Guidelines for Writing a Letter:

  • Always begin your letter addressing a stranger and sign it off as a stranger. The most common way to do this is “Dear Stranger” and, after the letter ends, “Love, a stranger.”

  • Preferrably , the letter should be hand written (unless you are in an online letter exchange)

  • Remember: you don’t know the reality of the person reading your letter. So write with the golden rule in mind. If you wouldn’t want to read what you wrote, then chances are, a stranger wouldn’t, either. 

  • Speak in the “I.” Don’t assume, accuse, or make generalizations, such as with advice. You don’t know the person reading your letter, after all! :) 

  • Similar to above, but: it is okay to be personal. However, you may be tempted to ask them questions anyway. That’s totally okay! If what you want to ask them is a very personal piece of information, however, then think carefully about the question first. It’s okay to talk about your experience with a horrible break-up, for example, but it may not be in your best interest to demand “how can anyone be so cruel as to break up with someone?” because their response may not be 100% favourable and we have no control over that.

  • Share information, but avoid condescension. Share experiences, but avoid blatant self-promotion. If you happen to know some interesting facts, do share! Excitement can be contagious. But consider the way you phrase it. Rather than “Come on, you’d be crazy to not know about [insert fact],” try “I found out yesterday that [insert fact], and it honestly blew me away!”. Similarly, do recount experiences that are meaningful to you, but don’t use them to turn your letter into a resume.

  • Avoid pushing your beliefs. This is similar to #3, but it’s worth reiterating. You may believe that someone with a certain illness just needs to take the same medicine that your relative with the same illness took to get better, but especially because you won’t know the reality of the person reading your letter, it is better to not insist on your ultimate correctness. This goes for a variety of things, from politics to religion. You are more than encouraged to share the things that truly matter to you - just remember that other things may matter just as much to your reader, and there is no one “right” way to live. 

  • Empathy and compassion are key. Try to connect with your fellow human being by choosing love as a default. That is, do offer support when relevant (“If you feel lost, too, know my spirit is with you. You matter. You matter to me.”) and trust them with genuineness.

  • Speaking of which...Write like your reader is a friend. Write while envisioning positivity. Instead of writing as if someone who has hurt you will read your letter, write like you’re talking to someone who understands you and would never judge you. This will help make the letter-writing process therapeutic and real rather than chore-esque.

  • Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. What is in the letter stays in the letter. Readers should not share with others personal details in the letter they receive, so don’t let fear of judgment stop you from telling your story. You can go deep and dark if you need to! However, do include trigger warnings at the top of your letter. Furthermore, like how you wouldn't want to watch a movie that ends in the middle of the climax, make sure you have some sort of resolution in your letter. It doesn't have to be happily ever after, but do share tips and people and experiences that have been helpful for you. Small things count!

  • Stay creative! You don’t have to write an essay or be a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for your letter to matter. You just need to write as who you are. People have drawn pictures and even folded origami in the past, so you are in charge. However, if you choose to take an artistic approach, do try to write some words to ground things in.   

  • Practice makes perfect. Talk the talk, then walk the walk. If you want to up your letter-writing game, the best way to do so is by committing yourself to the principles behind these letters: empathy, connection, growth, love, and vulnerability. When you inject these values into your own life - outside of writing letters - you may find that your letters, too, become more inspiring and heartfelt.

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