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June 24, 2013



I haven't had to break up with anyone yet, although it had occurred to me once or twice when I receive short letters in response to my long, rambling letter, with not a single one of my questions answered or even anything in my previous letter referenced. I've had people not respond to my letters after a while, and that's ok, too. That actually makes it easier, because, as we know, breaking up is hard to do :-)

Thank you for your suggestions and I will probably copy your first example almost word for word if I do need to do some "breaking up".

Connie Rose

Funny you should mention this ~ I just send this letter...

Hi ,
Thanks for your card, just received.
I thought I’d email you so we can clarify our correspondence relationship. My intention in posting myself on the Good Mail Day list as well as in contacting people like yourself who were already on the list, is that we exchange mail art – things we create ourselves, be they ATCs, art postcards, handmade and/or highly decorated envelopes, etc.
I’m thinking that it looks like perhaps your intention (or your daughter’s for you, perhaps) was merely to find penpals, i.e. writing buddies but not art-exchange buddies. I’m really looking for the latter these days. I’d rather send and receive something handmade than just an exchange of information about our lives.
I mean no disrespect here and please don’t take this personally. I just want to make sure we’re each getting what we want out of our correspondence, or else it won’t work for either of us.
So please do clarify for me where you’re at. I didn’t want to just not respond to you without letting you know what I’m in this for.
Warmest regards and hugs,

Donovan Beeson

What a nice response Connie! Thanks for sharing.


Informative post.

Lisa Gerardi Smith

very good, it's a touchy subject but necessary . thank you!


I'm afraid I've lost all three of the penpals I got through LWA. They each in turn stopped writing to me. I would have much preferred to get a postcard letting me know they were moving on. Wouldn't have hurt my feelings one bit. I'm afraid I may have offended one of them when she told me her brother in law died and I think perhaps I wasn't sensitive enough. I never heard from her again. That was about 18 months ago. Perhaps I should write to her now and just ask if I upset her. What do you think?

Donovan Beeson

I think that if you want to send a postcard saying Hello, This is Jennifer. I havent heard from you in a while and I hope youre doing well. If you would like to continue being pen pals, please send me a response. I hope you do, but if not, best wishes and happy mail days to come. And then if you dont hear anything, then you know. Sometimes people get busy, or lose addresses or letters get lost in the mail. And sometimes, they just dont want to write back anymore. But if you send a postcard, then you can have a little closure. Good luck.


I'd say, yup, postcards are better for the double-cheque in case of lost mail or bad news. Personally, I dis-like rejection letters in an attempt to be polite. Too often the reasons for disconnecting are clunky at best and just plain unbelievable. However I will believe the "I've gotten too busy" or "life has been too crazy for me to keep up with so many pen pals" reasons, but with what is spent on gadgets to "communicate" with others, I ain't buying "I can't afford stamps".

This puts me in mind of something I've shared in common with more recent L.W.A. pals which is previous mismatches. I think we all had earlier swaps with pals who got excited, tried it for the novelty and then the novelty wore-off. This website is really helpful to encourage everyone to keep trying!


I have gone through 4 pen pals with L.W.A., they just stopped replying to my letters. I ended up sending a final, "Hello out there!" letter to them in hopes of a reply. Never heard back. Hopefully the pen pals I have now will continue swapping letters.
I do think that some of the people who sign up for letter swaps don't realize that it takes a small bit of time to compose a letter and get it in the post.


Interesting post. All in all I have been pretty lucky with who I exchange with....but I had an odd experience recently, after eleven years (!!!) a pen pal wrote me thanking me for all the great mail I sent etc etc and said she has to stop writing because she is just too busy now and it takes a lot of effort on her part to send out good mail and she can't make the effort. I have to say after eleven years that really came as a shock. I mean, she could just really slow down...but stop? It was better to get the "dear John" letter than wonder is she died (as you said) but I am kind of peeved....after 11 years I felt like we were friends...so that's my story. Happily I do have loads of other folks to trade mail with....


