Adventures in Letter-Writing: 8 Easy Steps to Success

While perusing one of those ubiquitous job-search websites, I came upon a post about writing thank-you letters after being given one of those now-coveted job interviews.  The author suggested hand-writing the note and then sending it via the US Postal Service to boost your hiring chances. 

I realize this is a slight departure from my usual posts and it’s not the thank-you note idea that drew my attention. It was one of the comments to the post that astounded me: 

“How do I do this thru snail mail?” queried the commentor.

Huh? Double-take, did I. Can this person be serious? Who doesn’t know how to mail a letter at the Post Office?  Obviously, someone doesn’t.  Maybe they do all their communicating via email, Android, Facebook, and Twittr. Maybe they pay bills and handle banking transactions online. Maybe they don’t have bills or a bank account.  Even so, I thought, how can they not know how to do something as basic to human existence as mail an actual envelope-and-stamp letter?

So, I thought I’d offer some instruction here to help out all of those who are letter-illiterate.

1. Find a piece of paper. Something plain, white, or maybe a soft cream or vanilla color. Avoid hot pink or lime green even if it matches your wardrobe.

2. Find a good pen. Not a pencil, a pen. This is a stick of plastic or metal with ink inside that you click (something the Android/Twittr generation can get behind) or uncap. By clicking or uncapping, you allow the ink to flow when you place the pen in your hand and then press it against the paper to write.

3. Write something. Start with placing the date at the top left of your letter.  Then, skip a line and add the name and address (street, city, state, zipcode) under the date. Skip another line and write a greeting. Like, “Dear Ms. Smith” or whomever it was that interviewed you. Don’t write “Hey Ms. Smith” or “Hi” or start the letter as if you were entering into a conversation that is already in progress.  After that, write what you want to say. This is called the body of the letter. Do nt wrt w/out vwls.  Then, skip a few lines and write “sincerely”.  Don’t put  “Ciao” or “Later” or, worse, “Cheers“.  Kindly write  “sincerely” (with a capital “S”) and below that, sign your name.

4. Create a signature. If you can’t read your signature, try printing your name and then signing it at a jaunty angle. The recipient needs to know who it’s from or this will have been an exercise in futility.  How will they know it’s you if they can’t read your signature? 

5. Fold the letter (unless it’s one of those pre-folded notes) and place it in an envelope.  Legibly write the recipient’s name (including a title, like, Ms. or Mr., preferably before the name).  Then, the address. (Again, street, city, state, zipcode.)  Seal the envelope.  Years ago, I used sealing wax.  Sealing wax?  Look it up.

6. Add a return address to the top left corner of the front of the envelope or the center of the back of the envelope. And, yes, this means you must have an address, someplace where you might actually get mail. I remember standing in line once at my local Post Office and hearing a guy tell the clerk, “Gee, I don’t know what my address is.”  Figure it out. Then, put it on the envelope. If you don’t, the letter tends to look like maybe there’s Anthrax in it.

7. Now, here’s where things can get a little challenging. This is when you have to actually go to the Post Office.  You have to put a stamp on the envelope in order to mail it and the Post Office is the best place to purchase stamps. They come in all sorts of styles – famous people with brief bios on the back, scenics, holiday, famous buildings, space exploration, old airplanes or cars, TV personalities of yore, etc.  You can also buy a plain flag or Liberty Bell (look it up).  Anyway, buy one for 44 cents, peel off the backing, and stick it in the upper right hand corner of your envelope.

8. Mail it. Give it to the clerk at the counter, stick it in the slot in the wall, maybe drop it in one of those rounded boxes on four legs that stand somewhere near your Post Office and…that’s it.  

And, no, you don’t have to re-open the chute to see if your letter actually went into the box.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Adventures in Letter-Writing: 8 Easy Steps to Success

  1. Scott Thompson

    I agree that the process Amy describes above remains a fundamental human skill. A long time ago it was making spear points. It’s comparable.

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