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Letter Exchange Etiquette. Responding, Initiating. Frequency. What Do You Do?

snail mail letter etiquette frequency how often respond

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#1 AlohaJim

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Posted 29 July 2019 - 03:59

Aloha everyone.

 

Status:

I have been corresponding for awhile now. Always responding fairly promptly when a letter is received. And, never missing a response. In this way, I figured the person who I'm writing to would be in their comfort zone as far as how often to write, if I only equally respond.

And, I'd be always attentive to be sure to respond with a well composed missive, most often with enclosed pictures to share since I'm a photographer.

 

I also pay attention to letter lengths. There's no sense in my responding to a single half page written on both size with 4 full size Rhodia sheets written on both sides. And VS VS.  I figured, this way, the other person sets the pace of disclosure and all that, and I'm happy with that.

 

Partial results:

Some correspondents are very regular and steady. A few develop great exchanges. Others perhaps lose interest in writing or fountain pens or :"who knows" over time and fade away. And, others, after an initial letter exchange simply stop for some unknown reason.

 

Question:

However. I had a though that what if the other correspondent simply forgot to write and instead of a monthly exchange, 2-3 months go by. Should I write a short letter to keep up, or simple realize that the other person is no longer interested in writing or has the time, etc?' I'm very meticulous in keeping track of things. Perhaps others are not?

 

Exception:

I did have one person not write in nearly a year, then a letter appeared and it was nice. But, who knows if what used to be a regular monthly exchange will resume. Unknown?

 

Exception:

One person went through a bad health patch and was not in the mood to write for nearly a year.. Yet, perhaps a cheerful inquiry note in the mail from a corespondent would bring cheer. Who knows? One can only guess? And, not pry. You can't tell the difference between no longer wanting to write or no longer able to write, etc.

 

Exception: sometimes, there is a certain relationship established, at least early stages, and there's familiarity. Being human nature, we are concerned when someone does not respond in turn. Yet, it would seem intrusive to send a letter after already sending one without a response 2 months later. Like being a "pest"? Or needy?

 

Question to the forum:

1. What is the proper etiquette for letter exchanges?

2. Do you write only when written to?

3. Is the letter exchange 1 for 1, equally reciprocal?

4. Is it natural for correspondents to come and go and a few endure over time? (perhaps like real life?)

5. An experienced correspondent once told me that snail mail correspondence is like a "slow conversation". That was nice and I took it as good advice.

6. How do you do your letter exchanges?

7. What are your protocols?

8. Other tips and thoughts and your experiences.

 

Thanks everyone for your help and advice

Aloha

jim


Edited by AlohaJim, 29 July 2019 - 04:02.

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#2 Misfit

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Posted 29 July 2019 - 08:36

Hi, I will not go through all your questions, but answer to something in your text. I am one of those pen pals who can let 2-3 or more months go by. I’m lucky to have most of my pen pals keep on writing. Life can get in the way. The need for something to write about can be an issue.

I do not always match the exact length of the other person’s letter. That is up to each writer.

In my experience it has usually been one to one in letter exchanges. I received a postcard from one pen pal who had been dealing with a wrist issue.

I lost one pen pal to health issues, one I suspect got tired of my tardy responses, another I’m not sure about, but I checked and she has not been in FPN for a year now. I stopped writing to one because it was getting too personal for pen pal letters.

I hope some of this addresses your questions. It sounds very nice of you to write an extra letter.
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#3 vicpen123

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Posted 29 July 2019 - 09:43

Answer to question 1.

 

There is none. Make it up as you go.

 

Answer to all other questions.

 

Refer to answer to question 1.



#4 AlohaJim

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Posted 29 July 2019 - 13:10

Hi, I will not go through all your questions, but answer to something in your text. I am one of those pen pals who can let 2-3 or more months go by. I’m lucky to have most of my pen pals keep on writing. Life can get in the way. The need for something to write about can be an issue.

I do not always match the exact length of the other person’s letter. That is up to each writer.

In my experience it has usually been one to one in letter exchanges. I received a postcard from one pen pal who had been dealing with a wrist issue.

