We all suffer though poorly written emails, tweets, texts, IMs and ads. Every Day. And don’t even ask about a hand-written letter. They are quickly disappearing as a true art of care and thoughtfulness. It takes real time and concentration to sit down with paper and pen, to consider the subject, the right tone, the meaningful engagement, and set it to paper without mistakes. Try doing that while you’re driving. I cherish the letters that my friends and family write me, such that if the house burns down, I’m grabbing those and some photos. Period. Well, maybe a few other things (in case those who care about the STUFF read this).
When I stumbled upon this lovely little site, Letters of Note, I was instantly hooked. Sign up for their feed and you will receive a little gem with backstory and usually the original letter, along with a translation if the handwriting is hard to read. There are hundreds of archived letters as well.
The most recent article is a great letter from C.S. Lewis to a fan about how to write well. Enjoy!
From the letter:
“What really matters is:–
1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.
2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.
3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”
4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”
5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”