Letter Writing: Tips & Fun Facts for Families

Sometimes a handwritten letter or card is just the thing to lift someone’s spirits. Letter writing benefits the sender as you organize your thoughts to share with another person. Letters are personal. Letters make you slow down and think about what you want to say. And they can be saved to read again and again. Even in our modern age of smart phones and social media, everyone from homeschooled kids to busy adults can enjoy writing a letter.

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Get set to write now

There are no hard-and-fast rules for writing letters. The important thing is to think about the person to whom you are writing and what you’d like to say to them. Before you start writing, think of two or three things you most want to share (and to have them remember).  

  • Send a notecard simply to let someone know you’re thinking of them.
  • Write a holiday or birthday letter to a family member or friend.
  • Write a thank-you note.
  • Write a letter to a favorite author or artist. Explain what you admire about their work.
  • Write a letter to a local or state leader, or to a news outlet, sharing your opinion about a current event.

Sometimes, seeing examples is helpful for young letter writers

an example of a letter to grandma
An example of an informal letter.
infographic how to address and stamp a letter
Once your card or letter is written, tuck it into an envelope then address, stamp and mail it.

The Incredible History of Letter Writing  

Here are just a few highlights from the history of letter writing.

  • The first recorded handwritten letter was credited to Persian Queen Atossa, around 500 BC.
  • Early writing “papers” included papyrus, vellum, parchment and a variety of tree barks. Cotton and linen rag papers came into use during 12th to 14th centuries.
  • Letter-writing’s golden age (1400s to 1800s) began with Johannes Guttenburg’s invention of the printing press, which made books more widely available. More and more people learned to read and write.
  • Many historic letters have been preserved in libraries. From 1527 to 1528, King Henry VIII wrote love letters to Anne Boleyn. First lady Abigail Adams wrote letters to both her husband and son, presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, offering thoughtful suggestions and encouragement.
  • An EPISTOLARY novel is one written in the form of a series of letters (or documents). Epistolary novels have been written for centuries for adults (FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley, 1818) and kids (DEAR MR. HENSHAW by Beverly Cleary, 1983) alike.
  • The U.S. Postal System was established by the 2nd Continental Congress on July 26, 1775. Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General.
  • Until 1840, horseback riders and coaches often delivered letters, which were paid for by their recipients (not the senders).
  • The first adhesive postage stamp, the Penny Black, was issued in the United Kingdom on May 1, 1840.
  • Samuel Morse’s development of the telegraph in the mid-1800s revolutionized long-distance communication. This was the first technology to displace letter-writing, but not the last.

I’ll write to you. A super-long letter, like an old-fashioned novel.

Haruki Murakami, AFTER DARK