Learn how to write a love letter from the experts at Hallmark. Hallmark writer Keely Chace shares tips for writing a heartfelt love letter.
Some things are just better done the old-school way.
Don't believe me? Take the preparation of mac and cheese. No matter how quickly you can whip up the stuff from the box, nothing tops real cheese slowly melting over perfectly al dente pasta, right? Similarly, handwriting a love letter—stringing together all the reasons your significant other is the mac to your cheese—is totally worth it.
Sure, composing a letter requires some heavy lifting: careful consideration of paper, thoughtful planning, and writing with intention (since, you know, there's no delete button). But the virtual alternative—because it looks identical to the text you sent about needing toilet paper the day before—simply can't be appreciated in the same way.
So, when you want to surprise your SO with something special, take pen to paper. And don’t worry about getting stumped because Jane Greer, Ph.D., relationship expert, and author ofWhat About Me?, is here to train you on this old school art step by step.
Consider how long your partner will hold onto this token of your love. Since it’s unlike most of your digital exchanges, there’s a good chance they’ll cherish your love letter for a long time, so give them a reason to keep coming back to it years later. Put thought into the stock and color of your stationary, says Greer. More than anything, the paper should be durable (so they can reread it at every anniversary, duh).
But before you put pen to paper, take some time to figure out what you actually want to say. On a piece of scrap paper, jot down the key things you want to share with your partner. This will help you keep the actual love letter organized and easy to follow. (And if you’re not proud of it the first time around, try again—there’s no harm in a few drafts.)
First, address your letter with your partner's nickname (if they have one). Then, "focus on one truly unique quality you love with an example," says Greer. For example, mention your appreciation for your partner's openness and willingness to share. Then, explain why you appreciate this about them (maybe because it taught you to find confidence in your own vulnerabilities) and how it continues to impact you.
Focusing on specifics will help you resist the urge to rehash the entire timeline of your relationship in the letter and describe how every moment made you feel. You don’t need to start at the beginning, since your partner knows how the story goes… they were there, after all.
Avoid statements such as "your eyes sparkle like…" they’re generic and cliché, and you’re better than that, says Greer. If you reread your sentences and realize the letter would still hold up if it were addressed to someone else, you need to dig deeper.
Once you’ve covered what you love most about your partner, take this opportunity to share something with them that you may not have had the guts to verbalize otherwise, says Greer. Because it’s a letter, you’ll be saved from the stress of stumbling on your words, or the insecurity that typically comes with watching someone react in person. Pen and paper give you the security to be honest about what you want—exactly the way you want.
Telling your partner that you’ve never forgotten that seemingly insignificant thing they did for you that one time, or that you still get butterflies when you see them, will make them feel valued and appreciated. This is especially significant after the honeymoon phase has ended, you’ve fallen into a routine (which is a good thing), and your partner might feel like they know all there is to know about you.
Dedicate a few lines to telling your SO about how much you love what you’re able to bring into their life, like home-cooked meals or a shoulder to cry on, says Greer.
This is also the place to make actionable and realistic promises about anything you hope to do for your partner, like planning more date nights. Tell them how you intend to continue enhancing their life, just like they’ve enhanced yours.
Okay, so... if you don’t see a future with this person, you might just want to stick to text messages. Oh, you do? Good. In that case, bring it up.
Leave some room to tell your significant other about future plans you've mapped out and hopes you have for the two of you."The future is always a great idea because the future conjures security," says Greer. Visions of time together and of the relationship continuing will reassure your partner that you're not going anywhere. While this letter is mainly a sign of appreciation, Greer is all about using the opportunity to include a vow, too. Give your partner a reason to look forward to the creation of more memories.
"A letter should end with something that speaks to duration," says Greer. She suggests, after writing about your vision of a joint future, sign off with something like "always," or "forever."
And if that’s a little too much for you, ending with "love" is always a good move. It's a love letter, after all.
Aryelle SiclaitAssistant EditorAryelle Siclait is an assistant editor at Women's Health.
How to Write a Love Letter. Everyone seems to use text messages and emails to communicate to each other these days. So there's something.
February, the month when we celebrate Valentine’s Day, is a good time to consider writing a love letter. While most people think such a letter pertains to romance, it can also be something you send to a dear friend, relative, or even a pet. The point is to express the messages of your heart. It’s just another intimate way to express your feelings.
