4

I often exchange long letters with family and close friends living far away every 1-2 months to stay connected and give updates on our lives. One characteristic of such a letter/long email is that there are a large number of disconnected topics that I want to put in the letter. I am interested in knowing how I can structure the letter to incorporate these topics.

For example, in a single letter to a close friend, I might want to talk about:

  1. My excursion to the mountains was exciting, and here was the story
  2. I am having some health problems
  3. I have a new idea about a business
  4. I hate the world, and here is why.
  5. I discovered a new restaurant, which is great
  6. The new movie was boring

...

Since I am corresponding with a close friend/family member, the tone is personal and intimate.

One may ask why I don't send separate letters. Yes, sometimes, especially when I am asking for something or calling for action, I think it makes perfect sense to have separate letters specifically for that. But if the purpose of the correspondence is to stay connected and update my family and close friends about my life, I feel it might be better to write a long letter/email every 1-2 months.

The challenge of incorporating these topics into a single letter is that these are very different, disconnected topics that don't tie back to any thesis. But I think this might be a familiar challenge because I imagine that before the advent of email, people wrote long letters for the purpose of updating their lives all the time. My question then is if I want to write about all of them in a single email, what would be the best structure and style? Are there any good examples?

  • 4
    Back in my day, we just wrote on paper stream of consciousness. Are you talking about writing an outline before sitting down to write the letter, or about moving stuff around on a computer before hitting "send"? – Cyn says make Monica whole Jul 27 '19 at 16:15
  • Thanks for the edit. I also added the email tag to better highlight the type of letter you're writing (the ease of editing is important here). – Cyn says make Monica whole Jul 27 '19 at 16:41
  • Are you dead-set on having everything in a single e-mail? Because if not, that presents an obvious solution... – user Jul 27 '19 at 16:41
  • I have re-worded the question. I was not clear. I want to know how I can best structure a letter that talks about this stream of consciousness. In other words, what the structure of the finalized version of the letter looks like before I hit send or put it into the mailbox. – Tom Bennett Jul 27 '19 at 16:43
  • 1
    Yeah, if only I could break them up into separate letters. If I break them up, other problems will arise. For one, the sheer number and frequency of the emails will convey some nonverbal information that I don't want. It feels much better to exchange a long letter every 1-2 months. Yet another problem is that some friends still insist on snail mail, and so it is expensive and inconvenient to mail multiple physical letters. I guess it is possible to break up the topics into sessions, but that looks formal and intimidating (I am a poor judge of these things and can be wrong here). – Tom Bennett Jul 27 '19 at 16:49
4

Writing to friends and family, you can dispose with formality. You don't need a "structure". "Stream of consciousness" is how such letters were written before computers, before you could rearrange what you have already written. That's how informal letters are written still.

I would start a letter with asking about the other person - that's just being polite. If there's something the other person wrote to you that you wish to comment on, you can do that early on too.

If you have anything important to tell, that should come right after. You are implying importance by way of placing information where the reader would see it soonest. (Same as newspaper articles, except that you can probably expect the person on the other end to actually finish reading your letter.)

If a subject rises naturally from a subject that you've previously spoken of, it makes sense for it to follow. You create a sort of chain of ideas this way. A useful connecting phrase is "speaking of..."

Alternatively, if some idea is entirely unrelated to what you've been talking of before, you can make the transition by way of a phrase like "I have also been meaning to tell you...", for example. Or, if the person to whom you're writing is likely to get the reference, "and now for something completely different".

While you don't need to follow any sort of formal structure, you should still separate ideas into distinct paragraphs. Nobody wants to read a wall of text.

Keep some uplifting idea for last, so the letter overall ends on a positive note. Add some sort of best wishes, and sign.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.