I lost one pen pal to health issues, one I suspect got tired of my tardy responses, another I’m not sure about, but I checked and she has not been in FPN for a year now. I stopped writing to one because it was getting too personal for pen pal letters.

I hope some of this addresses your questions. It sounds very nice of you to write an extra letter.

 

What is "too personal for pen pal letters"?  Since I'm still fairly new, 1-2 years, this is something I have not encountered.


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#5 sangrisano

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Posted 29 July 2019 - 14:46

My two cents:

 

1) Postal service is unreliable (at least the Italian Post is), therefore if I don't receive a reply to my letter in 2-3 months, I write another one - I usually post on FPN whenever I receive/send letters.

2) If I don't receive a reply to my 2nd letter, then probably this pen pal is no longer interested in corresponding - I believe it's rude to insist.

3) Losing a pen pal (or two) happens, it's a fact of life - I accept it. There might be hundreds of valid reasons for that.

4) I try to reply within 2-3 weeks, but sometimes it takes more - work, life, travel, ... there are a number of reasons. Sometimes I start writing a letter, but then stop and pick it up again after a few days, this further delays correspondence.

5) About length, this is only dependent on how many things I want to tell: if I have sent a letter to a pen pal only 3-4 weeks ago, probably not much has happened, it's unlikely I have a lot to tell.

 

Generally speaking, I like the concept of a "slow conversation": I try to be kind and polite as if my pen pal and I were sitting face to face.


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#6 AlohaJim

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Posted 29 July 2019 - 14:58

My two cents:

 

1) Postal service is unreliable (at least the Italian Post is), therefore if I don't receive a reply to my letter in 2-3 months, I write another one - I usually post on FPN whenever I receive/send letters.

2) If I don't receive a reply to my 2nd letter, then probably this pen pal is no longer interested in corresponding - I believe it's rude to insist.

3) Losing a pen pal (or two) happens, it's a fact of life - I accept it. There might be hundreds of valid reasons for that.

4) I try to reply within 2-3 weeks, but sometimes it takes more - work, life, travel, ... there are a number of reasons. Sometimes I start writing a letter, but then stop and pick it up again after a few days, this further delays correspondence.

5) About length, this is only dependent on how many things I want to tell: if I have sent a letter to a pen pal only 3-4 weeks ago, probably not much has happened, it's unlikely I have a lot to tell.

 

Generally speaking, I like the concept of a "slow conversation": I try to be kind and polite as if my pen pal and I were sitting face to face.

 

These are great tips.

Thanks for the advice.

aloha

jim


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#7 flyingfox

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Posted 29 July 2019 - 20:41

Interesting thread!

I have been into penpalling for quite awhile, and- very much like friendships in real life, it varies from be person to another, and the relationship evolves over time. I have been super-lucky with wonderful pen pals.

Here are my thoughts...

1. What is the proper etiquette for letter exchanges?

Depends on the person, really. Standard etiquette like in any social interaction would be nice, I guess- at least I try to be nice and polite and all that good stuff. Some considers certain topics NG (religious stuff, politics, and so on); others are open to anything. Some prefer not to get connected via social media, others love it (especially to share photos). When in doubt, ask!

I just go along with what the other person likes, for the most part. The only serious NG for me is someone posting my personal info on social media (like phone number or street address. Just saying Philadelphia, PA, USA is totally fine, there are enough people around here). They can post whatever they want to post about themselves, but not my info.

2. Do you write only when written to?
3. Is the letter exchange 1 for 1, equally reciprocal?

For the most part, yes, although- as sangriano above stated, postal service can be quite iffy at times. USPS has done me wrong enough times. It is called snail mail for a reason, and those snails seem to get even more sluggish at times. Then I am a moving target (going back and forth between Philly and Tokyo), which makes things more complicated than necessary. It also depends on how long I have been writing to the person, and how well I know them.

For example- to a pal of over 15 years who haven’t been writing as much since she had her second child (and- I have met her and her whole family several times, so she is a “friend in a far away place” than just “a pen pal”), I do send her cards for holiday and birthday, as well as occasional postcards. We text each other as well.

