How do I add a personal touch to a letter when I have terrible handwriting?
March 19, 2012 1:09 PM   Subscribe

I want to send a letter with a personal touch but I have horrific handwriting.

Someone I care about lives a relatively long way away and we only see each other once or twice a year so I like to send her a letter occasionally. The reason I don't email is that I like the intimacy of a physical thing that she can hold in her hand which I have previously held in my hand and I'll sometimes send a book/CD/small trinket along with it. Also, an actual letter is somehow more 'real' than email.

The problem is that my handwriting is really terrible so if I were to write by hand it would be difficult to read and my intended affectionate tone would be ruined by the psychopath scrawl.

What are some nice ways to make a typed and printed out letter more personal and touching? I've got the content sorted - just the presentation is lacking.

It's important to say that this is not a love letter .... but of course it kind of is. Filling the envelope with rose petals would be too much but there needs to be some feeling behind it.
posted by neilb449 to Human Relations (31 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
When my partner was deployed I added little (bad) drawings to the margins and also added cat macros/memes/internet pics to it.
posted by spunweb at 1:13 PM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

Nothing says "I give a damn" like letterpress stationery. Etsy is awash in it, so you can find something nice there.
posted by griphus at 1:14 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, it's not like you can't get better with your handwriting, man. It's not a skill that can't be learned. If you think that it's important to make a connection like that, then put in the practice and do it.
posted by inturnaround at 1:15 PM on March 19, 2012 [7 favorites]

spunweb beat me to it: drawings in the margins! I recently received a letter with dragons everywhere and it made me laugh so much that I cried.
posted by punchtothehead at 1:15 PM on March 19, 2012

I second little doodles. I do these in cards all the time.
posted by royalsong at 1:16 PM on March 19, 2012

Maybe include a funny/cute photo the person would like.
posted by mmf at 1:16 PM on March 19, 2012

Little doodles are great, and add a postscript in your own handwriting.
posted by phunniemee at 1:16 PM on March 19, 2012

What makes a handwritten letter such a big deal is not the fact that you hand wrote it. What makes it a big deal is that handwriting a letter takes a lot more effort and effort shows you care.

It is time to break out the construction paper! Bevel different colors of construction paper on each other to make a cool design, then just print out what you want to write and glue it on. Or cut out shapes and decorate it. Or make your own monogrammed paper out of it. Just show that you put effort into it and it won't matter in the least that the actual words are typed.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:23 PM on March 19, 2012

Well, it's not like you can't get better with your handwriting, man. It's not a skill that can't be learned.

Seconding this - I actually picked up one of my kid's handwriting books and started some of the exercises (and copy-work) in an effort to rehabilitate my atrocious handwriting. It didn't take long for it to come back - I can write passable cursive again and am no longer afraid to sign get-well cards and whatnot. You might be surprised how easy it can be to fix it if you go a bit slower, take your time, etc. Plus it makes using a fountain pen extremely cool and actually do-able.
posted by jquinby at 1:27 PM on March 19, 2012

I treasure handwritten letters from my husband even though it takes Rosetta-stone levels of effort to decipher them.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:28 PM on March 19, 2012 [11 favorites]

To personalize a typed letter people used to write the salutation by hand and also sign off by hand. The rest could be typed but it no longer had that cold feel of a typed note.
posted by Dragonness at 1:29 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. Type letter on your keyboard, using one of these pretty cursive fonts, and print it out.

2. Put nice stationery over typewritten letter, trace typed words onto pretty stationery.

3. Profit!
posted by misha at 1:29 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Experiment with different types of pens/markers. Sometimes that makes all the difference. With one pen my handwriting looks like I'm on painkillers riding a horse, but get a different pen and I'm like zorro out this bitch.
posted by cashman at 1:32 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have terrible handwriting, so all my notes are in all-caps.

In a note it's perfectly acceptable, in a way it's not on the internet.

