Our opinion: The lost art of putting pen to paper

April 15, 2011 10:56:00 AM



Many of us have them, tucked away in a box or closet: Letters that have been passed down through the generations. 


Many of us don''t, and know what they''re missing. Letters, like other family heirlooms, are a tangible, visceral connection to the past. Their absence is a hole in our history. 


Clearly, letters are more personal than most other heirlooms. They bring the very words of our past friends and relatives into the present with us. 


Think of how empty history would be without personal letters. Without his letter to wife Martha, we wouldn''t know George Washington''s personal misgivings about being given command of the Continental Army: "I assure you ... I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it." We wouldn''t have Lincoln''s congratulation letter to Grant upon taking Vicksburg -- and Lincoln''s admission that he thought Grant might fail: "I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong." 


Technology has nearly eradicated the art of letter-writing. Now, we send emails, or worse, text messages. We give less thought to what we''re saying -- grammar, and even capitalization, have fallen by the wayside.  


We say in three letters what used to be said in three sentences, or three paragraphs. If cell phones existed in Napoleon''s day, would he have texted "i luv u" to Josephine instead of writing one of his immortal love letters? 


April is National Letter Writing Month. These types of designations come and go, but we urge our readers to observe this one. The month is timed in advance of Mother''s Day. Write a letter to your mother; she''ll treasure it. Become re-acquainted with the joy, and the thought, that goes along with putting pen to paper.  


Write a letter to someone this month. It''ll be treasured by the recipient today. And, who knows? It may last in your family for generations to come.