With the Internet now being present in almost every household, written letters have become a thing of the past. Why spend time and money to write something down on paper when you can send a quick email and reach somebody in a question of seconds? The answer is that, despite the popularity of email, sometimes a written letter can be much more powerful. Emails get lost and are sometimes ignored, but most of all, they are seen as more informal and less powerful than written letters. So when is a written letter a good idea? Here are a few examples.
If you are writing to elected officials, such as members of Congress, a written letter will more than likely get you a response. A well-structured letter sends the message that you have taken the time to think through your complaint or request, and it will be a more compelling argument than an email could ever be.
If you need to send an apology or a thank you note, a written letter will convey your message more strongly than a few emailed lines could ever do. A written letter shows the recipient you care enough to go through the trouble of actually writing something, buying a stamp, and finding a mailbox. Other type of messages, such as wedding invitations and Christmas newsletters or cards, preserve the tradition of the written letter.
If you are writing a letter of recommendation for somebody, be it a former employee or a student, a written letter is the preferred form. This is because a written letter feels more permanent, while an email or fax will seem outdated a few weeks after it was first sent.
The general rule is that formal situations are better handled through written letters than through email. Even through email has become the most popular form of communication nowadays, it is still seen as informal by most people, and does not carry the same weight than written letters.
Finally, remember that written letters can convey the feelings of the writer much better than an email. If you are sending a message to a relative or writing to a long-lost friend, opt for paper. The power of written letters arriving on your home cannot be compared to the simple click of an email reaching your mailbox.