But- I would be definitely more careful with a virtual stranger whom I have exchanged a few letters. I don’t want them to feel like they are harassed/ stalked, or pressured to write back to me. So- I might send a quick message (via a postcard or messenger or e-mail or whatever, depending on the info I have) and leave it at that.

As for the length of my letters- it depends on whether I have stuff to write about.


4. Is it natural for correspondents to come and go and a few endure over time? (perhaps like real life?)

Absolutely.

The thing is- many of my pen pals, especially the ones I have been corresponding for a long time, are women around my age, i.e. mid-40’s, which is the time of transition. Several of my pen pals and I have been corresponding for over 20 years. We were all carefree students when we started writing to each other, but then... things, or life, happens. Career, family (having children, caring for aging parents, whatever), health issues, and so on. Of course- some of my pals are on the other side of it- that the youngest kid started school and they are writing more again, for example.

I try to write back within a reasonable time frame, but my life is far from ideal. Sometimes I do manage to write back within a week or two, but then sometimes I fall apart spectacularly.

In any case- my focus is to enjoy and cherish each friendship. *\(^o^)/*

#8 DaveBj

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Posted 30 July 2019 - 00:18

My procedure is to put received letters in a caddy in the order in which they were received.  When I have time to write a letter, I take the next letter in line, open and read it, and write a reply.  If I get busy in my personal life, as I am now, I do get behind (about a month behind right now).  I do not send "reminder letters" when I don't hear from a pen pal; I give him/her the benefit of assuming that [s]he has a life.  I don't write really long letters; the longest are about 4 pages (half of a letter-size or A4 size sheet).

 

D


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#9 AlohaJim

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Posted 30 July 2019 - 02:34

Interesting thread!

I have been into penpalling for quite awhile, and- very much like friendships in real life, it varies from be person to another, and the relationship evolves over time. I have been super-lucky with wonderful pen pals.

Here are my thoughts...

1. What is the proper etiquette for letter exchanges?

Depends on the person, really. Standard etiquette like in any social interaction would be nice, I guess- at least I try to be nice and polite and all that good stuff. Some considers certain topics NG (religious stuff, politics, and so on); others are open to anything. Some prefer not to get connected via social media, others love it (especially to share photos). When in doubt, ask!

I just go along with what the other person likes, for the most part. The only serious NG for me is someone posting my personal info on social media (like phone number or street address. Just saying Philadelphia, PA, USA is totally fine, there are enough people around here). They can post whatever they want to post about themselves, but not my info.

2. Do you write only when written to?
3. Is the letter exchange 1 for 1, equally reciprocal?

For the most part, yes, although- as sangriano above stated, postal service can be quite iffy at times. USPS has done me wrong enough times. It is called snail mail for a reason, and those snails seem to get even more sluggish at times. Then I am a moving target (going back and forth between Philly and Tokyo), which makes things more complicated than necessary. It also depends on how long I have been writing to the person, and how well I know them.

For example- to a pal of over 15 years who haven’t been writing as much since she had her second child (and- I have met her and her whole family several times, so she is a “friend in a far away place” than just “a pen pal”), I do send her cards for holiday and birthday, as well as occasional postcards. We text each other as well.

But- I would be definitely more careful with a virtual stranger whom I have exchanged a few letters. I don’t want them to feel like they are harassed/ stalked, or pressured to write back to me. So- I might send a quick message (via a postcard or messenger or e-mail or whatever, depending on the info I have) and leave it at that.

As for the length of my letters- it depends on whether I have stuff to write about.


4. Is it natural for correspondents to come and go and a few endure over time? (perhaps like real life?)

Absolutely.

The thing is- many of my pen pals, especially the ones I have been corresponding for a long time, are women around my age, i.e. mid-40’s, which is the time of transition. Several of my pen pals and I have been corresponding for over 20 years. We were all carefree students when we started writing to each other, but then... things, or life, happens. Career, family (having children, caring for aging parents, whatever), health issues, and so on. Of course- some of my pals are on the other side of it- that the youngest kid started school and they are writing more again, for example.

I try to write back within a reasonable time frame, but my life is far from ideal. Sometimes I do manage to write back within a week or two, but then sometimes I fall apart spectacularly.

