Posted: 6th April 2022

Ondine H, Year 12, has explored the evolution of letters and how they changed into emails over 50 years.

I have started up a letter writing club within school to promote the dying art within education but would like to extend the art to a wider range of people. Without letters, history would be very limited indeed, so I don’t think we should completely disregard them to be a communication of the past, for they have so much more depth, meaning, and character than just an email made up of nothing other than pixelated letters on a screen. Without further ado let’s begin.

Emails

Developing into existence only 50 years ago emails have made a remarkably quick evolution to dominating the 21st century’s communication system completely taking over the art of letter writing. Ray Tomlinson develops that sending and receiving emails are just a few clicks away for someone who is fast at touch typing some of the stats are absolutely astounding. I have included some of them below…

Statista stated:

“In 2020 there were 306.4 billion emails sent and received per day.”

Statista also stated that the average office worker received around 120 emails per day half of them being spam emails with a response needed from about 40 of the 120 emails. According to Emma Richards author of The Carbon Literacy trust, the other half were split evenly between emails with attachment to just worded emails.  I also found research to suggest that a standard email is producing 4g of the CO2e equivalent whilst emails with attachments produce about 50g of CO2e. For some reason spam emails only produce 0.3g of CO2e. If one combines the statistics in the paragraph, then…

The Carbon Literacy trust stated:

“This means a days’ worth of emails received is equal to about 1 and a half kilograms of CO2e.”

Enough with the statistics though – they go on forever and will continuously change as emails are not a communication of the past yet. Emails are not good for the environment, and they still produce CO2e not to mention the amount of CO2 produced by making the electricity running through hundreds of miles to charge the device to send the email. That sentence was deliberately long to state how long it takes for electricity to get from the factory to the device. Then one also has the delivery of devices most likely by car at some point again releasing CO2 into the atmosphere.

Letters

Moving swiftly onto letters before we get into a whirlpool of how nothing is carbon neutral. Letters are so much more interesting because they can come in all different shapes, sizes, forms, and colours not to mention postcards and invitation cards with those beautifully styled RSVPs to reply to. Where to begin – that is the big question. To start with history is usually a good beginning. They were written in the Shakespearean time and earlier, during the wars, and so today they should still have their value.

Children only a decade ago were still made to write letters home if they were boarding. Sixty to seventy years ago, the letters written home and being received were probably censored by a housemaster or person of authority. How the times have changed. As I may have mentioned before I have recently started up a letter writing club in boarding as a small activity to do in the evenings. It is optional because it is not so much a lesson as an activity to brighten the receiver’s day.

I started non – thank you letters through my own choice when I was 7. This was because a person who I knew at school left but they had given me their address. Today we still write letters to each other and even though we haven’t seen each other in over 10 years, the letters however infrequent will continue to be sent and received.

There are many different styles of letters of which I will state below:

Letter 1 example | Letter 2 example |  Letter 3 example | Letter 4 example  | Letter 5 example | Letter 6 example

1.Thank you letters:

If you have received a gift for your birthday and want to thank the sender.

 2.Invitation cards:

When children ask other children to their parties with information and RSVP included

3.Stream of Consciousness Letter :

The one I do the most or best where one writes down what one is thinking.

4.Postcards:

Usually sent from abroad or after you have got back from a holiday with a picture on one side to help the receiver imagine what the holiday was like. You can also get blank ones which you can draw or paint on if you like doing art.

5.Letter of Congratulations

Usually a short letter focussing on the subject you are congratulating the receiver for.

6.Cards of Festivals:

Birthday, Christmas, or Easter cards are examples of this.

War Letters:

Letter 7 example | Letter 8 example

I come to these as I believe them to be the most historical type of letters being true accounts of what it was like to live in a time of war. They are so different from the ones we receive today. Due to rations the paper will have been bible thin sometimes with slow transport systems. There are some aspects I would like to focus on. These include letters being censored, and a regular type of letter informing the receiver of a death or future funeral.

7.Letter of condolence:

Thankfully I haven’t had to write one but it is usually sent to someone grieving a person’s death so it’s a sensitive matter. During the war letters informing of death or a funeral were bordered in black tape.

8.Censored Letter:

Happened mainly during the war and sometimes when school children went home. It means that one has to be careful with what one writes about in the letter otherwise it will be blacked out. In war letters one couldn’t even state your location and if you did the receiver wouldn’t see it if it had been censored because it will have been blacked out.

Other types of letters:

Application letter – I have written one of these applying for work experience and one has to choose the words very carefully.

Letter of complaint – a hard letter to write. Thankfully I have not had to write one of these yet but I’m sure I will in due course.

As I bring this blog to a close, I would like to compare the difference between letters and emails. I personally prefer letters although maybe this is because I have never received highly important letters. I think what one doesn’t have the most of is what one values the most. I seem to have been able to write so much more about letters though than emails showing the depth and meaning that letters can have. What I hope to have done by writing this blog is make you aware that letters are not in the past.

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