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Y Is for Yours Truly

April 30, 2015

letters

I’ve had the dubious honor of teaching college students how to write business letters. What I’ve learned, other than the need to repeat myself frequently, is that too many people don’t know how to write any kind of letter. In the past, I could explain the distinctions between the “friendly letter” format and the business letter, but most of them don’t know that either.

I have to remind them that their own name goes not at the top above their address and not in line one (“My name is Jordan and I wanted to write to ask you. . . ), but after the complimentary closing. The exception, of course, is if you are Apostle Paul, in which case you may mention your own name in the first verse, alone with all that dispensation of grace and greetings.

I’m not agonizing so much over business letters, though. I miss personal, handwritten letters, those wonderful, serendipitous surprised that used to appear in the mailbox, along with the bills and grocery ads.

I have always been a letter writer. Even with email and social networking at my fingertips, I love to write a real letter, stamped and sealed, posted in the mailbox, with the requisite day or two delay. I learned long ago that letter writing, like marriage, is not necessarily a fifty-fifty proposition. If I have something to say, I don’t wait for a reply to my last letter. I might be waiting forever. People who don’t get around to answering letters still enjoy getting them—and they do help to maintain long distance friendships.

When I was a college student, letters from home and from friends were my sustenance. I certainly wasn’t lonesome or homesick, but I still checked my mailbox (no. 58, combination J-H-F) two or three times a day. I got letters because I wrote letters—and because I had people who loved me back. I still have those letters—most of them anyway—in boxes in my attic. They are one reason it takes me so long to clean the attic. I stop and read them. Or re-read them.

Now that many youngsters aren’t even learning to write or, consequently, to read cursive—a horrible discussion I’ll save for another day—they are less likely than ever to know the pleasure of writing a letter, signing it with “Love,” “Sincerely,” or “Yours Truly,” and meaning it.

I don’t write as many as I wish, but I find that laying the supplies helps. I keep a drawer filled with postcards, note cards, envelopes, and correct postage—Forever stamps and correct postage for post cards. The odds are much better than Powerball that I will get return letters, at least from some of those I care about enough to make the effort, to share a funny story, or to send a clipping that just made me think of that particular person.

I want them to know that I remain

Very truly yours,

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