As you e-mail your Christmas thank you notes to friends and family just remember that prior to the age of electronic communication letters were the common method of keeping in touch. Letter writing is not new, Christians base much of their religion on letters being the cornerstone of many biblical writings. It was not the coming of email and Internet conferencing that started the decline of the letter; this began in 1836 when the first commercial application of Morse code across the telegraph system was launched. But this did not spell the end of letter writing. There is something about receiving a letter that is above and beyond the physical event itself. This is especially true if circumstance and distance separates people as in war for example. Letters from home to service personal maintain morale, as do Christmas greetings for those away at that time of year.
Yes, email, camera phones, chat rooms and texting have eaten away at letter writing but it still appears to be an important part of day-to-day life. Latest figures indicate the US Postal Service delivers 177 billion items of mail each year. Even accounting for unsolicited junk mail and other types of mail there must still be quite a number of letters being sent and received.
Some may recall learning the ‘art’ of letter writing at school. Correct layout and using the required form of address and salutation were part of the ‘rules’ of letter writing. Using ‘yours sincerely’ in the wrong context was a mistake not tolerated by English teachers! So in the words on the 1935 song ‘Im Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter’