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How to Write a Keepsake Letter They Will Cherish Forever

My mother loved writing letters. She used letter writing as a creative way to express her mind and to give a piece of it to those she loved. Through letters, my mother was able to convey her thoughts more completely than when she spoke, and it was the easiest way for her to be “heard” without interruption.

When I was growing up, it was a source of family pride to see my mother’s letters appear on the opinion page of our local newspaper when she felt compelled to call attention to a community matter or lament about a social ill. When I became an adult, my mother’s letters were my source of hometown updates and, most importantly, my long-distance source of unconditional love. Even my friends were charmed by the surprise letters my mother wrote to them — letters intended to lift their spirits when they were feeling down.

I inherited my mother’s legacy of writing letters to people I care about, as well as what she taught me and my siblings about the practice of sending handwritten thank-you notes whenever we received gifts or good deeds.

Today, I continue the practice of writing personal letters and notes, but in a less manual way. I try to spare my recipients the agony of having to make sense of my left-handed, hieroglyphic scribbling by composing most of my letters on my laptop and pressing “send.” Whether written via laptop or in my signature scrawl, personal, positive, non-business-related letters are how I show the people on the receiving end that they mean something special to me.

Whether you are in love or in “like” with someone, writing letters with sincerity is a charming and thoughtful way of letting them know that you care. With the right amount of authenticity and skill with wordplay, personal letters just might elevate you to the next level in your relationship with the recipient, whether they are a family member, friend, or love interest.

Writing an effective personal letter doesn’t have to be difficult. What helps with making it sincere and authentic is to write from your heart and not your head. How do you feel about the person you are writing to? What do you like about them? A letter that acknowledges why they are special to you can go a long way. Don’t just rattle off a list of compliments. Focus on one or several traits and elaborate. For example, you might say, “Your generosity with others has inspired me to become a more charitable person,” or “I learn so much from watching how freely you interact with people from different cultures.”

As Devon Daniels, author of Meet You in the Middle, suggests:

Once you focus on one trait, you’ll be surprised at how easily the words flow.

When writing romantic letters to love interests, lifestyle writer and Good Housekeeping senior editor Lizz Schumer says that using sweet salutations such as “Dear darling,” “To my love,” or invoking their special nickname is a good way to begin. “Don’t be afraid to get mushy to really set the mood,” she advises.

Letters to family and casual friends can also be affectionate without being over the top. Write like you’re having a live conversation. Tell what’s going on in your life; inquire about what is happening in theirs.

As Kristan Higgins, author of Pack up the Moon, advises:

Don’t try to sound like someone else. You don’t have to be poetic or flowery unless that kind of thing comes naturally.

One way to write something authentic, says Higgins, is to think about the foundational aspects of your relationship with the person you are writing to. You might write about how attentive the person is or how they make you feel special or safe.

Finally, write letters that ask for nothing. If the only time you write letters to people in your life is to ask for finances or a favor, it diminishes the social aspect of the letter and reduces it to a self-serving act. Why not surprise your loved one with a letter that has no personal agenda? If someone is ailing, write a letter that inquires about their health; if they just reached a milestone, write a letter of congratulations; if you value their opinion, write a letter seeking their advice. It just might make their day.

“Don’t beat yourself up trying to write a Pulitzer-worthy masterpiece,” advises Schumer. “Even if you’re the worst writer on the planet, your loved one will appreciate a letter that really comes from your soul.”

Photo by Huyen Pham on Unsplash

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