How to write the perfect love letter, plus 3 fool-proof alternatives!
One day, the joyous thought just hits you: “I’m in love!” But your elation might quickly run headlong into panic, inspiring terrifying thoughts such as: “How do I let them KNOW? I can’t just SAY it! I’ll stutter … I’ll stammer … I’ll shake! I’ll totally screw up the moment! And then they’ll run away screaming!” We feel your pain … but wait! We have some ideas on how to say you love your husband, wife, soul mate, or simply, your significant other WITHOUT uttering a single word. Read on.
Table of contents
- How to write the perfect love letter, plus 3 fool-proof alternatives!
- Is writing a love letter still a thing?
- When was the first love letter written?
- What’s actually in a love letter?
- How to write a love letter?
- What does a classic love letter look like?
- What is a good alternative to a love letter?
- Shall I compare thee?
Is writing a love letter still a thing?
These days, we rarely actually write anything by hand. SMS, E-mail, WhatsApp, and the like are right there at our fingertips after all. Why not just avail ourselves of technology? Let our fingers do the talking? We can definitely understand how eager you are to express your love to this amazing person - and your temptation to do so NOW, by the quickest means possible.
But hold up! Electronic messages are fine for quick, everyday communication, emergencies, etc. But for your once-in-a-relationship love reveal, they come across as too, well, effortless. Typing “ILY” takes about a nanosecond, after all. No, you want to show your soon-to-be-bae that you made an effort, right? That you think so highly of them, you’d take the time to organize your thoughts and put them on paper?
A written love letter is something that can be cherished – opened and reopened, read and reread, held in one’s hand, the handwriting marveled (or maybe gently chuckled) over. If you want them to really get the feels, there’s nothing else like it. If you’re not convinced, think about this: While a proclamation of love on their phone can technically be kept by screenshot, it can’t stand out from regular, everyday messages.
A simple screenshot can easily get lost in all those texts, photos, mp3s and mp4s, and emails, etc. You don’t want that, right? Women especially love the old-school approach. When they realize that a man has put actual thought and effort into expressing himself, they feel incredibly valued and, dare I say, special.
When was the first love letter written?
Love letters aren’t just old-school, they’re actually ancient. In fact, Jesus Christ hadn’t even arrived on the planet when the first known ones were being written and presented. We know this from references in literature. But that doesn’t mean they are outdated or even obsolete.
The oldest documented English love letter ever found was dated back to 1477 and was written by Margery Brews to her fiancé John Paston. Found was not only one letter but a collection of a whopping 400, but Margery and John weren’t the only ones writing those hundreds of letters to each other. The collection spans over three generations.
They are now known as the Paston Letters and are written in an informal style, just like we would talk to our loved ones. Quite different from what the correspondences we are so used to from those times. Although Margery surely did not expect her letter to end up in a museum, it would certainly put a smile on her face to know that her love has lasted for 500 years and will live on.
Love letters have survived all epochs, from ancient to medieval, Baroque to Romantic, to recent modern times. Now, in our post-modern, technological, thoroughly digitalized era, love letters are sadly endangered and threaten to become extinct. Here is your chance to be “part of the solution”!
You can write your sweetie a love letter and help save this proud tradition. You can be brilliant like Beethoven, Goethe, Napoleon, and Kafka, all of whom have had epistles of amour published. Sincerity is key. You don’t have to be a talented writer to produce a wonderful love letter. Write from the heart, and poetry will fill the words to whomever they are addressed to.
What’s actually in a love letter?
In order to learn how to write a love letter, you must first understand what it actually entails. Although they are not technically poems, love letters can be exquisitely poetic. Because they contain such private details and tell a story, they are honest and demonstrate deep vulnerability. Which, if the recipient feels the same way, is quite an aphrodisiac.
