So you’ve found a pen pal and are ready to start writing your first letter. But what do you say, how long should it be, how much do you share? Here are a few tips to get a jump start on a hopefully long and lovely pen-friendship.
#1 – Be Yourself!
No one can be you better than you can, and people love learning about the things that make you unique – so celebrate them! Do you have a special skill? Do you have pets? Are you fascinated with a certain era of history? Maybe you have seven brothers and sisters, you have a pet donkey, or you are a record holder in your local frisbee golf league…anything about yourself you are proud of or think is unique is a great place to start. Your pen pals don’t know anything about you other than what you tell them, so I often find myself writing things to my pen pals I would rarely, if ever, tell someone ‘in real life’. For example, I often write that I believe my husband is my soul mate, which is a little too cheesy to be said out loud in most circumstances. Just be honest with your pals!
#2 – Create a pen pal letter you would love to receive
To me, this is the most important tip: Write a letter that you would be thrilled to receive yourself! This letter is going to be your pen pal’s first impression of you. Give them a good idea of what they can expect in the future so you two can see right away if you are going to ‘click’. If you like to write short notes as part of a more elaborate mail art parcel, do that in your first letter. If you like to write long chatty letters that are written over the course of several days, then do that! If you want to receive goodies from your pen pals, make sure you send them some too! I find I have different letter writing styles with different pen pals, because everyone is different, and I love everything! Some of my pen pals write 10+ page letters with a few stickers on, and others write two page letters consistently along with extra ‘tags’ and leaflets that make up a whole pen pal parcel. Experiment – find ‘your’ style!
#3 – Ask Questions
I’ve been in a situation a few times when I receive a first letter that has me a little stumped on how to respond. The Introduction letters weren’t BAD, but since the writer didn’t ask me anything, I sort of had to mold a reply based off of subjects they had mentioned, or things that were completely unrelated that I wanted to talk about. One of my favorite things to do when I send a letter is to include a Mail Tag. There is no wrong way to do this – just include a few questions (3-10) either after your letter or on a separate sheet tucked into the envelope. Then, even if you forgot to organically ask questions in your letter, your pen pal will have something to chat with you about in their reply. Also remember that you are not obligated to be anyone’s pen pal. If you feel uncomfortable continuing to write to someone, send them a quick note explaining that you will not be writing them anymore. Most pals will appreciate the honesty.