Picture a scene from the 19th century: a lovely lady sits by the fire and reads the letter her beloved has written to her. He writes one every day and although she may not receive the letter until weeks later, its contents brighten her day as if he just spoke the words into her ear.
Fast forward to Valentine’s Day 2011. A lovely lady sits in front of her computer reading a love letter or card from her beloved via email, text or tweet that he just wrote minutes even seconds ago.
The method may have changed, but the message is pretty much the same: I Love You – written in a variety of ways in a variety of languages or codes and maybe with pictures, even a video. The old-fashioned handwritten love letter has gone through many metamorphoses over the centuries. However, there are still die-hard traditionalists who believe in forgoing modern technology for pen and paper to express their undying devotion.
“I would consider writing a love letter in 2011 to be a very considerate and thoughtful way to let someone know how important they are in your life,” says Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas. “A love letter allows you to let the receiver know how he or she has impacted your life and has made a positive difference.”
As a nationally known expert in good manners for today’s society, Gottsman believes that time taken by someone to express love to another is just good old-fashioned manners.
“I would say that given the fact that good manners are a way to show others kindness, a love letter would be a wonderful opportunity,” she says.
Gottsman has even written a quick guide on how to write love letters, which has appeared on Hitched, an online publication. She recommends taking the time to determine what specifically should be said to the loved one before putting pen to paper and writing a letter using one’s own vocabulary, not diction one is not familiar with.
Valerie Balester, associate professor of English and Executive Director of the University Writing Center at Texas A&M University, says for some people, ” writing love letters has always been difficult.”
“Current American rhetoric favors less flowery, more direct language,” she says. “There have always been templates for sale to help letter writers, so [over the years] any method that could [become] easier and faster was sure to be adopted.”
Over the centuries, pen and paper have given way to such inventions as the telegraph and telephone so loved ones could talk lovingly to each other in real time.
” Technology has always been used to express love, though; just think of the telegraph, and the greeting card, which became cheaper as printing improved. With the rise of internet chat/phone chat, email, and social networking, we basically found a whole new way to express our love,” she adds.
Regardless the medium used to show love, whether pen and paper or computerized, Gottsman suggests that one should never forget about how the other person will react to such show of emotion, especially if the medium used for expression will be seen by others.
“You always must consider that when using Facebook, Twitter or any other type of social media, your privacy is not your own. Anything you say can be seen by others and you should always consider the feelings of the other person,” Gottsman explains. “If you express your love to someone via Facebook and they have no idea of your feelings, you may be putting them in an uncomfortable position.”
“Basic etiquette rules are making others comfortable to be around you and that should be the primary consideration,” she adds.
“Bottom line, though, for a man to really impress a woman, there’s nothing like a hand-written love letter , even now,” Balester says. “I’m not sure that men would be so impressed, but women still enjoy the heartfelt and lengthy expression of feeling!”
Just don’t forget that Valentine’s Day falls on February 14.