10 Reasons to Send a Letter Rather Than Email

Last time I checked, I was getting about 800 emails a week. That sounds like a lot, but it’s manageable. I never have more than a hundred in my inbox at any one time. My goal is to get to empty, every single day. Usually, I succeed.

Stamped Envelope

Conversely, I usually get about three traditional letters a week. You know what I am talking about, right? It looks similar to an email, but it’s printed on actual paper, neatly folded and inserted into an envelope, with a real, honest-to-goodness stamp on the outside.

Believe it or not, receiving three letters a week is more hassle than 800 emails. So why should anyone send me a letter? I can think of 10 reasons:

  1. You don’t need me to read your correspondence for a couple of weeks.
  2. You don’t need a response back in less than a month or a response is optional.
  3. You are looking for a simple way to add to my workload and yours.
  4. You have a longing for the 1980s.
  5. You have invested a lot of money in beautiful stationary and feel guilty for not using it.
  6. You are trying to develop a meaningful relationship with your postal carrier.
  7. You feel the need to subsidize an obsolete government agency.
  8. You like buying stamps—especially with pictures of dead presidents.
  9. You believe your letters are immortal and hope that someone will collect them for posterity.
  10. You are Amish.

If none of these apply to you, then please—puh-leaze—send me an email and be done with it. You will get a faster response—usually the same day.

Update: As several readers have pointed out, in some situations, there’s no substitute for a handwritten note. I agree. Thank-you notes, condolences, congratulations, etc., are still a more personal, meaningful way to communicate. Even I agree with that and practice it.

I was really speaking to more traditional business or transactional correspondence where the sender expects the recipient to take some action based on that correspondence. The bottom line: If you expect me to reply or forward your correspondence onto someone else, then email is still your best option.

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  • http://www.kathleenpopa.wordpress.com Kathleen Popa

    Ha! And I thought you were going to make me feel guilty!

  • B.

    I agree that business snail mail is undesirable. However, in this modern age of social networking nothing connects in quite the same way as a brief social note. Consistent with item number 2, a response is optional, and it shows the recipient a level of thought and care which is not easily conveyed across Myspace or Facebook. When the goal is social networking don’t rule out an old fashioned letter. It positively sets you apart in this fast paced age.

  • http://www.paymentindustryinsider.com/ Brian Scott

    WOW! This one caught me off guard! I must say that I fall on the complete other side of this. Like you, I receive nearly 1,000 e-mails a week and get through all of them before the week is out. Also like you, I receive about 3 letters per week.

    The difference is, I read every single handwritten word in the letters I receive, not so in e-mails. The key is being handwritten. I also try to send 5 handwritten letters per week. I have heard from those people receiving my letters that they love getting real mail.

    I’m almost assured that the person I send a handwritten letter to receives it, reads it and if nothing else remembers the content of my letter.

    It may not be the most effecient or timely but I do think handwritten letters have a purpose and I wish more people took the time to write letters.

    Kepp up the good work, I enjoy your blog!

    • Writer's Typist

      Brian Scott, I came across this post using a search engine looking for information about writing a letter vs.sending an email and was hoping to find articles or blogs that favored handwritten letters and why?

      If you are aware of any helpful sites, please let me know.

      write-type@live.com

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Brian,

    Admittedly, I probably over-argued my case. I was really speaking of business letters that could have been handled via email.

    I think hand-written notes have value, too. The key word, I think is “notes.” People’s handwriting can sometimes be challenging to read. If it is longer than a note, it can be a painful experience, which, I think offsets the value you are trying to create.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://www.blogforbooks.com Stacy Harp

    I’m with Brian, I think actual mail is very important these days and I tend to value a personal letter more than email.

  • http://www.pamhalter.info Pam Halter

    I’m a children’s author who sometimes works with a professional illustrator. The only time I send a query/proposal via snail mail is when I’m sending artwork. Or when the guidelines say “no email queries.” Some still do that, which surprised me.

    Of course, if an email query is preferred, I send that and state artwork is available upon request.

    The most important thing is to follow the submission guidelines.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Notice: I said “Why should anyone send me a letter?” Others may have different preferences. For me, I prefer the immediacy of email. Plus it makes it so much easier to respond.

  • http://www.kylechowning.com Kyle Chowning

    this made me chuckle, yes chuckle (not quite LOL) in the middle of a busy work-day. I guess I’ll throw the nice thank you note I had written away. Oh well.

    ha!

    kyle

  • http://marissahyatt.blogspot.com Marissa Hyatt

    Dad,

    I really like the idea of this entry. The only reason I would add is that handwritten letters are a lot more personal. Which for me, makes me want to write more! Great job! Did you get a chance to look at my blog? I swear, slowly but surely I’m turning into you. Haha Like father like daughter, I guess! Love you very much!

