Dead On Arrival? Is the written letter really dead?

Posted on 12-07-2015 by
Tags: writinglegally , Writing Legally , #writinglegally , writing , Latest Headlines & Stories

The written letter –a form of communication that once was exchanged as regularly as email. These letters carried countless numbers of things from professions of love to permanent news. Letters would allow recipients time to reflect and analyze the contents before crafting a response.

The sad thing is that letters aren’t like wine; they don’t get better with time. In fact, as time passes, the art has slowly succumbed to its death thanks to the digital age we live in today. The sad (but inevitable) “death” of the written letter is a topic that has been eulogized by many (and scrutinized by most) however the purpose or meaning behind it may not even be known to those in Generation X.

But is letter writing as we know it really dead?

Letter writing as we know it in today’s society is credited to Marcus Cicero, one of the most prolific Roman writers. A number of his speeches, letters and treatises survived into the modern era which can be viewed as a testament to his admiration by successive generations. More than 900 of his letters survive, including everything from official dispatches to casual notes to friends and family. Much of what is known about politics and society of his era is known because of Cicero’s correspondence. Few of his letters were written for publication, so Cicero gave free reign to his exultations, fears and frustrations.

Can we analogize that Cicero’s “abundance of correspondence” is no different than the amount of content reflected on the Internet for today’s society? It’s suggested that Cicero’s letters survived because they were copied and passed on to others. As author of the novel Writing on the Wall, Tom Standage writes:

Cicero and his web of contemporaries became so used to exchanging information by letter, with messengers coming and going throughout the day, that they considered it an extension of spoken conversation.

While I don’t agree with critics that letter writing is “a fading art that acknowledged duty and courtesy as normal as breathing for a dying generation,” but rather with Standage who:

Offers hope for the letter as a form of writing – though it is not his theme – making clear that people’s instinct to share, discuss, and transmit their deepest, most strongly held feelings survives and adapts, even as technology changes.

With the rapid changes in technology, while putting pen to paper may be a thing of the past, I believe that we as a society still maintain our letter writing roots even in the digital age. 

To the rest of the community, do you agree that letter writing as we once knew it is really "dead?" I am interested to hear your comments. think about the "death" of letter writing in the digital age? 

Feel free to share your thoughts by including your comment in the ‘Join the Conversation’ text box at the bottom of this string. Register to LexTalk and join the conversation. 


Posted on : 12 Dec 2015 3:45 PM

I don't think it is dead, but with email it is significantly diminished.  If you want to be formal a letter is still the best way to go.  But people want things right away and noone wants to wait for a letter to arrive.  Email is so consuming however that I find myself emailing letters.

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