In any case- my focus is to enjoy and cherish each friendship. *\(^o^)/*

 

This is wonderful.

Lot's to learn.

thanks for sharing.

aloha

jim


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#10 Maccabeus

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Posted 30 July 2019 - 18:03

1. What is the proper etiquette for letter exchanges?

            According to Emily Post, https://www.bartleby.com/95/27.html ,  proper letter-writing etiquette consists of creating for your correspondent a missive that s/he will look forward to receiving. That is to say, neatly written, generally lacking misspellings, and not dwelling on personal issues or other negativities. I suppose this might extend to hobbies and pastimes that do not interest him/her in the slightest. Letters should be substantial in the topics addressed, or at least should not be whimsical, discursive, and full of fluff.

 

2. Do you write only when written to?

            Generally, yes. I’ll wait for a reply, although that hasn’t stopped me from starting a letter in anticipation of receiving one that I can finish as I reply to theirs. I figure that every one of my pen pals is at least as organized as I am (although misplaced letters have occurred on both sides) and has some sort of reply protocol. There are some folks I write to never expecting a reply (I do occasionally get one), but I didn’t start writing to them to be regular pen-pals, so I’ve no expectation of a reply. It would take a lot for me to write a “reminder” letter to a regular pen pal. Like someone else said, correspondents come and correspondents go. Everyone has a life, and every life has seasons and changes. Que sera sera.

 

3. Is the letter exchange 1 for 1, equally reciprocal?

            I typically try to match the length of my correspondents’ letters somewhat, but I do prefer to write and receive longer ones (2+ sheets). Few things are more irritating than receiving a one-sided half sheet of patched-together random thoughts that are totally unrelated to anything mentioned in my previous letter to them.

           

 

4. Is it natural for correspondents to come and go and a few endure over time? (perhaps like real life?)

            Oh, yeah. Letter writing, as you said, is like a slow conversation. It can take a bit longer sometimes to determine that you just aren’t epistolarily compatible.


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#11 AlohaJim

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Posted 30 July 2019 - 18:15

1. What is the proper etiquette for letter exchanges?

            According to Emily Post, https://www.bartleby.com/95/27.html ,  proper letter-writing etiquette consists of creating for your correspondent a missive that s/he will look forward to receiving. That is to say, neatly written, generally lacking misspellings, and not dwelling on personal issues or other negativities. I suppose this might extend to hobbies and pastimes that do not interest him/her in the slightest. Letters should be substantial in the topics addressed, or at least should not be whimsical, discursive, and full of fluff.

 

2. Do you write only when written to?

            Generally, yes. I’ll wait for a reply, although that hasn’t stopped me from starting a letter in anticipation of receiving one that I can finish as I reply to theirs. I figure that every one of my pen pals is at least as organized as I am (although misplaced letters have occurred on both sides) and has some sort of reply protocol. There are some folks I write to never expecting a reply (I do occasionally get one), but I didn’t start writing to them to be regular pen-pals, so I’ve no expectation of a reply. It would take a lot for me to write a “reminder” letter to a regular pen pal. Like someone else said, correspondents come and correspondents go. Everyone has a life, and every life has seasons and changes. Que sera sera.

 

3. Is the letter exchange 1 for 1, equally reciprocal?

            I typically try to match the length of my correspondents’ letters somewhat, but I do prefer to write and receive longer ones (2+ sheets). Few things are more irritating than receiving a one-sided half sheet of patched-together random thoughts that are totally unrelated to anything mentioned in my previous letter to them.

           

 

4. Is it natural for correspondents to come and go and a few endure over time? (perhaps like real life?)

            Oh, yeah. Letter writing, as you said, is like a slow conversation. It can take a bit longer sometimes to determine that you just aren’t epistolarily compatible.

 

Excellent advice.

I will take it.

Thanks for posting.

j

 

. . . what is a reminder letter?


Edited by AlohaJim, 30 July 2019 - 18:16.