    Ris

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    Oh my gosh, I CRACKED UP!! Who knew you were such a funny guy? And that Amish remark? Um, I get emails from my Amish friends all the time. LOL Merv works for a lumber company and has access to email. He prints out my emails and takes them home to Sara! LOL

    Great post, Mike. Totally agree. I like getting an occasional handwritten reader letter but I unfortunately don’t answer them. No time! Email is fast and easy.

  • http://www.davidpleach.com davidpleach

    LOVE the sarcasm! You might add:
    11. If it looks like a letter, it probably contains a bill. I don’t open those.
    12. You are an environmental sadist who would rather kill a tree than dirty the spamosphere.

  • Jeff Sneed

    Looking for a publisher that can help me publish a unique idea/concept for a “daily desk calendar” – can anyone help me?

    Thank you and God Bless

  • M.L. Eqatin

    Good post, except —
    The most precious mail I get is from the two children we sponsor, one in Kenya, and one in Ecuador. They are carefully hand-written in laborious English, and they remind me that less than 15% of the world has access to email. Even folks who aren’t Amish.
    Fascinating following your blog lately, Mike. Thanks for being so open on the publishing business.

  • http://www.colleencoble.com colleen Coble

    Oh and I forgot to say, I get about 3-400 emails a day. And I keep up with it. I think I have bionic fingers. :-)

    But that’s why I can’t do the whole only check email twice a day thing. I’d be buried!

  • http://mypartofcolorado.blogspot.com/ paul merrill

    True – email works best for most purposes.

    But a real hand-written letter can give a lot more impact than an email. It shows that the sender spent some time and energy to do more than a quick email. And there can be a fun enclosure, like a souvenir concert ticket, an unusual flyer or a leaf.

    My mom (78) does not have a computer. Phone and letters are all that work for her.

  • http://davidballard.com David Ballard

    I agree whole heartedly!

  • Emily Siren

    Mr. Hyatt,

    I found your blog to be refreshing! I can always count on you to tell it like it is – to say the things that the rest of us merely think but cannot write down on paper (or type on blogs!). I still see women’s magazine covers from time to time eluding to the importance of a handwritten note. While I agree that a thank you note or birthday card – even a heartfelt apology – should be hand written/sent through snail-mail, I am on board with you that daily communication is best received through e-mail if it requires a quick response (or a response at all!). I remember hearing just a few years back that e-mails can be “impersonal” – but at the end of the day I feel delighted regardless of where my mail arrives!

    Thanks for keeping it real :) I’ve learned quite a bit about the business world through your blogs and the controversial comment section!

    Emily

  • Tom Watson

    For a quick response to business, sure email before snail mail. But a real letter gets my full attention and extended concentration every time. Also, electronic love letters carry no perfume!

  • http://www.rachelhauck.com Rachel Hauck

    Fun post, Mike. I do long for the 1980’s on occasion, however. I miss my BIG hair.

    ;) Rachel

  • http://www.thewritingroad.blogspot.com Scoti Springfield Domeij

    Hilarious! Would send you an email, but not sure what it is. Found a typo on “Writing a Winning Book Proposal” on page 8 under “Personal Marketing”.
    Reads: A publisher cannot possible do
    Should read: A publisher cannot possibly…

    Your comments about the USP are the best I’ve ever read.

  • Samir

    I guess i will have to stand out as the one with a different opinion on this post of yours.

    While i realise you clearly stated ‘why should anyone send me a letter’ and i do have a deep respect for your blog and thoughts but this one came off sligtly as a rant.

    3 v/s 1000… does it really bother you so much that you had to post an entire blog on this?

    I look forward to more inspiring stuff from you in the future – which was quite regular in the past, but seems since last few months your postings are neither as frequent as it used to be nor inspiring enough.

    Lets see….

  • http://emuelle1.spaces.live.com Eric S. Mueller

    Email is so much faster and more efficient. I hardly ever get business mail. Even at home, I have a hard time getting through my snail mail. When I get home, my wife has already sorted through it and set mine aside, but then I forget to go through my mail, often until it’s too late. At least she gets the bills out and pays them.

    Even worse are faxes. I just about sneer when I’m asked to fax something, or when I’m asked if something can be faxed to me. Just email it!

  • Tim Way

    Michael

    I think you should re-read one of your 2007 titles, “Little Red Book of Wisdom,” where Mark Demoss makes a great case for sending a real letter in place of an e-mail. In this day of disposable communication, there is still no substitute for a hand written note. It is a pity that 200 years from now there will be almost no tangible record of the day to day activities of our upcoming generation. Some of our most prized recorded history consists of letters. All that is now lost in the click and delete realm of e-mail.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Tim,

    Actually, I think just the opposite is the case. Physical letters age, get lost, are burned, smudged, thrown out, etc. Electronic copies of emails are almost always preserved somewhere. Just ask any digital forensics expert.

