English Essay on “Letter-Writing” for School, College Students, Long and Short English Essay, Speech for Class 8, 9, 10, 12 and Competitive Exams.


Letter-writing is an art that has to be learned, cultivated, and perfected with the same care and diligence as painting or music. It does not come of itself, except to the born genius; it has to be acquired by a study of rules and models and pursued with regularity, in the same way as poetry. But unlike poetry, it needs no special faculty, no special mental framework, no particular habit and disposition such as poets possess. Everyone can, if he desires, become a good letter-writer by a little care, a little practice, and a little study. It is a capacity as easy of acquisition as conversation, and like conversation it is open to much misuse. Like conversation again, it presupposes a good education, for just as an uneducated man cannot be a good conservationist, so he cannot also be a good letter-writer. For a good letter must be good not only in form, but also in matter. Letter-writing is an art in a double sense : it is a fine art, as well as a useful art. Letters serve to abridge the distance that separates friends from friend, relation from relation : the absent one seems to be still in our midst if we keep alive our correspondence with him. It is scarcely necessary in this age of fast transit and easy communication with the outside world, to dwell on the utility of letters, and the extent of the blessing that the Post Office and the Telegraph have conferred on civilized man. Letters now form one-fourth of the whole business of life in the case of educated people, and the Postal Union has been happily termed the happiest bond of union between man and man.

There are, however, letters and letters, and it is impossible to expect all letters, even of the same class, to conform to one and the same style merely because they belong to a particular type of communication between one man and another. The style of letters must obviously vary with the character and temperament of the writer, and this again varies largely according to his education and environment. Differences due to taste are considerable enough, and yet they are slight as com-pared with differences due to the nationality and domicile of the writer. The style of the East, for instance, is clearly marked off from the style of the West in many essential points. It is, in the first place, more formal. The eastern mode of salutation, with its elaborate forms of what is called alqab and adab, is characteristically different from the simple, natural way of commencing and closing a letter adopted by people of the west, and those who have adopted their style after the west. It is not only in the style that letters of the regular oriental type are stiff and formal; their matter or contents are not the less so. Every letter, for example, must begin with the statement that the writer is quite well, and this must immediately be followed by an expression of pious wish for the health of the person written to. Such a beginning would, according to western taste, be condemned as too egotistical. There is nothing in the style of ordinary talk; but the plain speech of informal talk is about the last thing one would expect to find in an oriental epistle, the language of which is far more ornate, inflated, and stilted than western taste has ever deemed permissible in any class of letters. Metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech are not at all thought out of place even in a private letter of the east.

The true aim of letter writing is to fulfill the same purpose as God intended for human speech—viz., the communication of thoughts and feelings; and hence clearness is the first quality of a letter. If your thought or feeling is overladen by a weight of ornament, it is apt to lose not only in clearness but also in effect. Between relation and relation, the object of letter-writing is to preserve the affection; between friend and friend it is to keep up the intimacy; and even between strangers, letters, if exchanged, are intended to serve as messengers of love. One would imagine that even where a letter is intended to carry a message of enmity, clearness and simplicity are just as effective weapons of animosity as they are ministers of peace and friendliness. It is of course this latter office that letters generally serve; they create love where there was none before; they deepen love which was once shallow; they renew love which had lapsed for want of renewal. They mitigate the effects of absence, with the result that friends who have kept up a mutual correspondence never feel so keenly that they are away from each other. In order to do all this a letter must be truly a bit of the writer’s mind and heart; there must be no artificiality about any part of it; no reserve, no formality ought to mar its freedom and frankness of tone.

There have been some famous letter-writers, whose epistles are so elegant in every way that they are regarded as models One such writer was the poet Cowper, whose private letters have been published and are read with the same pleasure with which one reads good literature. Their natural simplicity of style is admirable; the subjects they deal with are those commonplace topics which we talk upon with friends; and their delicate humour is most charming. Another famous writer of this class is Horace Walpole, but his letters are perhaps some-what more “learned ” than those of Cowper. In Persian, the best letters are those of Emperor Aurangzeb, which have been collected and published under the title Ruqqiyut-i-Alamgiri, a book which is regarded as a classic of Persian literature.

We thus see that letters are not always the instruments of vexation which busy people are sometimes apt to think. They are angels ministering to our peace and happiness. They reveal the mind and heart of the writer, and by making an appeal to the mind and heart of the other party, they serve ends far greater than their outward garb may suggest. They can influence us for the better or for the worse; they can modify our opinions; they can alter our tastes and habits; in a word, they can affect our character insensibly, but forcibly. And they certainly do so. If a man’s character is influenced by the company he keeps, it is equally, though perhaps not so manifestly nor so speedily, influenced by the letters he receives and the letters he writes. One should, therefore, be as scrupulous in the choice of one’s correspondents as in the selection of one’s companions.

Letters may also be regarded from another point of view, —as documents of historical interest. The private letters of a private individual may reveal glimpses of facts and events of which no record can be found elsewhere. Every letter is in this sense a page of contemporary history, and it is therefore essential that they should contain nothing but what is true. Every letter must not only be a faithful copy of the writer’s mind and heart, but, where it deals with outward events, it should also be a faithful record of what has happened; otherwise, we prove false not only to ourselves, not only to our correspondent, but also to our own generation, and even to posterity.

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