The Lost Art of the Personal Letter




It occurred to me the other day that it had been a while since I had received a personal letter in the mail. So much these days is done 140 characters or less on #Twitter or by instant message that even email seems passe. Then, to my great surprise, on Saturday, January 12, 2013 I received the following letter from the good people at the Institute of World Politics.

A cordial invitation.

A cordial invitation.

The letter invited me, as an alumnus, to attend several of their upcoming functions. Admittedly, I was a bit perplexed. The date at the top of the letter was only the day before two of the scheduled events. Now, I know that some may suggest that these upcoming events are for December 2013 and January 2014, but it just seems too well thought-out for the Alumni Association of #IWP. Isn’t that a bit insulting of me to say? Perhaps. But I have good reason; simply, I am not now nor will I be an alumnus of the Institute of World Politics. That is of course unless I was black-out-drunk the entire time I attended; but there are no other gaps in my memory to support that theory.



Along with this delightful, personal letter from the Alumni Association was a two-sided survey so that they can keep tabs of their alumni for networking purposes.

Survey page one.

Survey page one.

Now, I keep several manner of databases – some voluntarily, though most through necessity. They allow me to keep track of all sorts of data, particularly the ones at work. As a teacher, student information is considered confidential material that is not to be disclosed to any third party. I admit, the maintenance of such databases is somewhat time consuming. Thus I am left to conclude that the Alumni Association President is either an unpaid intern, or does not communicate clearly with the registrar’s office to differentiate between those who have applied to the school and those who have concluded their studies.



I know I’m not alone in receiving such correspondence from corporations, associations, and the like. There are many more like me out there.

Survey page 2 and my response.

Survey page 2 and my response.

 Are we victims of computer errors (read: malfunctioning end users), or is this type of general ignorance a sign of a wider pattern of indifference? I tend to assume the latter. The Alumni Association President of the IWP probably mails out these letters to anyone whose name has appeared on their database under the assumption that if it does not apply to the recipient, it won’t even be read. But that is sort of my point in all this. See? I do read. And so I read the letter and took the time to respond to the survey. I even added a personal message to the Alumni Association President as well to point out several flaws I found in the letter. My only question now is whether he will actually take the time to read my response or not. Time will tell. Either I will stop receiving emails and regular mail from IWP, or the letters will continue, furthering my point that people tend to just go through the motions without reading. Alas, I leave you with my response to the Institute of World Politics in its entirety for your personal reading pleasure. If the record keeping at IWP is indicative of the way things are run there in general, I truly fear for our future.

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follow me on Twitter @benjaminkeay


About waronliteracy

Storyteller, teacher, author of "Perfect Solution" and "Dire Requisite," I stand alone in the aftermath of the war on literacy, looking for other survivors ... we are out there ... somewhere.
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1 Response to The Lost Art of the Personal Letter

  1. Writing Jobs says:

    That was an excellent post today. Thanks so much for sharing it. I
    really enjoyed reading it very much. You have a wonderful day!

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