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How to Write a Love Letter: Lessons in Old Fashioned Romance

by LOVEPOST on February 10, 2012

Put Down Your Computer and Write A Love Letter

LOVEPOST is introducing a new feature today:” Lessons in Old Fashioned Romance” and our first lesson will teach you how to write a love letter. That means we’re giving you ways to take your love life out of the hectic 21st century for juuuuuust a little bit. Don’t worry–you can keep your Blackberry on and watch Real Housewives in the background if you want, but why not bring something new to your relationship? Or in this case, old. We think an exciting first step to jetting your relationship back to starry-eyed yesteryear is something that is oft forgotten in this technological age: the written word. Yup, this BLOG is telling you to put down the computer (not quite yet…) and write a love letter. This lesson applies to anyone in love–you could be wooing a new paramour or spicing up a 30 year romance. But we think a love letter is a perfectly passionate move to remind your fiance why you’re looking forward to spending the rest of your life with them. Jenna Sanders is an American and Poe/Faulkner fellow at the University of Virginia, where she taught undergraduate workshops. We’ve enlisted her as your expert love letter tutor. Read and learn…

When Carrie snuggled up with Big and a library copy of Love Letters of Great Men, it spawned a worldwide run on bookstores—er, and other online sellers. Turns out, the book didn’t actually exist outside the Sex and the City movie, though it was only a matter of days before a gumptious little English publisher taught the world how to write a love letter. There’s a point to be made here about branding in the 21st century or the endurance of Locke’s basic supply/demand model, but for our purposes, the more relevant point is this: people wants them some love letters, baby!

That includes: your fiance. Yeah, sure, they know you love them – you changed your Facebook status to engaged, didn’t you? And, hello?, you always sign off text messages with a meaty xxxxxxxooooooo. But, let’s get real. No matter what your best girlfriend says, texting “I luv u” isn’t gonna cut it.

There’s no one on earth who doesn’t appreciate a good, old-fashioned, hard-to-the-touch love letter every now and then. Most of us haven’t ever actually, you know, gotten one, which means we’ll be all the more grateful when you finally deliver. It also means our standards are pretty low. So if you’re feeling unsure about your ability to write a love letter, remember that you’ve got the whole “don’t-see-that-everyday” element working pretty hard in your favor.

Why Write A Love Letter and Not Sent a Text, Email or Tweet

But why send a love letter at all? Why not a love email or tweet? Technology can certainly be put to good use in relationships – craigslist classifieds anyone? It can be a way to meet, screen, flirt and date. It can keep things casual (see: what does it really mean when he pokes you twice in one day?) or accelerate the courtship (see: late-night text). But it can also be a bit too lighthearted at times, too prone to the casual use of irony and hyperbole. Words lose or acquire meaning based on the medium in which they are expressed. A letter has certain properties that no high-tech form of communication can duplicate: learning how to write a love letter is something tangible that you pass from your own hand into your partner’s. It is something that you once held, and something that your partner now holds. It is something that can be cherished and re-found one day in an old tucked-away box.

how do i write a love letter

Yes, the forced formality of a handwritten letter can seem artificial, but it also designates a certain commitment of time and thought. Sure, your sweet text messages and chummy wall posts are appreciated, but they cost you a matter of minutes to compose. You’re making a pretty big statement by writing a letter on stationary specifically purchased for the occasion. You’re saying: contrary to what you may think, I don’t just sit around all day posting screenshots of SNL clips. There’s more to my daily routine than Words with Friends and Buffy reruns. I actually got up from the sofa, exited the house and went to the store to buy this beautiful stationary. Or, for the more casual of heart: I actually got up from the sofa, went to a bar and scrawled these words of love on a beer-stained napkin. When you write a love letter, it not only says you took the time to sit down to write it, it actually forces you to take that time. And that’s time you don’t usually take – time to sit in quiet consideration of what exactly it is you love and admire about your partner.

Ok, so you’re sold on the importance of the love letter. You’re geared up, knuckles-cracked, ready-to-go. So….what now? Well, first thing is: get a pen. C’mon, you know you have one lying around somewhere. Next up is the stationary. Yeah, sure, you could write this thing on a folded-up 8×11 you nicked from the office printer tray. Ultimately, it’s the content that matters most. But form here is more than just bells and whistles (see above). I personally like a minimalist approach – black ink on a nice simple cream paper. But hey, that’s me. The trick here is to know your audience. If your partner digs flash, then snazz it up: spring for the expensive, designer stationary, be generous with the perfume, throw a dandelion head into the envelope. If she’s a Yankees fan, I’m sure you can find some nice decal paper. If he’s big into vermillion, don’t judge, just go with it.