As with all these things, it's the thought that counts. The gesture goes a long way to overcome particular faults.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:39 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I was in highschool my bestie Wanda and I would give each other long letters 2-3 times/week. Both of us had new Smith Corona Electras so we always typed them BUT, for that personal touch, we started including various appendix, addendums, erratas, and editorial notes. So, you would get the letter, and then inside the envelope would be other pieces of paper, of various sizes, that built out the original letter with more material. For example, a letter that briefly mentioned something that happened in a recent Northern Exposure episode may include an appendix (on a separate sheet of paper) that belabored exactly why Chris in the Morning Stevens was so hot. Or a very small piece of paper would have errata where one of us admitted that what we denied in the letter may possibly be true (usually involving some guilty love for a band or inappropriate person). Editorial notes were things like weird poems about the conditions we had written the letter under, or a few lines about an argument with one of our mothers that necessitated a shorter letter.

There was nothing better than opening the letter (we used the long, standard sized security envelopes) and having all those things flutter out of it. It begged the ritual of reading the letter through, then reading the additions, then reading the letter again giving all this paraknowledge about the letter.

In this case, everything was typed, obvs, but there was a special sort of anticipation about it. It meant that when you were done with the letter, you weren't really done. Using different kinds of paper for each thing is good, too. We liked to use official office supply-type paper like CC paper, pink While You Were Out paper, security paper, etc.

So now I have admitted more of my weirdness for the internet, as well as a story of late 80s/early 90s girl love. 2-3 times a week, I kid you not. I still have all of them from Wanda and it is a more accurate biography of my life than my own diaries. Also, I remember exactly where I was when I opened each one. Oh! I forgot--we always drew our own little stamps that were thematic of the letter. And nowadays you can make your own stamps that are actually legal. I am very intrigued by your information that these are not love letters but that they kind of are. Best kind of letters--like how just before you know for certain you're going to be kissed is nearly better, or better in different way, than kissing. These are the kinds of letter you could go nuts with, because there is a lot of space in that place right before actual love letters.
posted by rumposinc at 1:44 PM on March 19, 2012 [34 favorites]

Block letters. My cursive is illegible, and something about connecting each letter in a string makes it impossible for me to write in any presentable manner at all, but when I write in block letters (I use all capitals, but make "lowercase" letters smaller), it's not only legible, it's kind of kooky and cute.
posted by xingcat at 1:51 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

for me

1) There is no handwriting so atrocious that I don't prefer it to type written.
2) If you simply loathe hand writing things, or it's physically painful, etc, adding lots of pictures and silly things onto the actual page you're typing on starts to approach the intimacy of a handwritten letter.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:52 PM on March 19, 2012

It's a personal touch, it's not about having pretty handwriting - but it's essential that your friend can actually read what you wrote!
The hardest thing about having legible handwriting is how much slower my hand moves than my brain does. It makes it a lot harder to write what I want, because I just can't keep up - and the more I push the speed for content the less legible the writing gets!! So back off on the goal. I usually limit my handwritten stuff to a half-sheet of paper - or on a printed card (the kind you sign below a message on the righthand side) I'll fill the lefthand side with note. And yes, I often jot it down on scratch paper first.
Then, the important thing is to slow down. Don't think of the sentances, or even the words as a unit, think every syllable or even every letter, as you write it. I end up drawling out the sounds in a monotone as I write. I probably sound/look like an idiot, but I'm used to it!
posted by aimedwander at 1:53 PM on March 19, 2012

I do something akin to xingcat - I print everything. Not all-caps or "block letters", but printing everything like when you have to "sign and print" your name.

My cursive is completely impossible, but my printing always was much, much better. Try that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:58 PM on March 19, 2012

Back when I first starting going out with my now-husband we spent some time apart, so he wrote me letters. A few times he folded the sheets into all kinds of origami shapes, so basically I'd open an envelope and a bunch of small animals would fall out. Not always recognisable animals, although that was part of the fun, and nothing too elaborat but it was wonderful. There are instructions everywhere (internet, library books, etc) so it's easy enough to do.
posted by shelleycat at 2:01 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm with you, my handwriting is pretty unreadable, even when I slow down and take 4 times as long writing things out, it looks like 6 year old scrawl. Even block letters, even after working on it.

