5 Love Notes — And Why They’re Keepers

These paramours put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) with great results. Here, an expert analyzes what worked so well and tells you how you can write equally effective letters—no rhyming dictionary required.

By Anna Holmes

n an era flooded with voice-mail messages, instant messages, text messages and more, is the good old-fashioned love letter a lost art? Not at all, we found out. In fact, when we asked if anyone had some love notes stashed in a closet somewhere, our office was flooded with amorous handwritten notes, email messages, and even sticky notes.

Why do people save these things by the shoeboxful? What, exactly, makes them so exciting to
Ask yourself how you’d say it face-to-face.
receive and so hard to write? We asked Babbette Hines, author of the anthology Love Letters, Lost, to read between the lines of a few of the more ardent passages we received to explain what made them so sweet — and divulge her top tips on how you can write something that your own honey will want to hold on to forever.

Letter #1
Dear Alex, you have been hospitalized for so long, and though you’ve wanted to go home badly this whole time, I know that this coming change could be scary as well as happy for you. I want to give you support in any way I can. You are an INCREDIBLE person. If this ordeal teaches you one thing, I hope it’s that you have the strength, courage, love, soul and beauty ALREADY inside you to meet ANY challenge. I really, really love you, Alex. I love you sooo much.
Love Always,

Why it works: “What I love about this letter is that it is a successful example of how we try so hard to convey, in written form, the intonation and meaning behind our words,” says Hines. This writer managed, with just a few strokes of the hand — especially those 2 extra O's in “sooo much” — to do just that and get across the depth of her love for this man.

Takeaway tip: Feel like a certain turn of phrase in your letter doesn’t truly communicate how much you mean it? Ask yourself how you’d say it face-to-face — then add the appropriate underlines, upper-case words, extra O's and punctuation — don’t worry, there’s no such thing as too many exclamation points in a love letter.

Letter #2
Bud, I’m totally smitten by you! —Pook

Why it works: Jotted down on a simple sticky note, this note shows its writer can really think outside the box, says Hines: By depicting the word “smitten” visually, he’s turned what could have been a pretty straight-laced declaration of devotion into a playful puzzle that his honey must figure out. “It’s light and whimsical and a great example of the fact that while love is serious, love letters don’t have to be,” she says.

Takeaway tip: Go ahead, get creative. A playful sticky note is great. Make a crossword puzzle out of your love’s name and adjectives that describe him or her. Cut words and phrases that resonate about your sweetie out of a magazine and glue them inside a card. “There are as many ways to say ‘I love you’ as there are to feel it,” says Heins. “It’s your love specifically, and that’s what makes it extraordinary.”

Letter #3
i keep myself awake, and I hear you sleep near me.
i want to say crazy things &
i write and erase, and realize all I want to say is I feel so lucky to
be in love with my best friend
nothing has ever felt like this in my life
te quiero tanto

Why it works: “The phrase ‘I write and erase’ just sums up so much of what it means to love someone,” says Hines. “You want
Go ahead, get creative. A playful Post-it is great.
so badly to convey that love, but feel as though nothing is ever going to really be able to express all those crazy overwhelming feelings. Plus, the part about staying awake and hearing her sleeping next to him is so sweet and protective; and it’s so nice to imagine someone watching over you, keeping you safe, while you sleep.”

Takeaway tip: Too tongue-tied to come up with the perfect phrase to convey that you’re crazy about someone? Go ahead and say that you’re struggling to find the right words; it’ll show your love just how much power he or she has over you (talk about an ego boost!). Also consider what you want your lover to feel after reading: Secure? Exciting? To tune into how your letter will come across, pretend you’re the recipient while reading it. “Remember that a love letter is not about you, it’s about the person to whom it’s being addressed,” says Hines. “Think of it as a present for your beloved and think about what he or she — not you — would like.”

Letter #4
Oh, oh, oh, my pile of sugar, I miss, I want, need, lust for, must have, and ache for the lack of you. You been on my mind lately. I gotta tell you — the other day, I had the day off, slept late, rolled around in bed til 11:50 and I woke up — not just missing you, but honestly missing the electric gold-plated happiness itself. Selfish, I know, but ahh, sometimes (just say you know it) I’ll be walkin’, drivin’, dryin’ my clothes, whatever, and I ask you — can you feel this? Can you feel this right now? And — lie to me if you have to — I feel you feeling it, and I get an hour of sanity. Baby, I just love you. What else can I say?

Why it works: What makes this letter so endearing is its level of detail: This writer has taken the time to depict what he’s doing, how he’s feeling, and adds in his own signature style to boot. “This is such a great letter in that it so clearly reflects the person who is writing it,” says Hines. “His personality comes across. He uses his own personal language of love.”

Takeaway tip: Go ahead and write in a conversational style; no need for a rhyme scheme. Also, the more nitty-gritty specifics you throw in, the more personal and intimate you love letter will feel. “Mention what you like or love about your sweetie: The way he looks in that blue sweater or the way the back of her neck smells,” says Heins. “This is especially effective if there’s something about your date that she might dislike or find embarrassing but you find charming and irresistible, like if she snorts when she laughs or has a crooked smile.” (Caveat: That is, as long as she already knows she has a crooked smile or snort when she laughs. Probably best not to point out his or her flaws unless they are already acknowledged).

Letter #5
hi baby, I want to say so many things and at the same time feel like nothing needs to be said. Lui

Why it works: Though short, this sentence says everything. “When the writer says ‘nothing needs to be said,’ he does, in fact, say it all,” explains Hines. He acknowledges that although love sometimes makes you inarticulate, he also no longer needs to explain himself to her since their love is so strong.

Takeaway tip: Don’t feel compelled to go on and on to get your passionate point across. “If you feel like writing a lengthy tome explaining in detail all the various aspects of your love, go ahead — but it’s not necessary,” says Hines. “A short, sweet love note is the written equivalent of calling him in the middle of the day and telling him that you like him and then hanging up, knowing that he is smiling on the other end.”

Anna Holmes is the editor of Hell Hath No Fury: Women’s Letters from the End of the Affair. And although she has written more breakup letters than love letters, she hopes to change that situation.
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