Here at Goldspot Pens, we embrace any excuse to put pen to paper, especially if it helps spread awareness of how awesome putting pen to paper actually is. International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo) is one of our most favorite excuses. It's a month-long challenge similar to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) that isn't as intense as writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Instead, you simply write a letter for each of the 28 days in February.
Sounds simple, right?
Well, maybe the reason you're reading this article is that you're a bit lost on how to write a letter. After all, isn't handwriting snail mail a lost art? What exactly does one write a letter? What is the proper format? How will I ever keep track of the conversation without the help of nested replies?
Let's turn off the distracting devices (Just not the one you're reading this post on), roll our sleeves up, grab your favorite pen, ink, and paper, and let's get to work cranking out these letters, shall we?
Standard Letter Format
Firstly, let's take a look at what a typical piece of correspondence looks like. This is important to follow because, especially as you begin to receive mail, you realize that a well-formatted letter is far easier to read and digest than one that looks like it was written in the middle of an earthquake.
Do include your name, address, and other pertinent contact info on the letter itself. Sure, having a return address on the envelope is sufficient for the post office, but many people discard the envelope, so including your address information in the top left of the page helps the recipient keep track of their correspondence and easily get back to you without fishing through their garbage.
Addressing the person by saying "Dear So-and-So," works fine in most cases. You can go with the informal, "Hello, So-and-So," "Hi, So-and-So," if you are more familiar with the person. If you're unsure of who you are sending the letter to (like a company or organization), then you would do best to write "To Whom It May Concern."
Now that we've got our formalities out of the way, next is the actual guts of the message, the part that has most beginners staring at a flashing cursor for what seems like an eternity. Where do I begin?
Think of the first sentence or two as an opener. It doesn't have to be as formal as a declaration of intent, but it can carry the same message - this is the reason you are staring at an inky piece of paper from me.
To Whom it May Concern,
It is with great respect and sincerity that I am writing you with my letter or resignation.
I'm in the midst of writing a bunch of letters for this thing called InCoWriMo and decided to send you a piece of snail mail because you're such a great guy.
The part that comes after is the body of the message. Use the opener as a springboard to let the words flow. If you've written to your Aunt Milly asking about her 3 cats, maybe you write about the fond memories you had of the cats when visiting her house. If you're writing to a celebrity or person you admire, you can gush about all the ways they've impacted your life without even knowing it.
To end the letter, think about it like Alec Baldwin's character in Glengarry Glen Ross. Close like a salesperson. Think of an action you would like the recipient to take. If it's a celebrity and you'd like an autographed picture, ask for one and include a self-addressed and stamped envelope. It's courteous and makes it stupid easy for them to throw it in the mail back to you. If you'd like to know how they are doing and want a letter back, the closing part of the letter is exactly where to ask.
Signing off can be as simple as a standard, one-size-fits-all "Regards," or "Sincerely." Best Regards, Kind Regards, All the Best, Yours Truly, Love, Yours in Solidarity, and so on can all be used in whatever best fits the context of the letter and the intended recipient.
Right underneath the sign-off, throw in your best "John Hancock." It sometimes might be appropriate to throw in an online handle or an e-mail address to help further identify you in the digital realm.
A post script (P.S.) can sometimes appear in a letter as an afterthought. Sometimes writers use this part of a letter as a vehicle for ironic humor. A letter mustn't always require a P.S.
So, now that you understand the basic structure of a letter, the first question to ask yourself before getting down to writing is, well, who am I writing to?
Your audience is so critical in crafting the letter. You have a one-to-one connection with anyone of your choosing. Possible candidates for InCoWriMo can be (but not limited to) the following:
Military Servicemen and women
When you know who will be reading your letter, it may help in guiding you through the process of creating that letter for them.
Which leads to the what - the content of the letter. As we discussed earlier in the letter format, the first sentence or two should show your intentions and help get the ink flowing. If your letter is meant to share your love for fountain pens, then make it be known! Shout it from the roof of the world that you love putting nib to paper. You love it so much and you care not about anyone's opinion otherwise. Then, close the letter by asking if the recipient would mind receiving a care package from Goldspot Pens that includes some starter pens and inks. :-)
Since we're writing over two dozen letters to people, it will be difficult to keep track of all the threads of conversations. When you're finished handwriting these amazingly personal documents of correspondence, you may want to record your end of the conversation before sending it out through the pony express. This is where modern technology can help. Use your smartphone with an app like Dropbox, Evernote or just use the camera to take a picture of the letter's contents so you have a copy of what you had sent out.
Lastly, but most importantly, make sure you address the front envelope correctly and apply postage in the top right corner. Some may put the return address on the top left corner of the envelope's front side. Others prefer the back flap of the envelope for that information. Optionally, you may adorn the flap with a wax seal or piece of washi tape to fancy things up a bit.
We hope that now you will have an easier time of writing those letters for InCoWriMo. To celebrate this awesome month of writing, we're co-sponsoring a giveaway with PenBoyRoy, who had just started his new YouTube channel. Roy is a funny guy who happens to have a unique, well-informed perspective on writing instruments. He's helping us out by sponsoring an Aurora Optima Auroloide fountain pen from his personal collection. Enter using the form below for a chance to win. You can thank Roy by checking out his YouTube channel and subscribing if you like what he's got to show you.