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#12 AlohaJim

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Posted 31 July 2019 - 14:47



My procedure is to put received letters in a caddy in the order in which they were received.  When I have time to write a letter, I take the next letter in line, open and read it, and write a reply.  If I get busy in my personal life, as I am now, I do get behind (about a month behind right now).  I do not send "reminder letters" when I don't hear from a pen pal; I give him/her the benefit of assuming that [s]he has a life.  I don't write really long letters; the longest are about 4 pages (half of a letter-size or A4 size sheet).

 

D

 

Very organized.

thanks

j


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#13 BaronWulfraed

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Posted 31 July 2019 - 16:52

and not dwelling on personal issues or other negativities. I suppose this might extend to hobbies and pastimes that do not interest him/her in the slightest. Letters should be substantial in the topics addressed, or at least should not be whimsical, discursive, and full of fluff.

 

Well, that doesn't leave much...

My Dear XYZ

I am well.

Sincerely,


MNO

After all "Hope you are doing well" could be construed as a bit of "negativity" :wacko:



#14 Rhincodon

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Posted 01 August 2019 - 02:18

I am one of those penpals who might not reply for several months, due to just life things/energy for writing. For me, I have made my own promise to always reply and then leave the continuation of our correspondence in the other's hands. And sometimes things drop off. If it is with a penpal I've written to for a while, I will occasionally send a little "life update" letter just to see if they would like to reply - but I try to avoid sounding impatient or harassing. 

 

In terms of letter length, I generally will use the other person's reply as a basis for how much they might like to read. I get very chatty about random things, but if a penpal wrote me a few pages I to avoid responding with double-digits. On the other hand, one of my penpals will write 20+ page letters and it's a personal challenge to me to match it. :) They are always interesting, and my hope is that by responding in kind it is a subtle message that I am interested in all she has to say.

 

I also write to someone in South Africa and we have exchanged letters maybe twice a year but for several years now. I'm not sure if it's their busy schedule or international post, or a combination of the two.

 

In general I keep my content to lighthearted fare, speaking about what I've been doing and gentle grumbles about work and things that interest me. If we've corresponded for a while, I might mention some of the personal challenges I've had. One thing I do not do is bring up divisive topics. Letter-writing is fun for me, and debating and arguing is not.


I'll come up with something eventually.

#15 AlohaJim

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Posted 01 August 2019 - 02:35

I am one of those penpals who might not reply for several months, due to just life things/energy for writing. For me, I have made my own promise to always reply and then leave the continuation of our correspondence in the other's hands. And sometimes things drop off. If it is with a penpal I've written to for a while, I will occasionally send a little "life update" letter just to see if they would like to reply - but I try to avoid sounding impatient or harassing. 

 

In terms of letter length, I generally will use the other person's reply as a basis for how much they might like to read. I get very chatty about random things, but if a penpal wrote me a few pages I to avoid responding with double-digits. On the other hand, one of my penpals will write 20+ page letters and it's a personal challenge to me to match it. :) They are always interesting, and my hope is that by responding in kind it is a subtle message that I am interested in all she has to say.

 

I also write to someone in South Africa and we have exchanged letters maybe twice a year but for several years now. I'm not sure if it's their busy schedule or international post, or a combination of the two.

 

In general I keep my content to lighthearted fare, speaking about what I've been doing and gentle grumbles about work and things that interest me. If we've corresponded for a while, I might mention some of the personal challenges I've had. One thing I do not do is bring up divisive topics. Letter-writing is fun for me, and debating and arguing is not.

 

This is great!

I like your "style". Agree with all of it.

Thanks for posting.

jim


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#16 aworldofsnailmail

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Posted 04 August 2019 - 12:27

1) Is there such a thing as proper etiquette? One of the etiquette books from the 19th century does not approve of the use of non-black/blue ink, or lined paper for social correspondence. And it didn't like the craze of using violet ink.

2) Speak when you are spoken to... but if no one speaks to you... I look for new people to write to mainly around February for InCoWriMo/LetterMo.

3) For me, it is usually a 1:1 exchange. Though there may be additional postcards from time to time.

Recently, I started to reach out to a few people I hadn't heard from in a while. I know life (and death) gets in the way at times. Postal services can be slow, mojo might also get lost. I like to reply to letters within a month and in order of receipt but do sometimes prioritise letters or delay their responses as and when it is appropriate.

