Should I include the names of my friends when I talk about them in personal correspondence to family?
May 14, 2012 9:31 PM   Subscribe

Should I include the names of my friends when I talk about them in personal correspondence to family?

I'm trying to get better about writing letters to my grandparents.
I started off a paragraph about my Memorial Day weekend plans by mentioning that 'my friend' bought a boat, and just realized that I was going to use 'my friend' as a noun another three times and never actually mention his name.
Let's call my friend Stan.
My grandparents won't know Stan from Adam, and I'm liable to never mention him again. Yet it just hit me that the personal letter might seem a bit more... personal if I mentioned my friends by name.
I do the 'my friend' thing in conversations with coworkers about what I did on the weekend as well - maybe that's different?
posted by itheearl to Human Relations (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unless you have a specific reason not to, you may as well use names. If relevant, maybe include a quick phrase of context -- "My friend Stan from work" or "My friend Stan from college."

If you plan to write regularly, it would be nice for them to be able to get a sense of the people in your life.

Also, it's just less confusing for the reader when all the "characters" in a piece of writing have names.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:38 PM on May 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

When writing letters to your grandparents, say "my friend Stan" to introduce this friend in the letter. But, after that simply refer to your friend as "Stan." Using people's names helps to add more to the story and makes the letter come across as more personal.

But, don't bother including friends names in conversations. Most people that you're having conversations could care less about who was specifically involved, unless they know the person.
posted by livinglearning at 9:38 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mention your friends' names when they're important enough in your life that they'll likely be mentioned again (thus avoiding the "remember the friend I mentioned who had the thing where we held the party two years ago for the other friend") or if it's simply grammatically awkward to not use a name.

You can also introduce a sort of loose categorization system if you're going to be writing regularly. Refer to close friends as something like "my good friend Gabriel." But your friend with the boat might be "a college pal, Stan," and there might also be "a work pal, Shelly" in an unrelated story, etc.
posted by desuetude at 10:07 PM on May 14, 2012

Yes, include them. Otherwise what happens when telling a story about, say, three different friends? Are they all "a friend, and another friend and the third friend"? Much easier to just say "my friends Stan, Andy and Mike".
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:38 PM on May 14, 2012

First of all I think it is great that you write letters to your grandparents and also want to get better at it too :)

I agree with the above comments that, if nothing else, it is a matter of convenience for you to mention the friend's name, especially when you have more than one person in your story.
If it is a friend whom you probably will refer to again in future correspondences (i.e. a close friend, a work friend you spend a lot of time with, etc), mention his/her name. That way your grandparents can build these characters in their minds over time.

I think you would be surprised how much your grandparents will remember. It happens to me with my parents. Parents and grandparents (at least mine) seem to like it when we share details of our lives. This makes them feel more connected, especially if you are young and away. Just another manifestation of their love I guess :) My dad calls me just to contentedly listen to me on the other side rambling on about whom I am hanging out with recently, what they are like, what fresh news/gossip is occupying my mind or my office, etc. For us, this is part of how we connect, along with the times when we talk about more serious things.
posted by eisenl at 11:12 PM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Include the name. This is why writers name their characters. A name alone adds some personality. (Stan, for instance, paints a certain picture for me.)
posted by vecchio at 12:31 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do your grandparents have dementia? If so, you might want to avoid names. I write regularly to my grandmother and avoid names of people she doesn't know (and much else) because of her dementia - having observed that in conversation with her names seem to be distracting and confusing. If they are with it, I agree names are better - means that over time they can get a sense of your friends.
posted by paduasoy at 2:10 AM on May 15, 2012

"My friend Stan from [wherever]" is definitely the way to go. And if you mention the same person in future letters, you might say something like, "my friend Stan, the one who bought the boat a few months ago." If you reference what you've already told them about this person, they'll be better able to piece together a narrative story of your friendship.
posted by vytae at 6:03 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, if any of you become famous, the letters could be used for historical reasons! Stan can be all "I knew itheearl back in the day, see, he wrote about me..."
posted by Pax at 7:02 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want your family to get to know your friends, then include the names. Names will help them build a picture of the person, help them to know the friend.

If you do not want them to know your friend, then don't. The nameless friends will all blend into one - and your family will not know one from the next. They will know none.
posted by Flood at 7:04 AM on May 15, 2012

I totally get what you're after - I do mention my friends' names, but I feel really awkward when they're not close friends. So I don't *always* mention names.
It comes back to bite me sometimes when my mom says "Oh, is this your friend Stan With The Boat that you're talking about?". If indeed Stan is a good buddy and one of my favorite coworkers, then I'll mention him enough times over the year that he becomes "Friend Stan From Work" and all's well - but sometimes I end up with a friend permanently labelled "Julie Who's Allergic to Shellfish" and I just want to bang my head against the wall.

For me, there's a middle ground. If Stan is the kind of friend I'd invite to my wedding, and my family would then meet him, I use the name. If he's a passing acquaintance, I might avoid naming him, just because they'd assume they needed to remember who he was and I wouldn't name him unless he was important. If using his name would help this letter, but you don't want them to think he's your new best buddy that they'll meet next time they're in town, use more neutral words.
In decending order of "remember this guy", some phrases:
1. "I'm spending the weekend with my friend Stan who just bought a boat."
2. "A bunch of the guys from work are getting together because Stan just bought a boat."
3. "My coworker Stan was kind enough to invite a lot of us out to admire his new boat."
If he's not "my coworker Stan" (which implies a lesser degree of importance than "my friend Stan from work") just describe the distance of the relationship as best you can: "my classmate Stan", "my friend's roommate Stan", "a guy Stan who I met last weekend", etc.
Also, in this case, you can refer to "Stan's new boat" without ever introducing Stan.
posted by aimedwander at 7:10 AM on May 15, 2012

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