the one that's hand written and has got a stamp on it is the one that catches your eye.'

Fat fountain pens became a status symbol in the late 1980s but any reasonable ink pen on good paper will produce results that not even the best laser printer can beat, Alastair Lockhart, owner of the Walton Street Stationery Company in South Kensington, west London, said.

He recommended paper made of 100 per cent cotton fibre for the special occasion - cost pounds 58 for 100 sheets and matching envelopes. Ink made from vegetable and food dyes, instead of chemicals, costs pounds 3.50. Pens vary from pounds 1.50 for a school cartridge pen to pounds 5,000 for a solid gold Waterman.

The Post Office says about half of the 2.5 billion letters sent every year by people to other individuals, as opposed to organisations, are in the form of greetings cards with Christmas taking up to twothirds of the total.

Cards sent for this weekend's Valentine's Day represent just 0.7 per cent of the number sent during the year.

Women are the biggest buyers of greetings cards although many people of both sexes buy cards, not just to mark an occasion but to send each other short messages.

Increasing the availability of stamps, now on sale at more than 70,000 outlets, has made the process easier.

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