4) Correspondents come and go, just like people you know in person. If you change jobs, you may lose touch with your former colleagues. If you move house, you may lose touch with old neighbours. You see people more regularly than others. Same with letters - some people reply very quickly, others take their time.

Just like people you meet in person, there are correspondents who may fall into the category as true friends, others as people you are friendly to but choose not to share much of your personal life.

One size does not fit all.

I blog at http://correspondenc...blogspot.co.uk/ on correspondence and stamps and such. I also have a snailmail forum

Participating in InCoWriMo-2019.

Best wishes

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#17 AlohaJim

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Posted 06 August 2019 - 03:57

1) Is there such a thing as proper etiquette? One of the etiquette books from the 19th century does not approve of the use of non-black/blue ink, or lined paper for social correspondence. And it didn't like the craze of using violet ink.

2) Speak when you are spoken to... but if no one speaks to you... I look for new people to write to mainly around February for InCoWriMo/LetterMo.

3) For me, it is usually a 1:1 exchange. Though there may be additional postcards from time to time.

Recently, I started to reach out to a few people I hadn't heard from in a while. I know life (and death) gets in the way at times. Postal services can be slow, mojo might also get lost. I like to reply to letters within a month and in order of receipt but do sometimes prioritise letters or delay their responses as and when it is appropriate.

4) Correspondents come and go, just like people you know in person. If you change jobs, you may lose touch with your former colleagues. If you move house, you may lose touch with old neighbours. You see people more regularly than others. Same with letters - some people reply very quickly, others take their time.

Just like people you meet in person, there are correspondents who may fall into the category as true friends, others as people you are friendly to but choose not to share much of your personal life.

One size does not fit all.

 

Good points.

Thanks for posting.

Aloha,

j


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#18 BorisoftheStars

BorisoftheStars

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Posted 09 August 2019 - 04:12

I like to send a letter once a week, preferably write on Saturday then mail it Monday so to keep things more easily to write a decent letter.

 

Question to the forum:

1. What is the proper etiquette for letter exchanges?

I don't really know much about proper etiquette. The only thing I can think of is to address them the way they wish to be addressed unless it's some ridiculous title or something... unless it's an actual title like Tzar Nicholas, or Lord Hades.

 

2. Do you write only when written to?

I don't really write to others other than my penpal. I did write to my aunt, but she hasn't responded to the second or third letter I sent her. I do want more penpals, but I'm afraid I can't have too much. I did write a letter to one of my cousins without her writing first.

 

3. Is the letter exchange 1 for 1, equally reciprocal?

I think it is unless I'm misunderstanding this query or missing context.

 

4. Is it natural for correspondents to come and go and a few endure over time? (perhaps like real life?)

Yes it is. It's like being friends with someone. Sometimes you just lose interest, or the natural cycle of life takes place, sad as that may be.

 

5. An experienced correspondent once told me that snail mail correspondence is like a "slow conversation". That was nice and I took it as good advice.

I haven't had any experienced correspondent since not a lot of people my age write letters. At least as far as I'm aware. I do agree that mail correspondence is like a slo conversation since it takes time for the letters or cards to get from the sender to the receiver. t takes three days for my letter to arrive at my penpal's house.

 

6. How do you do your letter exchanges?

Once a week, and we have both sent  letter to each other. that means that we receive a letter from each other the same week and then reply to it and send it the next week (I.e. I receive his letter on riday while he receives mine the day before, and then we both reply and send the replies on monday).

 

7. What are your protocols?

We send a message on twitter to apprise each other that we sent the letters later than usual and then say that it's okay if we receive the letters late. Usually mention why the letters will be late.

 

8. Other tips and thoughts and your experiences.

Just have fun with it if you know the person, but have common sense I suppose. You wouldn't send a world leader a love letter, would you? Also mention the topics you've spoken about in the letters so you can look back for information or to keep your penpal from forgetting what you're talking about. There have been many times where my penpal and I replied to letters but forgot what we were talking about.







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: snail mail, letter, etiquette, frequency, how often, respond



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