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Selene's Letter Writing Etiquette

Text messages and emails are quick and easy, and often careless. They cannot be held to your chest like an inked piece of paper, covered in words chosen carefully just for you. They cannot be stored in a secret box, saved for years as the pages discolour and fray after being thumbed again and again. There is a love in letter writing that just... cannot be replicated through the digital medium.

The ritual of it. Of selecting your instruments, making a warm drink, settling yourself at a desk, perhaps lighting a candle... and committing yourself to the task of relaying your thoughts to a person not present.

So, we implore you to once again immerse yourself in this ritual of the hand written word. Just because.

First and foremost - select medium and instruments of high quality.

A smooth and thick paper with no bleed from any inks would be best. Any colour is acceptable, but white or cream papers are the most pleasant. These may seem unnecessary considerations in the modern world - but it does service to your recipient to make the experience of your letter as pleasing as possible. And let's be honest; there is something satisfying about splurging a few extra pennies on a really nice piece of stationary. Ultimately, a price cannot be put on the feel of fine, cream paper against your fingers, or the joy of a flowing, opaque black ink holding all the words in its arms.

  

“Simplicity is a great charm in letter-writing.”

from The Ladies' Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness by Florence Hartley (1860)

Write to your recipient directly, and them alone; as if they are sat in front of you in conversation. Say what you would speak. 
Use clear language, avoiding similies and flourishes that may make the letter hard and cumbersome to read. Allow your sentences to flow naturally, with details of your subject growing organically from one sentence to the next.

“The wounds made by ill natured remarks in letters heal more slowly perhaps than any others.”

from Letter Writing: It’s Ethics & Etiquette by Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton (1890)
“Litera scripta manet” - The written word remains
Angry letters are rarely a good idea. Harsh words hurt enough when spoken, but the lasting nature of a letter bearing them in ink are something else entirely. In fact, you should expect letters ‘intended to offend the recipient’ to be returned to you without compliment.

 

“Do not be afraid to express yourself sometimes with enthusiasm.”

from Letter Writing: It’s Ethics & Etiquette by Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton (1890)
There is no need to withhold your joy with your words. A merry and upbeat piece of writing inevitably opens its arms wide to the reader. Who wouldn’t want to receive a note with kind and appreciative tidings? Go forth and inspire a heartfelt smile from your recipient!

“The handwriting should be clear, and yet not too large and bold ; it should possess some character and style, but not be adorned or ornamented with fine flourishes and dashes.”

from Etiquette of Good Society by Lady Gertrude Elizabeth Campbell (1893)
Together with the use of clear language as noted above, your handwriting should be clear and legible; you want to make your letter a joy to read! Take your time and write not in haste. If you aren’t sure on a spelling, take the extra minute or two to check it before continuing. Words that have been considered and cared for, speak volumes to your recipient.

 

"A letter should be regarded not merely as a medium for the communication of intelligence, but also as a work of art.”

from How to Write Letters: A 19th-Century Guide to the Lost Art of Epistolary Etiquette by Maria Popova (2012)
If you make a mistake, consider rewriting from the beginning. While a small single crossing out of a misspelled word may not be a huge deal, you cannot deny that any kind of blot mars the beauty of a crisp, clean page. A page of writing with no blots can only add to the charm and pleasure your recipient will find when reading.

 

"Ladies may use delicately tinted and perfumed paper if they choose”

from How to Write Letters: A 19th-Century Guide to the Lost Art of Epistolary Etiquette by Maria Popova (2012)
What an olfactory experience is slicing open an envelope and allowing the chosen fragrance of your writer to gently fill your senses! Spray your signature perfume into the air and gently wave your page through the mist, as to avoid affecting the ink and paper. In some cases, a perfumed wax seal may be used however choose either a perfumed page, or perfumed seal, and never both.

 

“The person receiving a private letter becomes the custodian of the confidence, to the extent of the contents of the letter, of the writer.”

from Handbook of Official and Social Etiquette by Randolph Keim (1889)
As the receiver of a letter, your conduct is just as important. A letter addressed to you should be looked after with the utmost care. Keep your letters safe, and out of reach of prying eyes. Unless you have been tasked with passing on some news, consider the confidence that the writer has put in you.

  

Sources:
https://archive.org/details/etiquettegoodso00campgoog/page/n62/mode/2up
https://archive.org/details/cihm_13026/page/n47/mode/2up 
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/35123/35123-h/35123-h.htm
https://library.si.edu/digital-library/book/manualofetiquett00john
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433081957858&view=1up&seq=275
https://www.themarginalian.org/2012/12/21/how-to-write-letters-1876/

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