How to Write “Friendly Letters”
The letter you get the greatest pleasure in writing is the one that springs from no particular duty or social obligation. The friendly letter is the one you want to write: the newsy letter to a far-off friend or relative, to the folks back home, a cousin in service, a child at camp.
If such an enjoyable letter has a purpose, it is to make people feel better. Intimate, informal, gay, and conversational, a friendly letter is the reflection of your own personality. If the reader feels your presence, then it is a good letter.
Isn’t it surprising, then, that some people find a friendly letter hard to write? All you have to remember is to write to the person what you would tell him if you were in the same room talking to him—the small incidents of everyday life, pleasant happenings, a really funny joke, news of mutual friends, any and all news that would interest a person of his particular age and personality. But if you still feel there is absolutely nothing to write, remember that your friends and relatives are interested in you, and follow the advice of one of the most famous letter writers of all times, Pliny the Younger, who wrote: “There is nothing to write about, you say. Well, then, write and let me know just this, that there is nothing to write about; or tell me in the good old style if you are well.”
Although a friendly letter should be light-hearted and avoid pet peeves and personal problems, there are times when you have to tell bad news. Don’t use the shock approach. Prepare the reader with some introductory hints, then tell the full story, so your letter won’t give the impression that there is worse to come. Don’t cause the reader needless worry by dramatising the event, but rather assure him that the operation was successful or that the fire caused little actual damage.