Pen Pal Tips

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I had a pen pal when I was in elementary school. I think it was a program set up through the library, or I stumbled upon it in the back of a magazine. Highlights, perhaps? Regardless, I remember that thrill of getting mail addressed to ME. Being the youngest of four girls, it wasn’t often I got anything in the mail with my name on it unless it was my birthday. Ha!

Eventually the letters stopped coming, adolescent life went on, and I focused on other things.

Jump to today, 20 something years since my last pen pal, I had to dust myself off a bit. Sure, there’s still the classic pen pal letter exchange. But somewhere along the way pen pal letters have gotten WAY crafty and Pinterest-worthy. Some pals even exchange little gifts.

I’m more interested in the personal correspondence. Exchanging gifts, even if handmade 1. could get expensive with a quickness, especially if you have more than one pen pal. 2. may create wiggle room for expectations, and that breeds the complications of disappointment.

Pen Pal Tips

Find a pen pal.

Obviously you need to have a pen pal in order to write to one… You can simply write to friends you want create a deeper connection with, write to family members out of state, Military Pen Pal, ask friends or family if they have a pen pal that you could write to as well, sign up for a pen pal membership or program. Some are premium services, some are not.

Here are some Pen Pal Tips:

1. Be YOU. Authenticity is important. Trust that the letter you are receiving is genuine and honest, you have no reason to not reciprocate and be yourself in your letter. Be funny, be quirky, be random, be YOU. The only thing I’d say you shouldn’t be is a jerk. No one likes a jerk. But I suspect jerks aren’t reading up on pen pal tips. If you are a jerk though, here’s a tip: change.

2. Tap the creative juices. You can get creative, even while keeping things simple. Personally I find doodling and “tinkering” in PSE relaxing. So zhushing up a page or envelope doubles as my “zen time”. There are LOADS of inexpensive creative papers, digi-scrap graphics, and fonts over at Creative Market. If the idea of washi tape or drawing isn’t your thing, feel free to skip this tip πŸ˜‰ Here’s an inspiring video for how to put together a simple and thoughtful pen pal package {it’s more than a letter, for me these packages would be an occasional/”just because” occurrence}.

3. Ease in. There’s no need to divulge your life story in one letter. Give your pen pal a taste of your personality, and let your shared stories build from there.

4. Inspire. Pull up some of your favorite motivational quotes, lyrics, or excerpts and include them in your letter!

5. Pocket Letters. Filling baseball card sleeves with a little bit of everything. It’s a thing. There’s even a site for Pocket Letter Pals specifically. It’s an original way to tell your story and share a bit about yourself. πŸ™‚

6. Hold a conversation. Talk about yourself, but don’t treat this letter as your latest juicy diary entry. There is such a thing as TMI. πŸ˜‰ Ask questions about your pen pal, acknowledge common threads you have, and answer any questions they’ve posed for you.

7. Patience, grasshopper. People have lives, try to not be disappointed if it’s a while before you receive anything back. Respect your pen pal by being patient and understanding. Conversely, if you’re stuck with obligations or unable to reply in your usual timely fashion, shoot your pen pal a courtesy email or quick postcard to let them know you haven’t forgotten about them and you’ll be writing them as soon as possible.

8. Comfort zone. Currently I write to friends that I’ve known for over six years, I have no reservations sharing my home address with them and I have their home addresses memorized. πŸ˜‰ However, once I begin taking on more pen pals, I have a PO Box… to eliminate the possibility of “pals” peeping outside my window. Because: creepers gonna creep. Okay, okay. I’m sure the likelihood of that is slim to none, but I’d rather not chance it. Luv is also using our PO Box for her soon to be pen pals. Another perk of having a PO Box is supporting your local post office!

Pen Pal Tips

What do you like the most about penpalling?
See more pen pal inspo on this board!

Follow Enjoying this Journey’s board Pen Pal Inspiration on Pinterest.

Image credit: Old Letter And Quill Photo by Simon Howden via
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  2 comments for “Pen Pal Tips

  1. Audrey Aimes
    December 8, 2016 at 5:14am

    Excellent Post! I’m just starting up with writing pen pals. The idea of learning about other and different areas of the world is what most intrigues me. I identify most with the PO Box. I also started out using a pseudonym. However I’ve already run into a dilemma having gone that route. When, if ever, do I let my pen pals know that my real name is something I prefer to keep quiet? I’m leaning towards the first, introductory letter. My intent is my and my families safety–not to deceive or humiliate a stranger. So my instinct is to be open about that fact from the beginning. Are there any thoughts on this or do other letter writers do anything similar when beginning a friendship with a stranger?

    • December 8, 2016 at 11:18am

      That’s a fantastic question, Audrey. I personally don’t share my kids’ or husband’s name online or in letters. I also have a pseudonym for my last name online, but I do share my last name with pen pals and use a PO Box. That’s what I’m comfortable with. I have some people sign up to be matched with just their first name and a PO Box and others with their (assumed) full name and address. Everyone’s different – do what feels right for you. I’m sure your pen pal would completely understand and respect your wishes. If you use a pseudonym just make sure your mail carrier knows or your PO box is set up with that name, too. β™₯

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