I was recently bitten by the letter-writing bug. I suppose it was brought on by the fact that the next year will bring a higher concentration of letter-writing (thank yous, technically) than any other time of my life. A friend who is much more postally inclined also sent a group email last week asking for mailing addresses so that she can mail some summer letters. Inspired to do some writing of my own, I did the next logical thing…checked out some books about it from the library. Here are my brief reviews, presented in the random order in which I read the books.
The Art of the Handwritten Note: a guide to reclaiming civilized communication by Margaret Shepherd
This was a really delightful little book – a small volume perfect to slip into one’s purse and read over lunch, feeling quite sophisticated all the while. More about the whys than the specific hows, Shepherd manages to convince the reader that handwritten notes may indeed save the world (or at least, culture). On the subject of condolence letters, she writes with little concern for your excuses,
You deserve that black cloud over your head when you don’t write, because your silence has made someone think you don’t care.
Well then. I also want to get my hands on a copy of her companion book The Art of the Personal Letter, but that one seems to be a little harder to find in libraries.
This one was considerably different from the last. O’Shea, who runs a letter-writing-for-hire website, has compiled famous letters, personal correspondence, and hypothetical situations, and presents them here. There are several rather obscure-but-possible scenarios here (such as how to respond to an email from a nice guy who happens to have gotten your name wrong), and overall, it was an entertaining read. For each type of letter, O’Shea provides recommendations for the delivery medium, importance of grammar (which she downplayed too much for my taste), etc. Her reliance on reproducing actual personal correspondence gives this an air of memoir. Except for an…ahem…explicit section near the beginning (which one Amazon reviewer recommends stapling shut), I would recommend it.
The Art of Letter Writing: how to address every occasion by Georgina Harris
Meh. I read this one last, and that’s probably fine. It was the only one of the three that was in color, which I appreciated, but I found myself skimming it pretty quickly. I had several wedding etiquette-related quibbles with it, and as that was the first chapter, I think it made me discount the rest of the volume. Come on, though – no one should really be advocating the inclusion of registry information on an invitation.
Mixed bag though they were, I’ve been inspired to pull out my stationery collection and start some correspondence!