Most likely, your love letter will only reach the eyes of your intended (we hope so, anyway - unless you WANT a whole bunch of strangers ogling your innermost feelings). A love letter communicates feelings the recipient has been previously unaware of. Simply put, it's private. And you should treat it as such. It makes it all the more special and truly shows your partner that your love is meant for them only.
Honoring the privacy of your relationship also allows you to talk about that one special moment you two had together, the first time you kissed, and other memories that you'd rather keep from prying eyes. The best romantic confessions are written with only one reader in mind.
But classic love letters have fascinated the masses throughout history, spurring lovers to dream about depths of devotion and emotion they could scarcely conceive of experiencing themselves. The best love letters plumb the depths of the human psyche. Every love is different, so there is no perfect way to write the letter - no formula, no recipe. And while there is no guarantee of a happy ending either, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still try!
How to write a love letter?
If you have read this far, you’re probably intrigued, but might wonder about the “how” of it all. Keep reading for some sweet tips on how to write a love letter that your significant other will truly appreciate.
You probably know to whom you want to send your love letter, but what should you put in it? You surely want it to elevate your romantic connection to a new level. It should contain the things you love most about your partner. Asking yourself the questions below should get the ideas flowing:
What qualities do you love most about him/her? How does he/she make you laugh? Why does he/she make you happy? What was especially wonderful about the experiences you’ve had together? How did they make you feel? What do you think about your future together? When exactly did you realize that you loved him/her? Describe the moment and the feelings you felt. If you have writer’s block, these questions will hopefully help you get out of it.
If you feel you can’t write the whole letter at one go, no worries! Even the best writers sometimes feel this way, too. Write some drafts, take your time, and don't put yourself under tremendous pressure. Of course, your letter will include compliments for your love – an essential part of any declaration of devotion. Just don’t overdo it … it could make you seem insincere. Too much flattery starts to lose its thrill and to not feel special anymore. Remember these words by an anonymous but fantastic English professor:
“If he writes her a few sonnets, he loves her. If he writes her three hundred sonnets, he loves sonnets."
So try to comprise your feelings in one concise letter instead of expanding it over too many pages. You have learned how to avoid this in the first step. Write with sincerity about things other than just their looks … like your lover’s character. You should include both things equally. For example: "When I gaze into your soulful brown eyes, I can see our future together. It is like looking into the mirror of my soul."
Be sure to use your own words. By now, your partner will be able to spot the difference between heartfelt sentiments expressed how you’d normally speak, as opposed to flowery, overly emotional speech copied from internet templates or forum posts. Just figure out how you honestly feel and write that like you’d say it out loud. It’s OK to be reasonably brief. And once you’ve written what you feel, don’t keep writing and writing. Like they say about certain other things, length isn’t everything, and quality is more important.
Not even the greatest writers - scratch that - especially the greatest writers of all time, will not release any of their work without writing at least three drafts of it first. While picking up the pen and starting to write is the most important step, the second important step is, without a doubt, editing. Writing a love letter or writing anything really, highly depends on you weeding out the less important stuff.
In your first draft, you can ramble, cross out words, try out new versions of the same sentence, and just let loose. Mention everything you can think of. Their smile, the sweet message they sent you that one time. The day you started dating. How great of a friend they are. Things you love about them. Just go wild!
Then you leave it be. Sleep on it. Forget about it for at least a day.
Next, you pick up the mess you made on paper and begin the editing process. What do you really want to say? What is most important and what will distract from it? Scratch everything of the latter. "Why," you ask? Why would you refrain from pouring out your heart in its entirety? Because at some point, your letter will turn into a chaotic stream of consciousness that becomes harder and harder to read the further you dive into it. Patience, dear. For your lover's sake.
You're one step closer! It's time to focus - especially on the person you are writing to. Use your language and edit it in a way, your significant other will understand it and see you in the words. be concise, don't talk too much. Weed out anything that still sticks out like a sore thumb. If you really have taken your time and took breaks from staring at your writing, you'll notice those little things much easier.