    I was involved in a court case recently where someone thought that they had meticulously deleted all their emails on a certain subject. What they forgot to consider is that the email was all backed up on the company server. In addition, the original sender or the recipient had copies. The person’s entire record of correspondence was produced in less than a week—much to the embarrassment of the plaintiff.

    I think future generations will be overwhelmed with the volume of our correspondence. Now, whether most of it is worth reading, that is another question.

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://www.teawithtiffany.blogspot.com Tiffany Stuart

    Good news. Email is my first choice.

  • Christy O

    Ha! Funny Mike. I couldn’t agree more. I rarely-or-never get snail mail for business, so my pet peeve is when businesses require mail (or faxes). A flight I had booked on Southwest was canceled about a year ago, and they required a written letter to request a refund. I was like “WHAT?” Get out of the dark ages, Southwest! I think it’s clear that, in many cases, businesses who require snail mail are doing so intentionally to gum up the works for their customers. You can book your flight, pay for your flight, even get your boarding pass online at Southwest.com. But you want a refund? Ummm, send a letter!

  • Jennifer G

    Mike,
    You can cross number 10 off your list. Even Amish people use email these days. They may not own computers, but there’s always the local library. I would know. My father-in-law grew up Amish and all of my husband’s family still lives in Amish country.
    Not even kidding . . . LOL

    I have to admit, though. I’m a little old-fashioned. I still love the hand-written letter.

  • Bryan Catherman

    In business communication, it’s faster and much better for the environment (no paper and no gas burned to deliver); but there really is something to be said for the time and care it takes to write a letter.

    I still like to write my e-mails as if they are letters, i.e., “Dear…, Sincerely….” I use complete sentences and punctuation.

    It seems any more, people write e-mails like they type text messages. “OMG! bret ?ed my BFF to java @ 4″ And the response: “WTF?” This is a poor way to communicate.

  • Jim Thomason

    Here’s another outdated form of communication: paper resumes! We funnel all applicants through an e-application process on the corporate website, and they can attach a resume if they like.

    Occasionally we’ll receive an unsolicited email inquiry with an attached resume, and these are almost always from Gen Y or early boomer candidates. But nothing, and I mean nothing says, “I’m 60 or older, technically behind the curve, and in outplacement” more than an unsolicated paper resume received in U.S. mail.

    Great post Mike!

  • http://www.timothyfish.net Timothy Fish

    I think it all has its place. E-mail is a necessity for business because it allows us to connect quickly with one or more people without the need for both parties to be available. Snail mail is much more personal, but it takes more time. E-mail provides a record of what has been said, but I prefer phone calls. I have been burned by e-mail too many times. People frequently take it the wrong way. To that we add the fact that it takes far longer to write an e-mail message than it does to say the words. When speaking on the phone, the tone of voice tells the other person some things that cannot be communitcated through e-mail. Also, if the other person takes something wrong then the problem can be corrected before it snowballs.

  • Luci Swindoll

    Please give me your advice. I have a friend of 40+ years who longs for snail mail from me. (These are personal letters I’m speaking of; not business correspondence). He has a computer but hates it because computer problems drive him crazy. This man is an avid traveler and for many of these 40+ years he and I wrote each other wonderful letters from all over the world. Great fun! But now…I no longer have time to do that so when we talk on the phone I literally beg him to correspond with me in email, but he won’t. And that drives ME crazy.

    Tell me, what should I do? Am I in the wrong, or is he? Should I drop the subject? Should I send postcards? Should I get a pet? Here’s what’s funny, Mike…he asked me to marry him years ago but I declined the offer. If we now have issues over snail mail vs email…imagine how it would have been in our household trying to decide where to send the kids to school? Oh gosh! Single bliss! (but that’s for another blog).

    Hey, it just occurred to me, if I had married this guy, we wouldn’t be having this problem.

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Luci,

    I would tell your friend to get a Mac. If he can’t make that work, I’d buy a dog. My dog picked up email in no time. (However, he sometimes drools on the keyboard. Nasty!)

    Thanks,

    Mike

  • http://www.lawrencewilson.com Lawrence W. Wilson

    Mike, the responses to this post remind me of the responses to your initial posts about the Kindle. While we love technology (we’re all reading this on a personal computer or wireless device), we also cherish something about the sensation of picking up a book or a pen.

    Interestingly, I’ll bet most of your readers under 30 would write the same post about e-mail.

    “E-mail? Puh-leeze. Send me a text or just forget it.”

    ;-)

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

    Larry,

    I’ll bet you’re right. I’m even beginning to use text—or at least Twitter—more and more.

