When you write, the words you use are all for you.
Well, all for you and the lucky person who will receive what you’re writing. But you get to choose them.
My point is, you don’t have to follow any “rules” when you write. There are any number of authors and bloggers who are dedicated to telling you how to write a letter. Not me. I’m just encouraging you to write one! And if you do, you’re the one doing the scribbling, so you get to make your own rules. I was recently flipping through a book about letter writing and came across a section where the author talked about people–in her words, “You know who you are”–who would choose to start a letter with “Yo!” or “Hey, dude!” She heartily disapproved and deemed such greetings to be un-letterly (that’s my made-up word, not hers).
To me, that’s equivalent to someone declaring that science fiction isn’t literature because it isn’t what he enjoys reading. Just because that author wouldn’t want to be greeted with “Yo!” doesn’t mean that everyone else feels the same.
When you are writing, use whatever words you want. If “Hey, dude,” seems like the right greeting, go with it. Following formalities is not what makes a good letter. Communicating is. Find your style and work it.
7 Styles for Letter-Writing
- txtspk. This may be a good choice if you are a 100-texts-a-day type. You can transition to a new format (pen and paper) while maintaining your language of fluency. :)
- Transcribe an imaginary conversation. Between whom, you ask? The possibilities are endless! You and your recipient. You and yourself. Pets. Babies. Celebrities. Inanimate objects.
- Letter list. Intimated by the idea of writing large blocks of words? Try a Letter List!
- Create a persona.* Think of it as a mash-up between letter-writing and role-playing. Excellent fun if you enjoy creative writing, improv or D&D-esque character development. In rare cases, this approach to letter-writing has even been known to lead to publication.
- Tell a story. Real or made-up. Short or long. Funny, pathetic, tender or bawdy.
- Write in rhyme. Ooooh! This could be fun. And the possible styles are so varied–think Dr. Seuss, Common, Shakespeake, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mother Goose–that you can certainly find inspiration for your own rhyme schemes.
- Follow a formal style manual to the letter. Sometimes following the rules is the right choice. The could be because you’re writing to someone who cares a great deal for propriety and etiquette. Or it could be because you want to poke fun at convention. Mixing formal style with informal or off-color content can produce hilarious results.
In short, write however you want to write. Focus on the person who will be reading your letter and what you want to communicate. Feel free to ignore the rules of “proper” letter-writing. Don’t be afraid to play!
*In order to avoid confusion, it might be best to warn your recipient beforehand if you’re writing under the guise of someone other than yourself.