(…) My handwriting may not tell you all the secrets of my psyche, as graphologists claim, but it is mine, unique to me, and my letter, in the neatest cursive I can muster these days, with the help of a decent pen and good quality paper, represents a little gift of myself to some distant friend or relative. It’s an interpersonal event that cannot be matched by a typed letter, let alone an email.
Compared with the ease and cheapness of sending an email or making a phone call, the letter involves an effort, and this not only conveys my respect and love for the recipient (how much more at home “dear” looks on a handwritten page than in an electronic message) but is a small moral victory for me. Each such missive is another triumph over the slide into casualness and laziness that can whittle away a relationship.
The letter typed on paper may substitute quite well in some respects for the handwritten one, but is that what is actually happening? It seems more likely that the decline of the freehand variety represents an absolute decline in personal letters. (Even business mail is taking a hit from electronic billing and payments, and the New Zealand postal service, for example, has signalled that deliveries to households will be cut back.)