Tips for being a great Pen Pal

Being a pen pal may sound a simple task, but there are things you can do and say – especially in the early stages – to lay the foundations of a fantastic snail mail friendship, which makes both parties happy, and ups the chances of it lasting. After all, it’s no fun when your pen pal stops writing and you’re left wondering what happened! Hopefully these tips will help to prevent that from happening to you, by keeping both of you content.

Always be yourself

There’s no point in trying to be someone you’re not; you’ll not get anything out of the relationship if it is based on lies, much like any relationship. Just be yourself – open up and show your pen pal your serious side, your funny side, your creative side, your quirky side, your hopes and your fears. If they sense you are telling the truth and being open with them, they will reciprocate, and your letters will blossom into a wonderful, close friendship.

Encourage conversation

Keep your writing balanced; don’t be tempted to write a solid monologue that’s just a list of things you like or list of things you’ve done recently. Instead, inject your letter with interesting tales, questions for your pen pal, and insight into your life. In the same vein, don’t just write a bunch of questions with no other content – your pen pal will want to learn about you, too. If you need to have a little rant about work or college, do so, but keep it concise, and balance it out with something positive.

Set boundaries


Image credit: StanciuC

Whilst it’s nice to be open with your pen pals, if they have asked a question or brought up a topic you’re not too keen on discussing, you are well within your rights to politely let them know you don’t want to talk about it – whether that means just for now, or forever.

The best idea is to set boundaries upfront, at the start of your correspondence, if there are topics you’d rather not discuss. This may sound awkward, but just simply stating, “I’d rather we didn’t talk about serial killers or job-hunting” can save several unwanted letter conversations further down the line. Then, ask your friend which topics they’d rather avoid.

Set expectations

It can be wise to discuss letter expectations with your pen pal early on in your correspondence, so nobody is shocked or disappointed in the future. People write different lengths of letter and at various frequencies. You may be the type of pen pal who likes to write shorter letters every fortnight, but what if your new pen pal writes longer, in-depth letters every few months? It’s best to discuss this issue, and make sure everyone is happy with how it’s going to work going forward.

Be patient

If your pen pal is slower writing back than usual, stay patient – we all have busy lives, where other tasks sometimes have to take priority over letter-writing. If it’s been a really long time, why not send them a quick email, note or postcard, to check everything is OK their end?

If it is you who is taking longer than usual to reply, drop your pen friend a quick email or postcard and let them know you did receive their letter and you’ve not forgotten about them! This will be much appreciated. Communication is always key.

Happy penpalling!

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Lucy is our lead editor and has been passionate about stationery since childhood. She has a particular fondness for rollerball and calligraphy pens and is a keen advocate of snail mail.

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