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Person handwriting a love letter

How to write a love letter

Your heart beats faster; your palms sweat. You get butterflies in your stomach. And you’re smiling a lot.

You’re in love.

Professor Jen Adams portraitSo how do you communicate your feelings to the object of your desire? Jen Adams, associate professor of communication and theatre, has some thoughts on that.

For her doctoral dissertation, Adams studied 400 love letters she found in the attic of the Victorian home she was renting. The deceased owners had written them to each other in the 1930s.

“They wrote every day, and their relationship is detailed in these letters,” Adams said. “I was able to study the progression of how their relationship developed, which was historical and very romantic.”

Adams did not publish her work immediately, thinking the letters too personal. But after her DePauw students persuaded her to search for the couple’s children, Adams found their daughter, who was thrilled to learn of the letters and who gave her permission to publish them in a book.

Here’s what Adams saw demonstrated in the letters:

 BE AUTHENTIC: “You should try to be as authentic in representing yourself and your feelings as you possibly can,” she said. “We are not all poets, nor can we write Shakespearean prose, and that’s probably not what our loved one wants to hear anyway. They want to hear our voice.”

REFLECT SIGNIFICANT MOMENTS TOGETHER: Adams suggested writing about anything that relates to your past together. “I think it is a useful way of communicating the love and importance of that person,” she said. 

 ADDRESS THE FUTURE: “If it’s a true love letter, you want to encourage them to also think about your future together. It doesn’t have to be, ‘Let’s get married,’ but, ‘I hope we can continue to have these shared moments.’”

WRITE BY HAND: It takes effort and time, but do it anyway, she said. “I imagine that, for some people, that might be frustrating, but I also think that it’s a really valuable exercise,” she said. “ … Most of us aren’t used to it, so we have to slow down.” That doesn’t mean the letter will automatically be more thoughtful, but it allows time for reflection. 

CREATE ATMOSPHERE: Use language to create an atmosphere for your loved one to read the letter. “That’s something that my letter writers did all the time,” Adams said. “They would share, ‘when I got your letter, I sat down in my bedroom, dimmed the lights and read it.’” 



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