    Mike

  • NEON JAVA

    I completely agree with Mike Hyatt. Problem is, I almost universally agree with the comments, too! :-/

    Perhaps it’s because I’m a strategy and marketing consultant for high-profile individuals, but I continually ask myself, “What’s the most effective way to get our point across to Mr. X? What (medium of delivery) will let Ms. Y know our interest/concern/involvement for this issue or occasion is genuine and authentic? Which of these tools?”

    Yes, for a majority of the communiques, e-mail is the best fit — for delivery/response time, formatting and attachment options, verification of details/time/who-said-what-to-whom. YET, at the same time, the scarcity of “real mail” makes it all the more notable. An example….

    Not long ago, a neighbouring firm received a business-sized letter envelope, plain white, typewritten, real stamp. As I stood in their doorway for a brief visit, the scene that ensued with the letter’s arrival was worthy of at least a film short: 1 receptionist, 1 mid-level exec, and the owner of the company stood around the desk where the postal clerk had delivered the letter. No one touched it; everyone stared at it. “What’s that?” “A letter. Are we in trouble with somebody?” “Who’d want to sue us? ” “Well…(gulp)…I’ll open it.” A tense silence as the letter knife is drawn carefully across the top of the envelope. “Oh! It’s from ___. He sent us a gift certificate.” “Wow! Nice of him. Wow!”

    All to say, a real letter, even in a business context, might get more attention, more attention than you want, or none at all if it burdens the recipient with a time-sensitive, labour-intensive response. The mere anticipation of a potential problem caused three otherwise sane, responsible professionals to stop in their tracks.

    So, as with any communique, conversation or entertainment, know your audience, know what you want to say, know the best way to deliver and “wrap” your message.

  • http://www.myspaceless.com RadX

    Yes, there is a certain personal touch when receiving letters. Even bank statements can get me excited for two seconds. Although a lot of people use the Internet, it is still not available in some places, or is too expensive. I live in the Philippines, and there are still communities here who are not really computer literate, much less Internet knowledgeable. But I like your point that response is quicker through email.

  • Heather Munn

    I’m glad I clicked on the “read more” link! I honestly thought you were going to say you preferred paper letters. I wasn’t about to switch strategies and start sending agents and publishers paper letters without even reading the entry… but this is a bit of a booby trap for anybody who would! On purpose?

  • sabrina

    I need to know a way of sending a letter without actually having an email. my mom wont let me have an email so i need to find a different way of communicating with one of my friends. does anyone have an answer for me?:)

  • sabrina

    if anyone has an answer please just wtite it on the wall and i will get back to you! :) thanks!

  • sabrina

    if anyone knows wat i can do please write it on this website:D

  • Lilanajjar

    I have a longing for the 1980’s.

  • Kawaiixaura

    #4

  • Singh

    I disagree. There are soometimes that you have to send a formal communication to get noticed by the correct person in an organisation (generally a senior level) whose e mail ids are not readily available. I wanted to make a business proposal to a CEO of a large MNC so how am I supposed to write to him/her unless their e mail id’s are widely available. Most large companies only show their postal addresses on the contacts section of their websites and phone numbers. It can be very difficult to reach the senior people by phone and the main corporate e mail id is unlikely to be kept confidential or routed to the CEO.

    A letter does serve a purpose of sending a very formal communication, in certain circumstances. E mail is perfect for intenal communication in an organisation and also informal external communication.

  • Pollocknel

    You are right,  I’m not sure who would even want to send you a handwritten letter.

  • Ald1754

    If you bid for a contract, job, someone’s attention, would’t you want to be one of 3 and not one of 80? There is no spam filter with e-mail. People check their mail if they want to get their check, warning notice, or anything important. Physical addresses can be verified unlike email addresses, even for people who have  moved. People have that “mail moment” when they check their 5 mailpieces for the day. They look at the mailpiece, decide if they should open it, then act. If they open it, they often leave it on the refrigerator or kitchen table and are “reserved” the ad a few times a day for weeks until they act.  Technology now allows for mailers to track the mailpiece all along the way like a package.  You can follow up with a phonecall as soon as the customer recieves the mailpiece. You can carry your mail with you. You can get get more than half the cost of your mail off in many cases for direct (bulk) mail. There are  people who do not yet have the technology to electronically invoice, get a wet signature or confirmation of receipt. These are based on observation of the market. As for notice letters, why do large companies send USPS mail? Because they want to make sure you see it. What do you think of this?

    • Ald1754

      Sorry, not “reserved” but rather “referred to”

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  • Somegirl

    What if you have something to say to someone who doesn’t have an email address? Not everyone is into computers and it doesn’t mean they are Amish either. I think the whole world is brainwashed into believing that one is insane, dangerous or has too much time on their hands if they choose to write a letter by hand. To me, that’s a bunch of crap! Just because the whole world is in a hurry, doesn’t mean you can’t stop and take a little time out of your life to show some humanity.

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  • Merlin

    Old School always cool!

    More cool stuff at http://educationalpage.net