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But enough on form; onto content, which can get a bit trickier. You could, of course, snag yourself a copy of Love Letters of Great Men and crib from the likes of Ovid, van Gogh and Mozart. But then you’d be a theif. You’d also be breaking the cardinal rule of successful love-letter-writing: keep it real. You may not have a knack for words, you may not be prone to self-expression, you may not even have a mastery of basic English grammar – but what you do have is firsthand knowledge of yourself and your partner. A true, heartfelt statement written at the vocab level of a 4th grader is a thousand times more profound than a perfectly crafted Hallmark card. But you already know that. You’re reading this because you want some cold, hard instructions. Hate to break it to you, but there’s no such thing. Instead, I offer these loose suggestions:

12 Suggestions To Write A Love Letter That Sizzles

1. Begin with a personalized, not too formal salutation (think: My dearest Tom, My darling Lily). You’ll probably also want to add the date. Remember, this letter will be cherished and saved – when your partner finds it again years from now, it’ll be nice to place it clearly in the timeline of your relationship.

2. Don’t jump right into full-on oh-my-god-I-love-you-so-much mode just yet. Ease into it. Start off lighthearted and casual when writing a love letter. Describe something small that happened in your day that made you think of your partner. Maybe you heard a song on the radio that reminded you of a road trip you took. Maybe you saw a restaurant that reminded you of a memorable dinner. Recall specific details from the memory; reference your shared history. Then talk about how recalling these details brightened the present day.

3. If you’re not into nostalgia, try thinking of something small that your partner does every day to make your life better. Mention the smell of coffee she brings you in bed every morning, the warmth of the car he always starts five minutes before your departure because he knows you get cold.

4. If you’re stuck, try thinking of a trip you went on together or a special occasion you shared. If you’re really stuck, try simply stating your purpose: I was thinking how much I love you and how I don’t tell you enough, so I decided to sit down and write this letter.

5. Move out of the past and into the present: here we are, five years later, and I’m still totally head over heels for you. Or go from the particular to the universal; segue from the small details to the attributes they represent. That coffee she brings you in bed? A small gesture that speaks volumes about the kind of person she is: caring, generous, warm.

6. If you’re at a loss, ask yourself the following questions, they may help get your thoughts going:

  • What qualities do you appreciate and respect most in your partner (e.g. sense of humor, sense of   calm).
  • Can you think of an incident when your partner acted in a certain way that awed and inspired you? Or is there something she does every day that awes and inspires you? Does he volunteer at a soup kitchen? Does she run marathons?
  • How has your life changed for the better since meeting your partner? (e.g. I was once a hapless young bachelor with a fridge full of six-packs and salsa; now I’m home-curing bacon and pickling my own radishes!)
  • In what ways do you notice your partner’s absence when you are apart? What things, specifically, do you miss?
  • What interests do you share with your partner? How do these shared interest play a role in the relationship? Do you love to go hiking together? Share the Sunday paper? Crowd surf at punk shows?
  • Alternatively, what interests has your partner introduced you to (see home-curing and pickling above)? What new worlds has he opened up for you?

7. It’s more important that the letter be heartfelt than literary, but if there’s a particular song lyric or novel passage that makes you think of your partner, don’t hesitate to include it.

8. If you choose to incorporate elements of sensuality, take your cue from Anaïs Nin, not Larry Flynt. Her eyes literally stopped you dead in your tracks the first time you met? You feel a surge of pride every time you walk into a room with him on your arm? Wonderful, lovely, include it. Save the mile high club induction story for another time. Remember, this letter will go in a box one day, and that box will go in a closet, and that closet will be in your house, where your future children will have access to it. You probably want to spare them the permanent psychological damage.

9. If you are so inclined, talk about your hopes and visions for the future. Describe trips you’ll go on or the family you’ll start. Not in a needy “my biological clock is ticking” way, of course. Think of it as more of a “I can’t wait to share my life with you” kind of thing.

10. Sign the letter – duh.

11. Sleep on it. Everyone writes yucky first drafts. Put aside your yucky first draft for a day or two, then come back and give it a second go. Revise, and revise again. Then maybe a third time. Trust me, it’s worth it.

12. Delivery: I personally recommend keeping things simple – a clean white envelope placed on your partner’s bedside table. But you know your partner best; do it the way you think he’d want it. Sent old-school via postal mail. Scrolled up and tied with a ribbon. Taped to a bottle of wine in the fridge.

– Jenna Sanders

Photo Credits: Shutterstock


Tell us: Would you write a love letter?

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