Now, read it to yourself. Notice anything that you don't like? Is the rhythm off? Edit it to smooth it out. Then, put it down again.
Look at you, you have come this far! Now, this in itself shows how devoted you are to your beloved! Just like your relationship, take this love letter to the next level by editing your grammar and spelling. After writing on something for a while, we tend to overlook small mistakes like that because at that point we are so familiar with the text that we can barely focus on the details and the actual words. But your reader will notice. So make sure, all those little mistakes are gone before you fold that bad boy in half and shove it into an envelope of your desired color, slap some stickers, a flower, a spritz of your perfume, and a wax seal on it. Too much? Who's to say?
Congratulations, your letter has landed on the paper, has been edited, and is ready to be read by your favorite person!
Birthdays are obviously a great time to express your love for someone. After all, you’re really happy that they were born, right? It is a thoughtful gift, a personal letter like this. Or you can add it to a gift instead of a classic greeting card.
Other suitable occasions include anniversaries. Don’t feel it must be a year anniversary … you could even write a “Happy One Week Anniversary” love letter if that feels right to you!
How about date night? Plan a lovely dinner and hand them the letter at the end of it. They will appreciate the effort, the time you spend together and have something to read when they go to bed and marinate in the feelings your words will undoubtedly spark! It will make them long for the next time they see you!
And of course, there’s Valentines’ Day ... an obvious choice, but still a good one. Your partner might expect you to do something on that particular day of the year but who says it's not as romantic? After all, Valentines’ Day literally exists to inspire revelations in the form of a love letter!
Of course, this is a tip, NOT a rule. You can and should write a love letter “just because.” Missing them? Express your longing! Happy you’ll be seeing them soon? Express your elation! An unexpected love letter can be the most powerful of all because the element of surprise works for you. The depth and honesty of your feelings should be the main ingredient.
What does a classic love letter look like?
There is nothing wrong with wanting a template to insert your own details in. A lot of work goes into finding the right tone, format, and level of intimacy you want to project. It is best to find a central theme that you can follow throughout your writing process. It will help you to keep focus. The following example illustrates how to use a specific memory to develop a love letter.
My dearest love,
Do you remember when we were on holiday in the mountains for the first time? I want you to know that I have never felt more peaceful and content. I could have stayed there with you forever. You are filled with love, courage, and strength. I can't conceive of my life without you in it.
You make me laugh until I can’t breathe! For that reason alone, I could never bear to be without you. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. When I am with you, my heart screams every second, ‘I love you!’. I feel I cannot keep this fact from you any longer.
As you can see, there is a lot that is connected to the memory and it helps to channel those feelings on paper. For you and the reader. Simply put: think of it as a thread to guide your reader through your letter.
The following letter was written by the legendary American actor, director, writer, and producer Orson Welles to equally legendary actress Rita Hayworth. It clearly shows that you don’t have to be a poet using lofty language to impress. You just need to speak honestly and from the heart.
Dearest Angel Girl:
… I suppose most of us are lonely in this big world, but we must fall tremendously in love to find it out. The cure is the discovery of our need for company — I mean company in the very special sense we’ve come to understand since we happened to know each other — you and I. The pleasures of human experience are emptied away without that companionship — now that I’ve known it; without it, joy is just as unendurable as sorrow. You are my life — my very life. Never imagine your hope approximates what you are to me. Beautiful, precious little baby — hurry up the sun! Make the days shorter till we meet. I love you, that’s all there is to it.
What is a good alternative to a love letter?
If you find it too hard to express your romantic feelings in a handwritten letter, you’re definitely not alone or out of options. Below are some ideas to express your love that aren’t super-wordy but are still wonderful.
1. Make a note of how you feel
If you are not the type who’s great with words, spoken or written, just stick it. Wait, what? Sorry! We mean, write love notes on stickies! Whenever something you love about your partner occurs to you, jot it down on a sticky note. You could find notes in different colors and designs to make them even more special. Compose as many as you can for as long as you want.
