PD Manners 4: Writing


CONTACT PD: pdcoolthings@gmail.com


The art of writing involves many aspects. I addition to the words that you use, it involves your choice of writing tool, how you hold it, how neatly you write, the paper that you use and even how you address the recipient(s) and yourself.



Today the choice is wide. Will you write an email or go old school? If the latter, there are pencils and pens. The choice of pens is very wide. You could go even older, using a quill, although PD is unaware of anyone going back far enough to using a clay tablet.


While there is nothing wrong with electronic letters, and for business these are preferable, a hand written personal letter will convey the message that you really value the recipient.


For business, emails are best. They are easy to edit and to add attachments to. They get to the recipient almost instantaneously, and are traceable and time stamped.


For personal matters, it depends on your reason for sending the letter. If you want to update someone on your travel plans, or are worried about their health, then emails are fine, or you could speak to them (for some people a totally forgotten option). Otherwise, a written message is more personal and warm.



Most people will choose a pen. Biro-style pens are popular because they are convenient, however today's fountain pens are not far behind in this aspect. If using a fountain pen there is one thing to keep in mind, and that is to be mindful of the ink and paper that you use.


Different inks do have different properties; some are quick drying, while others dry very slowly and therefore are prone to smudging accidents. Old fashioned blotting paper is useful in that case (yes, you can still get it).
Not all paper types are suitable for fountain pen ink. Some papers are too absorbent and will “bleed” (the letters will look fuzzy). On some papers the ink will show through onto the other side of the paper. You could experiment with paper types. Better quality papers state whether they are suitable for fountain pen ink or not.


Not many people use pencils for writing, but that is another option.


How you hold your pen and pencil not only tells a lot about you as a person, it could make the difference as to whether you get a sore arm or not. Unfortunately, children are no longer taught how to hold a pen, and PD has witnessed some awkward efforts.


The best way is the traditional way. Hold the pen with your thumb and index finger, balancing it on your middle finger, and holding it loosely. The index finger should be forward of your thumb. Rest the heel of your hand on the page or desk. Glide the pen lightly over the page as you write – you are not supposed to emboss your writing.


Note that in this old illustration the hand is balanced on the 4th and 5th fingers, whereas most authorities recommend balancing on the heel of the hand.



This is not a style guide, however a few things are worth pointing out.

How you address your letter depends on who you are writing to. A business letter will always be addressed formally (e.g. Dear Mr PD), whereas you would be informal with a friend (e.g. Hi PD). Likewise, signing off would be formal in a business letter (e.g. Yours Sincerely) and informal to a friend (e.g. Cheers). Addressing an envelope is no different. By the way, do not include the Christian name on the envelope, and when you write a return address on the back of the envelope do not include your name.



What you write is entirely up to you, but keep in mind two things:

  1. Keep a business letter strictly formal and business like (no funny quips).

  2. A letter is (in most cases) irreversible once sent (a few sneaky email services do have the function to retrieve your letter from the recipient’s computer, but it may be too late if the recipient has already read and copied your email).

With this in mind, do not write anything that you may regret later. In particular, do not write a letter in anger, or when you are stressed or feeling down. It is wise to keep the letter aside for 24 hours and perhaps let a close friend read it before you send it off. To this end, when writing emails, do not add the recipient in the address bar while writing it; this prevents you from accidentally sending the letter.