Eight tips for having a Pen Pal


Annie Brown

Having a Pen Pal is an exciting way to stay connected with friends.

Sometimes in these isolated days, it can seem like our friends are worlds away. Though modern technology allows us to text or call our loved ones, it can be exciting to revisit the past in the form of written communication. Letters are phenomenal ways to show your friends you care since putting our time into choosing the perfect words is something of a lost art. Since this self-isolation started, I’ve started letter writing groups with my friends here in Wisconsin, as well as with a group of Highlanders and students in Italy. While writing to vastly different areas, I have learned that certain things about having a “pen pal” are always true. Here are eight tips, tricks and ideas to enter into the world of written correspondence.

Always do your research.
While rather boring, this tip is arguably the most important. Different letters have different rates based on weight and destination. Most letters sent in the US cost 55 cents in stamps, but the rate changes yearly, and it costs more internationally. The USPS website will help you with everything you need.

Don’t go to the Post Office.
When I sent my first letter during quarantine, this was new information for me. All you need to send a letter is a mailbox. Most mailboxes have a red “flag” on the side that indicates whether or not mail should be collected from a box. Just put your letter in your empty mailbox and put the flag up. Voila! Letter sent without leaving the safety of home.

Find the perfect stationery.

Writing isn’t fun unless you’re inspired. Get a great set of paper from a small business stationery shop like this or decorate a regular white sheet of looseleaf with small designs around your words.

Think big…or small!
Pen pals can be anyone, no matter how close or far away. Childhood friend in a different state? Go for it! Family Member? Awesome! Your best friend who lives five minutes away? Perfect! What I’ve learned from having pen pals from all over is that there are always things to say that don’t come up in daily conversation. Getting mail is exciting, no matter who it’s from.

Don’t be afraid to get philosophical.
Small talk in letters is super boring. The best letter writer I’ve ever met (my grandmother’s best friend) never spoke about the weather, unless the sun had symbolic significance in her life at the time. She wrote about her hopes, her dreams, the things that don’t ever come up in regular conversation. And it was far more interesting to read letters containing meaning than anything shallow ever was.

Get outside of the box.
There are so many different ways to write letters. If normal English isn’t your thing, write to a friend all in a language the two of you are trying to learn. That kind of immersion is really great for understanding a new language. If you don’t even want to write, an art exchange might be the answer. “I reached out to a few friends about sending them art, and the news spread super quickly! Soon I was making 32 drawings for 32 friends, some of them were complete strangers. I really like it because I get to make people happy with my art, and they send me art or notes back,” Liz Khomenkov, senior, said.

Send (little) gifts.
While standard letters have a weight limit, there is an abundance of small, flat treats to send your pen pals to instantly make your message more interesting. A packet of seeds, a tea bag, a homemade bracelet or ring, some pressed flowers; fill your envelope with meaningful little trinkets your recipient is sure to love.

Have fun!
Though it may be the most cliché of article conclusions, having fun is the most important part of pen pal correspondence. Don’t stress, and don’t worry if things don’t go exactly according to plan. Sharing your thoughts with friends is the whole objective of your letter, so that’s really all that matters. “I absolutely love writing letters because, if you think about it, you’ll be able to look back on these crazy times by reading letters from your friends. Writing and receiving letters takes me back to an era that I never actually experienced, a time when phones weren’t the center of everyone’s attention,” Olivia Cagle, sophomore (and one of my own pen pals), said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email