So, I'd say buy some fancy stationary, maybe play around with fonts and formatting. The effect could actually be really cool, it would turn your letter into a (readable) work of art, and show that you put some effort into it. Big changes to emphasize topics, mood, etc. but create subtle geometric patterns with slightly smaller\bigger font sizes.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:20 PM on March 19, 2012

I have typed up and printed out text from a computer, and then pasted it into a card, and then added a handwritten signature/note at the bottom.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:28 PM on March 19, 2012

I picked up an electric typewriter a while back (got mine from FreeCycle, but you can often find them for like twenty bucks at a decent thriftstore). Whole different feel from something printed out, since it's a one-time physical object and corrections are obvious.

I have a stamp with my initial on it that I sometimes use to put a wax seal on envelopes.
posted by brennen at 3:15 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Doodles in the margins like everyone said, or just decorating the page with coloured pencils/pens and stickers. Sign your name by hand and add a little hand written note at the bottom of the letter. Insert some photos into the body of the letter itself, pretty much every printer now a days can handle that, even if it's just silly shots you've set up on your webcam when you write about something happy insert a picture of you smiling, or if you talk about a pet insert a quick picture of them.

Muck around with fonts and wingdings, it's your own personal letter so you can colour fonts or make them small if you are telling a secret like you are whispering, all the rules that you have to stick to for formal letter writing go out the window.

Add newspaper articles you think they'd be interested in, or comics from the paper or a pretty leaf or flower from your garden to personalise it even more.

I have to type letters to my mother as she is legally blind and needs things printed in large print to read them and that's the sort of thing I do for her. Which reminds me I owe her a letter.
posted by wwax at 5:41 PM on March 19, 2012

Seconding typewriter. It's labor intensive like a handwritten letter, unique, and special.
posted by christinetheslp at 6:51 PM on March 19, 2012

Handwrite on one sheet of paper, and include a typed translation on another? This is my suggestion, but is not my favorite suggestion from this thread.
posted by itesser at 7:35 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thirding the typewriter idea. Ideally, find one with type bars rather than a ball or wheel, as the characters are likely to be a little less uniformly aligned and more recognizably individual. (A real nut might even consider a few carefully placed strokes onto the side of a small drill bit, in order to scuff a few letters in an obvious way. But, don't blame me if you try it and regret it, and start with Q.)

One can argue about whether or not it makes sense, but there's a strong human tendency to value that which cannot be easily reproduced. A typed letter satisfies that need, as well as the desire for a tactile artifact which one can handle and smell. To my mind, it's exactly as good as a handwritten letter, with the added benefit that it can be read.

I may well be an aesthetic oddball, but adding doodles or artwork to a printed letter seems terribly artificial and forced. A modern typed letter may be twee, but at least it's a somewhat elegant flavor of twee. But then, I also wince uncontrollably when I hear the word "scrapbooking," and clearly a lot of people don't.
posted by eotvos at 9:20 PM on March 19, 2012

On brief reflection, I realize how pointlessly jerky and obnoxious the last paragraph of my previous comment was. Apologies, all.
posted by eotvos at 9:55 PM on March 19, 2012

Nothing beats a handwritten letter. If I really cared about you, I wouldn't care if your handwriting was atrocious; in fact, it would probably endear me to you more. Picturing a loved one putting in the effort to write something with their own hand is really special.

if your handwriting is truly illegible, then I like the suggestions of either practicing it or typing the letter first and then tracing it, or writing in all caps, etc.
posted by bearette at 7:15 AM on March 20, 2012

I just wanted to add that what you may think of as messy, uneven, illegible handwriting can be uniquely beautiful and worth the effort to decipher. Check out the handwriting of some famous people:

Van Gogh
Frank Lloyd Wright
Bob Dylan
posted by Dragonness at 1:57 PM on March 20, 2012

some further possible solutions:
- plan on rewriting the letter, it's difficult enough to get your thoughts without worrying about your penmanship.
- hire a ghostwriter
- have a font made from your handwriting, but write each letter 100 times and pick a paradigm of each
posted by at at 4:57 PM on March 20, 2012

« Older Phones with Friends   |   How do you get into Nature? Publish, publish... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.