Letter writing: how to be a modern penpal + best stationery shops

Letter writing - how to be a modern penpal plus best stationery shops

If you spend a lot of time looking at your screen, despite the push for digital detoxing, it’s not necessarily something you should be ashamed of.

The virtual world is where technology has evolved us and it's a more efficient, economical and sustainable approach to communication than drowning in reams of paper.  

Nevertheless, you probably do sense the limitations of doing everything virtually. Some things simply require a tangible means of conveying meaning. Personal correspondence is one of those things.

Just like people buy indie design magazines to experience the weight of the paper while flipping their pages, writing and reading a physical letter somehow makes your communication feel more real.

You probably don’t think twice about shooting off the dozens (or hundreds) of emails you send a day. But when you sit down to write a letter, it's an experience.

Perhaps you clear your workspace, pull out your favorite ink pen, lightly touch your stationery, then take a moment to consider how to craft your words from a thoughtful place.

For that reason, it’s important to keep the lost tradition of letter writing alive. It reminds us of the importance of physical items. Humans have always been craftsmen and we find meaning in what we can create and touch.

Moreover, being a penpal and sending written communications to loved ones or even strangers, establishes a sense of personal connection that is lost when your words, thoughts and ideas are sent digitally.

So though we embrace the convenience of typing and tapping on our Macs, iPads, and iPhones, they don't replace the simple pleasure of letter writing and being a penpal. In this guide we discuss the art of writing great letters and share our selection of the best stationery shops.


  • Letter writing: why and when to send

  • Letter writing: tips and formatting

  • Letter writing: how to find a penpal

  • Letter writing: prompts and ideas

  • Letter writing: best stationery shops


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Letter writing - how to be a modern penpal plus best stationery shops

Letter writing: why and when to send

Though you may appreciate the idea of letter writing, with just about all communication being via digital channels, you may be wondering when is an appropriate time to send a handwritten letter.

Here are a few scenarios when a personal handwritten note is just as acceptable, if not more, than a mere email, text or social post:

When you want to show that you really care

There are certain situations that call for more than thumbing a few stock emoticons. Major life events, such as marriages and births, as well as the expression of sympathy are appropriate for sending written correspondence.

When you want to surprise and delight someone

Because communication is so digitally-driven these days, imagine the delight of receiving a beautiful physical letter in the mail. Letters are a wonderful way to do something a little extra special for someone you care about.

When you want to express gratitude and appreciation

Nothing says thank you more than sending a thoughtful note in the mail to someone who has uplifted your life in some small or large way. Knowing that you actually took the time to write your thank you will give it more meaning.

When you want your message to be preserved

While sending an email is sure to be deleted not long after it is read, a person may be more compelled to keep a letter, especially if it’s written on beautiful stationery. If you want your message to be a keepsake, it’s best to sending it physically.

Letter writing - how to be a modern penpal plus best stationery shops

Letter writing: tips and formatting

Because this guide is about personal (vs. formal) correspondence, there are no hard rules to follow in terms of how you write your letters. However, here are a few methods to consider if you need a bit of guidance:

  • Send postcards to say hello while traveling

  • Send greeting cards for life events like birthdays

  • Send notecards for short messages such as a thank you

  • Send letters to a penpal or writing partner (see below)

Again, because it is informal your personal correspondence does not have to follow any writing convention, but you may want to include:

  • The date so your recipient can remember when it was sent and have context if they read it in the future.

  • Your return address just in case the recipient feels compelled to write back.

  • A greeting that’s a bit more special than just a generic “Hey” or “Hi”. Adding “Dear ” is a standard but more warm greeting.

  • A loose structure to your message (introduction, body, conclusion), which is optional but could help the recipient follow your thoughts easier.

  • A nice signature such as “Love” or “Kind Regards” or whatever sign-off you deem to be appropriate.

Letter writing - how to be a modern penpal plus best stationery shops

Letter writing: how to find a penpal

If you are committed to reviving the lost art of letter writing and want to handwrite more than just occasionally, you may benefit from finding a penpal.

Send regular greetings to friends and family

First, you can simply start by sending regular greetings to your existing close personal connections, particularly those who don’t live near you. This can be in the form of a “thinking of you” or life update letter that you send on a quarterly basis.

If any of your loved ones are compelled to write back, this may be the start of a longer term exchange that can satisfy your desire to handwrite letters regularly.

Ask loose acquaintances and people you connect with

If you make a special connection with someone that you meet, don’t automatically assume you can’t develop the relationship because of distance or some other barrier. Likewise, you can use this to revive an old friendship you fell out of touch with.

It may feel like a stretch but could be worth asking if you can keep in touch ever so often. Perhaps you start via a digital channel then once trust is established, move your communication to letter form.

Use a penpal finder website

Pen pals are long-distance friendships that you maintain by writing letters to each other. The concept is typically used to denote international relationships, where you learn about someone of a different culture and background, but it can be applied to any regular written correspondence.

Though we personally think finding your penpal organically is the best approach, you can also find a penpal on the following websites if you are eager to start letter writing now:

Letter writing - how to be a modern penpal plus best stationery shops

Letter writing: prompts and ideas

Once you’ve established who you are going to write to, what do you actually write? If your correspondence is not linked to a particular event or circumstance, you can use these prompts as ideas for the contents of your letters.

  • Provide a general life update and be sure to inquire about their life as well

  • Offer words of encouragement and positive inspiration

  • Share what you’re working on or your current goals and challenges

  • Discuss a recent book you’ve read and how it impacted you

  • Ask for advice and, if you believe the recipient is open to it, give advice too

  • Reminisce on something from the past if you share a history with your writing partner  

Letter writing - how to be a modern penpal plus best stationery shops

Letter writing: best stationery shops

Of course, your personal correspondence should be written on high-quality stationery, so we’ve rounded up our three our favorite stationery shops that have a range of elegant paper offerings and other desktop accessories.

Moo stationery


Moo offers stunningly gorgeous customized personal and professional print products. They have the best paper stock that we’ve seen and offer all sorts of little finishing touches that will ensure your letter is cherished for a long time. If you want premium stationery that you can customize with your own information, this would be our top choice.

Minted stationery


Fancy vibrant and unique designs from independent artists? Then Minted is the way to go. They offer an amazing array of luxurious post cards, note cards and letter paper in eye-catching designs.

Paper Source stationary

Paper Source

If you still don’t find what you are looking for with the above options, you will likely find it at Paper Source. They have a significant assortment of beautiful stationery and their focus on sustainability and social responsibility is an added bonus.

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