Thanks for the great post! You empowered me to recently break it off with a pen pal who was nice and a faithful correspondent, but someone I just did not have very much in common with or compatible writing styles. There is definitely a thoughtful way to disengage from a letter-based relationship that is just not working out.


I'm so glad to see that I'm not the only one who has experienced a less than satisfying pen pal (I was a little relieved when she just stopped writing back). I thought maybe I was being a snob because I didn't enjoy her letters, but there really is something to "compatible writing styles".

Laura Roberts

Good to know I'm not the only one whose penpals have broken off, too. Maybe we should form a support group and swap letters? ;)


I had this on my mind recently, so I really appreciate the advice. I know I'm a little late to this article, but for me, I personally find it a bit insulting if I were to receive a mail, get all excited, only to find out it's a 'I-just-want-to-stop-penpalling-with-you' thing. Why go to all the effort just to be a major anti-climax?
Silence is a form of communication, sometimes, when nothing is said, it is saying something very strongly.
So I would be fine if someone just didn't reply, I may shoot an email, or another letter but if I don't get another response, it's understood. I don't consider it cowardly :) Just my two cents.


What about a pen pal for 14 years who told you that he loved you dearly, but kept it best special friends; writes 3-6 times a week, then slowly goes to 5 times a month, then stops for 3 weeks in a row; I write, are you in the hospital, he writes, no, just busy; then writes once every month for four months, then I finally write saying it looks like you don't want to be friends anymore, after you told me you loved me not too long ago, plus a few other things mentioned in the previous year; he writes that I made it so I'm the victim, and he was mad enough to toss my mail away. He went through a divorce, has a girlfriend and said he couldn't share that with me at the time, he needed to do the divorce on his own without my help, but thought if anyone knew him, it would be me in that I should have known he needed time away while he sorted out his new life. Question: Am I the victim or him? Thanks.

Donovan Beeson

Theres a lot of questions there and I dont think the problem is in the mail. This is beyond my answering. I am no counselor, but Im sorry to hear you werent able to communicate with each other.


sorry, you're right; this isn't the place to find answers....thanks though; you've got a good site going here.


My experience has been that most people take the coward's way out and don't tell you. (this is the normal case outside of letters and it seems people carry that habit into pen palling as well.) Both LWA pals stopped writing. One just never responded back to the first letter, the other stopped after the second round. It was evident she just wanted to ask many questions to get an interesting letter. I obliged but she couldn't see fit to do the same. Some folks just don't realize that it's work and a two-way street.

I have plenty of other penpals though so it's fine with me. I actually prefer for those who aren't dedicated to drop off. Saves my the trouble. I did have a penpal that asked me to type my letters because they needed large type due to very impaired eyesight. (Their issue was not disclosed in their Ad.) Unfortunately I spend over 40hrs/wk in front of a computer for work so I'm not inclined to do it for penpalling. I prefer to hand pen my letters. I felt bad, but I thought if I were in their shoes I'd really like not to be left hanging. I sent a Christmas card wishing them well and the explanation of not being able to meet their need and why. I thought that was the kind thing to do, as that is how I would want to be treated. But instead I received a letter with insults and expletives in return.

I just received a new letter today from someone who's life situation is drastically different than my own and can hardly write the language. I will be unable to talk about the things that really matter to me and I don't feel my inquiries would be understood either. I've decided they are better off not receiving initial contact. That has happened to me and I'm fine with it.

If you're serious about writing letters, dedicated to the fun and fulfillment of it, you have to accept that things aren't always rosie. Do the best you can with each person. Be as kind and respectful as possible.

After my experience with the expletive letter.... I agree with Amanda.


I wish that people would write and tell me that they don't want to be pen-pals anymore. It would be less painful then the waiting and wondering whether they don't like my letters or whether I wrote something offensive to them. Cultural language differences can also make it difficult.
I've written so many letters and had nothing in response for ages. It is very down-heartening. I even tried making my letters really fun, lighthearted and with lots of drawings, stickers and homemade stationary but still no response!!!

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    In this era of instantaneous communication, a postal letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance was dedicated to preserving this art form through fostering community and communication through the mail. Membership was active from Summer 2007 to Summer 2020. Write more letters!

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