09 November 2012

Have We Lost the Art of Writing Compelling Letters?

Image source: http://www.healthforthewholeself.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/iStock_000000052126XSmall.jpg

A post on Olive Tree Genealogy with the above title really struck a nerve with me ...

Possibly because while I was doing research at UNC Chapel Hill the other week in the folders of the LC Glenn collection, I was struck by how much and how regular a lot of this extended family corresponded.

The letters written between cousins, fathers/sons, mothers/sons, etc, especially during the civil war, just "touched" you ...

There was one series between a son and his parents and then next you see the notice from the army of his death and then paperwork as his father tried to collect unpaid benefits.  It made me feel incredibly sad regarding the outcome though I can image the solace the family took in having these personal letters from their son as he wrote them so regularly, even before his enlistment.  To “hear” his voice through his own words!

I perused through boxes and boxes of letters where people would talk about their life, extended family, politics, religion and so much more ... so personal that you feel you know them ... I don't think my texts, e-mails or FB posts could ever capture that same depth of detail nor so vividly create an image for my readers. And, speaking of images, I don't think in this case, pictures really could speak a thousand words, though these letters sure did!

It does make me a bit nostalgic for when my gran, and two of her cousins were alive and living in England.  We corresponded for years the old-fashioned way, pen to paper and then mailed.  In fact, I never met my grandmother’s two cousins and yet we shared this rich correspondence.  I was so sad when they died and yet I kept every letter they wrote as it allows me, in perpetuity, to be touched, once again, by their words.

In her post, Lorine McGinnis Schulze, captures the poignancy and power of letter writing as its being replaced by 144 character tweets, short FB posts, texts and other elements of social media where brevity is prized over all else.

Do read the full article.

Do you agree?

Editor’s Note:  A related Upfront with NGS post, But Who Will Read The Record? Does Not Learning Cursive Mean Our Descendants Will Be Less Able to Read Handwritten Documents?, has been viewed over 24,000 times!

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