The pen is mightier than the sword
Advances in technology erase art of letter writing, replace personal sentiment with electronics
The new media revolution has made communication easier and brought the whole world closer together. Of course, communication is also more frivolous, less novel and outright mundane.
No matter what new features are invented, nothing is as special as the old-fashioned letter, and students should revive this ancient art form.
Technology has brought down long-distance phone rates and made video-conferencing a reality for anyone with a connection to the internet and the right batch of software. Yet when it is so simple to send a message to the other side of the world, people pay less attention to the content.
It is wonderful that anyone can pick up the phone and "chat" with a friend for several minutes, but once they hang up, the experience is gone. There is no record of the conversation -- just fading memories and an impending phone bill.
Letters, however, allow both the sender and receiver greater expression. Phone calls do not come on colorful stationery, carry handwritten greetings or have doodles in the margin. Someone who gets a letter can cherish it, reread it, frame it or burn it. Options not available with a phone call.
As the art of letter writing fades, writing skills are degrading as well. Any writing instructor will say the best way to improve writing ability is to practice. Most Americans, however, have no opportunity to write anything longer than a yellow sticky note. Term papers are becoming shorter and less common, and high school students are balking at the new essay portion of the PSAT.
E-mail -- often called a replacement for traditional mail -- is usually sloppier than letters. Even professional e-mail tends to be riddled with typographical errors and poor grammar. The simplicity of the medium has allowed users to be less careful.
Few people quickly jot out a letter. Since it is a permanent document, writers try to weed out major mistakes and sometimes use ancient tools like "rough drafts" and "rewrites."
Phone calls carry the "sound of your voice" miles away, but a well written letter carries a much more personal message. Handwriting quickly conveys the writer's mood: harsh bold strokes show anger, flowers dotting the i's show happiness. Letters can be sweetly scented, smudged or sealed with a kiss.
With just a little more effort than a phone call or e-mail, letters convey a much more sincere and unique message. Thousands of subtleties work to communicate the writer's heart.
Everyone has experienced the anticipation of watching the mailbox for an expected letter. The cold fingers of technology can never produce the same enthusiasm.
The electronic packets of ones and zeros produced by e-mail are terribly sterile and impersonal. E-mail is more of a memo than personal communication. Often the only "signature" is a record of the computer that originated the message. It hardly conveys the same feel as a handwritten note.
College students have plenty of excuses to write letters. Aggies should take a moment while they are slouching in front of a television and write someone a note. Family members living in other counties, those favorite high school teachers, friends back home or younger siblings would love to get even a short letter. It costs only an envelope and a thirty-two cent stamp, but it will be around for a while.
Each generation has an assortment of letters from their college students. The themes are always the same ("send money," "we need to talk about my English class" and "I met this really great person"). Without letters, this generation will have a hard time documenting daily life for posterity.
Letters carry more of a person's essence with them. Crossed-out words, wrinkled pages or tear stains all show a real connection with life. For sentiment, sincerity, history and love, no form of expression will ever compare with a good ol' letter.
Dave Johnston is a senior mathematics major.