As most of us use e-mail and other digital information technologies for most of our basic communication, there are a growing number of basic references on traditional letter writing serving as a kind of hedge against the future loss of these messages. Samara O’Shea, who a few years ago created LetterLover.net, a source for helping people write letters, has produced one of these guides. For the Love of Letters: A 21st-Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing (New York: Collins, 2007) starts with O’Shea ruminating about the use of acronyms in text messaging and her fear that old forms of letter writing may disappear. She does note that her fears may be “unfounded,” citing a similar expression of fear of the fine art of letter writing by Emily Post all the way back in 1922.
This a popular, and very sentimental, perspective on letter writing, not a scholarly discourse. O’Shea provides advice on composing letters about love, grief, unhappiness, gratitude, apology, and business, with each of these themes including a historical example. She captures, along the way, something of the power of old documents: “One of my favorite things about letters is they can be experienced and re-experienced. The thoughts of are moment are preserved and you can encounter them again as an older, hopefully wiser version of yourself” (p. 77).