Then, when he or she isn’t home, stick your notes in obvious and not-so-obvious places to be found immediately and in the weeks to follow. This is a totally no-pressure project - each time you think of something new you want to say, just grab a sticky note and write!
You could say, “I love your charisma!", "I adore your sense of humor!", "Your loving ways make me happy!", or "The sense of security you give me means everything!".
Just whatever you really feel is true. The more notes you make, the better. Obviously, the total will depend on the size of the area you have to fill. Just keep going until you can’t think of anything else you want to let them know. If you're afraid of not coming up with enough notes, consider limiting them to one room.
2. Make a love video
If you’re like most people, your phone literally has at hand all you need to make a love video. With a little attention to production values, you can make something your love will want to watch again and again.
What do we mean by production values? Basically, the setting that will produce the best look and sound for your video valentine! First, find a nice spot to film. It could be a garden or a café, a cool-looking brick or graffiti-covered wall, the lobby of a fabulous hotel, the place where you first met – whatever fits you best and inspires you the most. Make sure the area is relatively quiet (unless you don’t mind shouting your love or being drowned out by ambient noise). Choose the time and place you’re the least likely to be interrupted.
Then, lights, camera, action! You can go unscripted or memorize something ahead of time. It’s best to keep it clean so your partner won’t have to worry about it being NSFW and can watch it anytime and anywhere. It’s fine to make it a minute long or even two minutes, but you probably don’t want it to be longer than your lover could easily watch at one go. (Don’t make it too short, though, or they might not feel special or that you put in much effort).
If you know how to edit or are willing to learn, you could add music, captions, etc. Or create a romantic photo slideshow of how they transitioned from being your best friend to being a lover. Another idea could be to show them how your life has changed since you two started dating. Pro tip: Avoid using music that’s too loud or that has complicated lyrics, and don’t overdo the special effects. These things will just distract from your message and take the focus off you.
3. Leave voice messages
Hearing someone say those sweet words can hit us harder than any written word. But we also know how hard it is to confess one’s feelings like that. We fear the immediate reaction, and rightly so. It can be terrifying, and suddenly whatever we say sounds cheesy and why would I say this out loud?!
But think about it this way: Imagine hearing those words with the intonation and the stuttering, and the voice cracks. Wouldn’t you want your loved one to hear this honest, unfiltered confession from you, instead of reading the edited version? It makes it so much more real, doesn’t it? But fair enough, you fear it too much.
Saying those things in a voice message means, you can put your phone or your recorder down, and leave it be until you are ready to receive your partner’s reaction. But your words are still full of sincere little pauses, gulps, and sighs. Embarrassment can sound endearing, and the biggest plus: they can listen to it over and over again! And hey, if you want to go 'old school', record your confession on a cassette tape for some extra points for flair and effort!
Shall I compare thee?
Considering the abundance of romantic confessions by famous poets, authors, and random people on the internet, one could spend a night or two simply copying someone else's words, and using them to describe one's feelings and relationship. But there is hardly anything personal or creative about writing a letter about a romantic love that has already been put into words, right?
Your loved one wants to know what you love about them. Otherwise, you could perhaps just gift a collection of Shakespeare's sonnets to your soul mate.
But no. They deserve so much more, don't they? Whether you are writing the letter they have always dreamed of getting, romance them with a collection of memories that fill page after page, or get creative with how you imagine spending your future with that person. Make it count and make it personal.
Whatever way you choose to put your feelings out there, be sure it is you that’s filling those pages, recording those voice messages or videos. It is you, your partner, and your love. Not anyone else’s, and if you stay true to that simple fact, your partner is going to love your handwritten notes all the more.
Let Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 rest. Do not take too many notes from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letters about his wife Zelda. They might be hard to match in beauty, but that is due to their truth and unapologetic honesty. And so should be yours.