Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Question: Mailing Preferences

Hello everyone,

I have another* mail-related question for my fellow postal enthusiasts. 

When you send a letter to a pen pal, do you usually write long or short letters?  Are you consistent?  Do you have a preference for which type you receive?

I started to wonder about this when I heard about someone feeling disappointed when a pen pal responded to their long and lovingly-written letter with a short note. 

For those of you who love mail art, do you hope to receive back mail art of equal quality?  (Is there such a thing as low-quality mail art??) I will admit to feeling intimidated by the creativity of some fellow mail artists, but for me it's more about the joy of creating something and sending out into the world, thinking about all of the systems at work that help it reach its destination. And I'm always thrilled when someone decides to write back.  Maybe I will get over that excitement, but I doubt it.

I'm curious to know what you think about this topic.  Please share! :)

*Previous mail-related questions can be found here.

~ Anne


  1. When I receive a short letter, I always feel a little disappointed, mostly because sometimes letters take so long to reach their recipients, that it would be more satisfying to have to read two, three pages about your friend instead of just an essential note with replies to the question you've asked in the last letter. But, maybe it's just me. However I am grateful for every letter, long or short that is!

  2. It depends. I don't mind shorter letters especially if English is not the sender's first language. I write back about the same length. We all have different types of friends, ones you can spend hours chatting to, and others not so chatty...

    I attempted my first mail-art last week; I am not good at art/drawing.... I don't quite know where/what to draw....

  3. I could go on and on about this topic, but I’ll try to keep my thoughts pithy and concise. I admit that it’s very disappointing when you write a long letter to someone and receive a very short response in return. It can be frustrating, but I try to keep an open mind (for example, perhaps my penpal is going through a very busy time and wanted to write me a quick response to let me know that he/she got my letter and appreciated it). However, if it’s a habitual thing, that can be frustrating and irritating and would probably cause me to re-think whether I wanted to continue putting in that kind of effort.

    However, if I may, I’d like to play devil’s advocate somewhat on this subject: long letters don’t necessarily constitute great letters. And I say this as someone who writes very long letters (for all I know, my letters could suck). I’ve received letters that are pages and pages—but they’re ALL about the penpal and don’t ask me a single question about myself. In fact, their letters don’t even respond to anything I wrote about in MY letter and are very much a one-sided conversation. Replying to a long letter such as this can be really difficult because like a real-life conversation, letters have to be give and take. If all you talk about in your letters is yourself, that doesn’t provide your penpal a great launching ground for a reply so it’s no wonder you receive a short letter in return. Of course, long letters are great to write and receive, but I think the quality and content of the response is more important than the length.

    Just by looking at a letter, I think we can sense how much time and effort a penpal put into it. My rule of thumb is to try to match that same time and effort the best I can.

    As for mail-art: I think mail-art is wonderful. It’s great and it’s appreciated because it’s that extra effort and step. There is no such thing as low-quality mail art because it’s the effort that counts. However, as pretty as mail-art is, it doesn’t make a letter. You build a relationship based on the contents of a letter, not how pretty the envelope is.

    Whew, pithy and concise—yeah right! There’s my two (or ten!) cents.

  4. I find this topic fascinating.
    As someone who is just getting back into writing letters I find myself trying to analyse what does make a good letter.
    I'm sure I've been guilty of the one sided letter in the past, but it's something I'm trying to work on.

    I try to match the letter I've received for length, but Sometimes I think it may be best to dash off a thank you postcard and reply with more time than rush the letter.

    As for mail art - I think there can be no bad mail art. Of course if you receive mail art you should endeavour to send mail art.

  5. Depends on the quality of the reply. Typically I match a letter similar to what I recieved but sometimes I will try to get to the point quickly and move on to something else. But every pen pal is different and gives you something different. I do not care if people do not reply with mail art either, just send me something fun! Unique stationery can be as awesome as mail art. Of course, I have a small stationery crush!

  6. In general, i like to read whatever my pen pal feels like telling me. I dont want them to feel pressured to write a certain amount.

    I try to usually send out medium to longer letters because i know that's what i like to receive myself. :)

  7. Usually i try to write back as much as the person has written me. So if its super long, then i'll write a super long letter. If its short, then the same goes. : )

  8. I usually write longer letters to those friends who I'm closer to. I typically do not just send a little note, but sometimes it's not so easy to write your life out ... I mean, if I don't know that other person, I don't feel comfortable telling her/him private things, you know.

    As for art mail, I always feel that the things I send suck compared to what I get, haha. I don't consider what I do art, by the way; that's too big of a word for my simple and insignificant envelopes :/. I like to give it a try, though :).