Shivani Mehta (née Saran), Co-founder, Daakroom comes from the holy city of India, Allahabad or as they now call it, Prayagraj. A product design graduate from the National Institute of Design in 2015, Shivani comes with a vast experience in varied domains. Over the years, she has worked on systems design, design thinking for rural maternal and child healthcare, and has also co-founded a sustainable stationery design company along with her husband, called bioQ.
Does a handwritten letter still have any relevance today? Amidst typed words and AI-generated content, does a handwritten word hold any value?
While the kiss emoticon you send to your spouse and your mother looks exactly the same on WhatsApp, every word, when written by hand, holds special meaning to its recipient. It is written keeping only and only that one person in mind. It’s the human side of us that comes out in a penned letter.
The education system has, for long, treated letters as mere formats. We were taught to write formal and informal letters, which gave us some comfort with the medium. But the stress on using letters as a mode of communication has only been going down. It is no longer seen as a powerful tool, which it still very much is.
More so in the digital era than ever, the penned word is often more powerful than the typed one. Sometimes because of how uncommon and personal it is, it holds even more value!
It’s really about co-existence and being able to choose the right medium at the right time. A lot of our tasks are made much faster with technology, and there is absolutely no denying that. But the medium of the handwritten word has its own significance. As our methods of communication transitioned over time and became faster and more efficient, they unfortunately could not capture emotions as effectively and uniquely as by hand. Here are some reasons why letters are relevant even today:
- Letters stand out amidst digital clutter. They can even provide a digital detox to both the writer and recipient as we can all agree that any break from the screen is a great one!
- They are a legacy. They last forever. Ask the elders around in your family and friends to show you some of their most treasured letters and watch them beam in delight!
- They capture and preserve emotions better than any other medium of communication. The amount of attention, focus and personalisation pen and paper compel you to put are bound to result in a unique and heartfelt letter.
- They help you identify the most important few people in your life, who you would write for. In an ocean of contacts in our smartphones, we manage to pick out our closest whom we must have addresses to!
- They preserve your unique handwriting! While there may be thousands of fonts, every single handwriting is unique, and so is yours. Not only does your written word read what you wish to say, the unsaid expressions in every scratched-out word and hand drawn heart give a window into your soul.
- Letters celebrate and preserve regional languages as you can easily write by hand in any language you know! Script is perhaps the most important thing to be cherished in letters because it captures nuances beautifully!
- Letters have the power of taking you back in time. They are like time capsules that hold so many memories and stories.
- Most importantly, they really make the receiver feel special and important! Even today, receiving a handwritten letter is extremely joyful.
Here are some opportunities when you must choose the handwritten word against the typed one:
- A handwritten letter to a loved one, or to someone you want to express gratitude to, and so on. This indicates time that you have spent especially for one person, much unlike an Instagram or Facebook post meant for hordes of people at one go.
- Study notes are best written by hand. Several studies speak about note taking by hand being more effective for students compared to taking notes on their laptop. They say that while you may remember words when you type, you comprehend more when you write by hand. The cognitive functions work very differently. “Students who used longhand remembered more and had a deeper understanding of the material” says an article in The Scientific American, titled ‘A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop’.
- Creativity and personalisation come out beautifully by hand. The imperfection of handwritten words is unparalleled. And there’s no font quite like your handwriting. Writing gives you an opportunity to present your creativity on paper and flaunt your handwriting/doodling!
It is important that conversations around letters are sparked right now, as the parents of today have at least experienced letter writing at some level, and grandparents have even more stories to share, and together they will be able to inspire the young ones with their rich experiences of letters from childhood. With time, these conversations will become tougher. And unless it starts as a wave of conversations and inspiration, giving enough people lots of reasons to write, the handwritten word will have a tough time proving its worth. The click of the keyboard, while most accessible today, holds little in front of the scratch of pen on paper as it is not just your fingers typing, but your heart as well.