Insight article

Write me a letter…please!

India Knight (Sunday Times, 14th May) wrote an interesting article on handwriting, and highlighted a recent survey that a fifth of schoolchildren have never [hand]written a letter, while a tenth have never received a letter themselves.

Is handwriting really dying?  Has letter-writing already died?

Personally this makes me really sad.  As a child, writing and receiving letters was a joy.  I wrote letters to anyone I thought might enjoy them, and the number of Blue Peter badges I received is testament to the number of letters I sent producer Biddy Baxter at the BBC.  I still have the letter from a deeply appreciative ad-man after I congratulated BT on its inspired ‘It’s For You-Hoo’ campaign.  And one from the Queen, after I sent a short letter, aged 8, to tell her about the fact that we too had a throne-room (except it was what we nicknamed our bathroom at home).  I don’t believe my parents ever knew that I’d sent that particular letter at the time.

Perhaps it came from my school days.  As a boarder we were ‘required’ to write home once a week, although to me it was an event I always looked forward to.  By sending letters it meant we’d receive letters.  It was a big deal.  To me, opening an envelope to read someone’s personal story of the day and an expression of their feelings, personally addressed to me and only me, was deeply gratifying and part of a bonding process which meant everything to me. It wasn’t just about the content either – the paper, the ink, the style of handwriting, the odd little doodle, the construction of sentences…. all contributed to the pleasure in receiving a letter. My parents too insisted we write letters of thanks for the smallest little gift.  I remember a comment from my aunt’s father-in-law (who happened to be one of the wealthiest businessmen in the UK) saying how much it meant to him to receive a handwritten letter in return for a smallest little financial gesture, and how well-mannered it showed us to be.  It won’t surprise you to hear that I get extremely irritated by godchildren and nephews/nieces who never bother to send a thank-you (not even by email) after they receive a birthday or Christmas gift.  A letter would make all the difference, but – sigh – SMS, computing and a change in attitude seem to have put paid to all that.

It’s rare to get a hand-written letter these days.  Even TV programmes don’t boast about their burgeoning post-bags any more, because – let’s be frank – they don’t have any.   I really miss it.  E-mail hasn’t just taken over corporate communication, it’s the way we communicate personally too.  I have only one particular friend with whom I still correspond on paper, even though (we will both admit) invariably it’s word-processed these days, with some creative font to compensate.   She too understands the importance of good quality paper.

I look back on my prolific letter-writing days with nostalgia and a little sadness.  Feel free to write to me anytime.  It would really make me happy.

Nailia Tasseel