The love letter is nearly as old as written language. It began with cave paintings and stone carvings, and then developed on paper; it lives on today through ILY text messages. It exists in countless forms: The I-don’t-know-you-but-I-want-to-know-you-letter (this one is pretty creepy in contemporary times), the appreciation letter, the written marriage proposal, sexting, and even the Dear John. Since Valentine’s Day (which will heretofore be referred to as VD) is fast approaching, you may be tempted to write your own expression of love to your partner(s), be that person (people) male, female, or something in between. Such letters are typically sappy and crappy, but follow the tips below if you would like to cut back on the crappiness (if not the sappiness).
Select the right stationery. The medium you write in and the surface you write on can say a lot to the recipient of your letter–maybe even something you didn’t intend to say. Pencil on a sheet of wide rule paper torn from a spiral-bound notebook says one thing; gold ink on specialized stationery says something completely different. Keep in mind, this leaves a lot of room for creative expression. Sometimes a surprise love note scrawled on a bathroom mirror with dry erase marker can be personal and spontaneous. Don’t forget that timing and context are very important. A love note that was written on a cocktail napkin while the recipient has gone to the powder room during a dinner date is different from the same note on the same cocktail napkin taped to the recipient’s office computer monitor. If these choices are too much for you, though, some tasteful stationery and envelopes will always do just fine. Bonus points for giving it a little spray of whatever enchanting scent you wear to remind your beau who it’s from. (Yeah, it’s cliche, but it’s also timeless and effective.)
Write legibly. You may have used masterpiece diction and perfect expression to tug at your partner’s heartstrings, but if your handwriting is illegible, it may all be for nothing. At the very least, illegible handwriting is a distraction, and at the worst, it may be misinterpreted. If you know that your handwriting is awful and impossible to read (or if you’re like me and it looks like it was written by a second-grader) consider typing it or having a calligrapher write it for you.
Write just enough. In contemporary times, our attention spans have been hacked to bits by reading tweets and social networking statuses; we want all of our information communicated to us in simple bulleted lists, so make sure you aren’t writing too much (and consider using a bulleted list). Otherwise, your letter might just get a tl;dr response. Say enough to get your personal sentiment across, and then wrap it up. If you have too many thoughts to abridge, at least make sure they’re well-organized and not splattered on the page like thought-vomit.
Avoid bad comparisons. Are your similes like a well-loved penny? Is your metaphor a stack of unwashed dishes? If the comparison you’re making isn’t readily apparent or easily explained, it’s probably a bad one, so just let it go. This also goes for overused expressions like “ruby-red lips” or rhyming “hold you tight” with “treat you right”. Really, what I’m saying is don’t turn your letter into overwrought, cliched love poetry.
Edit. This is the most basic rule of any written work. Check it over and make sure there is good logic and organization. You’re not sending a text message, so show some class and spell things out. And while you’re at it, spell them out correctly. Read it over again and make sure you didn’t accidentally include any homonyms or use the incorrect your/you’re/yore or there/their/they’re. As a grammarphile, nothing is more distracting to me than a grammatical or spelling error, and what should be you poring out you’re feelings could tern into the object of yore affection’s shame. See what I mean? Whatever you do, don’t just go with the first draft. Make sure your final letter is a refined product.
Choose a method of delivery. There are plenty of ways to deliver a love letter, but you will want to consider a method that is special and memorable. While electronic forms certainly aren’t out, sending a text or a Facebook message may seem too common. Nowadays, sending an e-mail might actually be a little old-fashioned. If you want to be really old-fashioned, though, consider sending a hand-written copy by good old snail mail. If you are sending the letter to someone who lives with you and you are as likely to check the mail as they are, then consider sending it to their work address (or, just don’t check the mail for a few days). If that won’t work, there are always singing telegrams, flower deliveries, or carrier pigeons, so don’t be afraid to be creative with this one as well. More bonus points if you can train an owl to deliver your letter for you.
And there you have it. I hope these tips will help your VD letters to suck considerably less. Leave a comment and let us know what you love or hate to get in your own love letters.