Writing a formal letter to a friend

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Writing a formal letter to a friend

Wyss Recent scholarship reminds us how eighteenth-century letters were produced and consumed very differently than we might imagine, certainly in the Native communities of New England. Some of those letters mark momentous events in the history of my family. Most, however, are quite mundane, marking the ordinary passage of time before e-mail and phone calls once and for all replaced our exchange of letters.

Mine is probably the last generation in this country to have a felt experience of epistolary exchange now that electronic media have largely replaced handwritten exchanges as the communication mode of choice.

Of course my experience of epistolarity is hardly the same as the eighteenth- and nineteenth- century Native American subjects of my book, English Letters and Indian Literacies, for whom the only tie to family—sometimes for years at a stretch—was the letters that passed between them.

Nonetheless, letter writing involves a set of shared practices and conventions that are gradually passing away at this moment.

It is perhaps for this reason that scholars have turned their attention with such enthusiasm and insight to the familiar letter of the past.

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Through careful analysis of letter collections in British and American archives, scholars remind us that eighteenth-century correspondents were part of a rising generation for whom letters were an increasingly essential part of their lives.

Rather suddenly, through vastly expanded literacy as well as increased access to the material conditions necessary for letter writing, better and more efficient transportation of letters, and the dispersal of families that characterized so much of the colonial American experience, ordinary people put pen to paper and marked out their everyday lives and experiences.

Increasingly in the eighteenth century, letters became a central means of communication and connection not only for elite families, but also for a variety of people in all walks of life. In New England this included Native American communities living on the outskirts of English settlements.

Epistolarity as Social Network Quill pens manufactured by E. De Young New York, ca. Although the image is from the nineteenth century, quill pens such as these, either purchased or hand cut, were the writing utensil of choice in the eighteenth century. For all the ways that letters and the conventions of epistolarity are familiar to those of us of a certain generation, recent scholarship reminds us of the many ways in which eighteenth-century letters were produced and consumed very differently—certainly in the Native communities of New England.

The implied dyad of the letter writer and recipient that we take for granted today is more or less a fiction: For those whose literacy was not firmly established, the letter writer might more properly be considered its composer, with a scribe either paid or acting out of kindness writing down the actual words.

Then, of course, there was the matter of delivery, which might include formal postage, but just as likely might involve a friend or two, or even a passing stranger willing to carry letters; letter delivery, especially for transatlantic mail, was dependent on transport routes, shipping patterns, and trade vessels.

Finally, the recipient of the letter would be not only the person to whom the letter is addressed, but would generally include a variably sized group of people—other family members, community members, and even passing visitors and friends with whom one might share all or part of the familiar letter, which would most often be read aloud upon its receipt—sometimes even by the person who had delivered it, who might be expected to carry a return message.

There was rarely any expectation of privacy in epistolary exchange, and letters served to consolidate relations that at times crossed from personal to political or financial exchange. The materiality of letters was of course strikingly different as well, as scholars from Konstantin Dierks to E.

Jennifer Monaghan remind us, and access to the technologies of literacy the right quill for a pen, proper ink, a flat surface for writing, light, paper, and, of course, the leisure to compose a letter was a challenge for many of the Native correspondents of New England.

Embedded within those letters are references to far more letters than those that remain. These new discoveries have transformed the way modern scholars approach Native history. Where once the assumption that Native Americans operated outside literacy systems was so powerful that all evidence of Native self-expression was overlooked in favor of English colonial assessments, it is now a core practice of contemporary scholars to first seek the words and expressions of Native people.

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Letters are one form among many through which Native experience is marked and recorded, but they are an extraordinarily telling one. Thanks to two recent digital collections, the Occom Circle and the Yale Indian Papers Project, scholars of early New England Native studies today have access to documents by and about Native Americans in a way that was once unimaginable.

Through these two digital sites, both of which are freely available to anyone with a computer and access to the Internet, original documents, including letters, are available to all of us or will soon be in very tangible ways—a vast improvement from the microfilm versions that once were the godsend of scholars like me who live so far from their sources.

These digital archives are extraordinary. Even for those with only the most fragmentary knowledge of the history and culture of eighteenth-century New England, these collections offer a most tantalizing glimpse of the lives of Native Americans.

writing a formal letter to a friend

Each includes a high-quality digital image of the original document, a transcription of the documents, and useful annotations that help situate these works and the people involved. This formal portrait of Samson Occom is one of a handful of images of the Native New England writers whose letters and papers have come down to us today.

While here he is stiffly posed, clearly his daughter and his brother-in-law had a very different, intimate sense of this man, as we can see through their letters.

Sometimes papers remain simply because nobody threw them out; others remain because they matter deeply as evidence of some element of family or community pride or identity. More often collections—especially letters collections—are a combination of the two, and as outsiders we can never really know with certainty which are the momentous documents and which are not.

Along with letters, the YIPP includes such odd snippets as runaway ads for Native American servants, with their detailed descriptions of eighteenth-century clothing. Also included in that archive are petitions, legislative reports, and summonses. At the same time the YIPP offers letters and whatever else may shed light on the vast and complicated network of Native experience in New England, from celebrations of community to acknowledgements of loss and hardship.

The accidental intimacy of the letters in this collection as opposed to other kinds of documents provides a hint not of the ragged edge, but of the everyday.When closing a formal letter, you should end the letter with a complimentary close.

Here are examples of formal letter closings, and tips for writing them. A guide to IELTS letter writing with advice, lessons and sample letters to improve test skills. The difference between formal and informal writing is the difference in style, tone, and syntax.

The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue.

Quill pens manufactured by E. De Young (New York, ca.

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). Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Although the image is from the nineteenth century, quill pens such as these, either purchased or hand cut, were the writing utensil of choice in the eighteenth century.

INTRODUCTION Try to write English frequently, in a wide range of formal and informal situations. Here are some tips: Informal English You might look for a penfriend or offer a language exchange with an English-speaking friend.

Exchange letters or timberdesignmag.comatively, use a Messenger service or a timberdesignmag.com your friend to correct your mistakes, and try to use new vocabulary you learn so.

3 Ways to Write a Letter - wikiHow