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April 25, 2012 / Avarielle

For the Love of Letters

When was the last time you opened your mailbox and saw a letter addressed to you? A letter not from some phone company or ultility company asking for payment? A letter someone, somewhere in this world, sat down and wrote to you?

In this modern day and age, technology has made communication so easy and instantanous. Want to ask your friend something? Send her a message via SMS. Want to catch up with old friends? Most people use Facebook for this purpose. Want to let an overseas pal know the latest happenings in your life? Send them an email. I’m not saying all these technology is bad. In fact, it is good, very good in fact. I have personally reconnected with many old friends via Facebook.

However, there is something about a letter sent via snail mail that electronic communication cannot replicate.

Two months ago, I stumbled upon an amazing website – Swap-Bot. The main aim of Swap-Bot is to act as a platform and mediam for people to organize and take part in swaps. In these swaps, you can exchange almost anything from handmade crafts like artist trading cards(ATC) to knitted items to jewelry to letters. I initially joined Swap-bot as a way to swap ATCs but I soon drifted away to other swaps. What is possibly my favourite kind of swap are the letter writing swaps. The entire intention of this is to send out a letter or two and hopefully make a new penfriend.

I have been lucky and have met some amazing people through these swaps. And have received some amazing items. I will be writing back to most of these people.

You’ll notice I say most people. The swap requirements ask that we send a letter. There is no requirement to carry on the relationship. If I receive a letter and don’t wish to reply, I am not at fault. If a partner receives a letter from me and does not wish to reply, I cannot blame them as well.

As the assignment of partners you send to is entirely done by a computer, there is no way for you to pick and choose who you’ll be writing to. Of course, you can choose to not join the swap, but that would be just defeating the purpose of the site.

Sometimes, I’ve ended up writing to people who I normally wouldn’t write to. They mostly are much older than me, married, with children and all that. Our lives are far too different that we cannot relate to each other. However, what I do in this case is re-read their profile and info on the site. If there is something I can work with, it ends up in my letter.

Here’s a couple of tips on pen palling I’ve picked up from various places & also from my own experiences

  1. Pick a penpal you have something in common with. Maybe the both of you like travelling, or the both of you are into gaming. The age of your new friend is important as well. A 14 year old might not want to write to a 28 year old. For me, I prefer to write to people aged between 20 to 30.
  2. If you’re shy or unsure about writing to a complete stranger on the Internet, think closer to home. Maybe you have an old friend you were close to in your school days but not that you’ve graduated, you’ve drifted apart. That’s a potential penpal.
  3. Stick with safe topics in the first few letters. Topics such as religion, politics, sexuality should not be discussed until the both of you are comfortable. Of course, you are allowed to mention your religion or that you are involved with your church. Going on and on about your beliefs might bore your potential penpal.
  4. Write legibly. If you have a problem with writing, maybe you have some injury, type your letter out. However you should sign your name at the bottom. Try to use a darker coloured pen as lighter colours can be hard to read. Personally I don’t care whether a penpal writes or types their letter. The main thing is that I must be able to read it.
  5. Remember always that your penpal is a friend, not a younger relative. If you end up having to write to someone younger than you, write to them as if you’re writing to someone of your age. Don’t talk down to them.
  6. Write your penpal’s address clearly. This will ensure the letter gets to them in the quickest time possible.
  7. Write your own address clearly. If your penpal wants to reply to your letter, they will need to know your address.
  8. If you want to send a small gift to your penpal, check the import rules of their country. Some countries might not allow food products to be sent in. If in doubt, ask your penpal. Or check online.
  9. HAVE FUN!

If this post has inspired you to write a letter to a friend, that is great.

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