A number of years ago, I attended a performance of the A. R. Gurney play Love Letters, which was originally produced on Broadway in the 1980s. The stars in this particular production were Carol Burnett and Brian Dennehy. It was a powerful performance featuring two stellar octogenarians. Andy and Melissa, the characters in the play, had been childhood friends who’d maintained a lifelong correspondence through notes, cards, and letters, which were read back and forth onstage. Even though the two were romantically involved way back when, their lives had gone in different directions with various partners. Over the years, through their continual correspondence, they’d served as each other’s confidants and “life anchors.”
In this fast-paced universe where email has just about taken over our lives, it’s fun to write old-fashioned love letters to those who are special to us. Even though it takes a lot of discipline to sit down and write a letter, the benefits are huge for both the sender and the recipient. Sometimes it’s easier to speak from the heart when not distracted by looking into another person’s eyes. Receiving a letter also allows us to more easily enter into the drama and emotions that are part of special friendships.
The writing of passionate love letters is something that has been around for centuries, but as a literary form, it probably began during the Renaissance as a way to keep the embers hot even when lovers were not in close proximity.
Like the characters featured in Love Letters, some lovers or special friends might not have the opportunity to become intimate and instead have a relationship that revolves around writing letters. This was the case with writer and prophet Kahlil Gibran, who had a 27-year affair with a schoolteacher through love letters alone.
Here are some tips for writing such a letter:
Similar to a book, the first lines of your letter will pull in the recipient. Here are some suggestions for starting your letter:
Here are some beginnings of famous letters:
“You have been wonderful, my Juliette, all through these dark and violet days. If I needed love, you brought it to me, bless you.” (Victor Hugo to Juliette Drouet)
“In spite of myself, my imagination carries me to you, I kiss you, I caress you, a thousand of the most amorous caresses take possession of me.” (Honoré de Balzac to Countess Edwina Haska)
“I will cover you with love when next I see you, with caresses, with ecstasy. I want to gorge you with all the joys of the flesh, so that you faint and die. I want you to be amazed by me, and to confess to yourself that you had never even dreamed of such transports…When you are old, I want you to recall those few hours, I want your dry bones to quiver with joy when you think of them.” (Gustave Flaubert to Louise Colet)
“I look back to the early days of our acquaintance and friendship as to the days of love and innocence, and, with an indescribable pleasure.” (Abigail Adams to John Adams)
“I don’t know what is the matter with me. I am so exulted. I am almost mad, working, loving you, writing, and thinking of you, playing your records, dancing in the room when my eyes are tired. You have given me such joys that it does not matter what happens now.” (Anaïs Nin to Henry Miller)
Source: CCO Creative Commons
You know what authors like Vladamir Nabakov and Ernest Hemingway wrote in their classic novels — but what about the words that they wrote to their wives? Writers like Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Brontë composed characters of great independence and strength — but were they as confident in the letters they wrote to their lovers? And why did English poet Vita Sackville-West — known for writing about married life, freedom, nature, Biblical themes, and more — receive so many love letters herself? With love — and maybe even the desire to write a love letter or two of your own? — in the air this time of year, now is a great time to explore some of the best love letters written by famous authors (and believe me, you’ll start to see a side of your favorite writers that you never even knew existed.)
Famous writers, it turns out, love just like us: albeit with better adjectives. Sometimes that love is reciprocated, and sometimes it’s… well… decidedly not. (Unlike us, their words of unrequited longing won’t be stored in the cloud forever.) Here are some of the best lines from 21 love letters by famous authors, perfect for putting you in the Valentine’s Day spirit — or, at least, helping you realize your own love letter-writing skills aren’t lacking as much as you thought they were.
"Once we were one person, and always it will be a little that way."
“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.”
“Yes, I need you, my fairy-tale. Because you are the only person I can talk with about the shade of a cloud, about the song of a thought — and about how, when I went out to work today and looked a tall sunflower in the face, it smiled at me with all of its seeds.”
“I do not seek to justify myself, I submit to all kinds of reproaches — all I know — is that I cannot — that I will not resign myself to the total loss of my master’s friendship — I would rather undergo the greatest bodily pains than have my heart constantly lacerated by searing regrets. If my master withdraws his friendship from me entirely I shall be absolutely without hope — if he gives me a little friendship — a very little — I shall be content — happy, I would have a motive for living — for working.”
(Héger, who was married, did not return her affections.)
“When I am unhappy, dear Mary, I read your letters. When the mist overwhelms the “I” in me, I take two or three letters out of the little box and reread them. They remind me of my true self. They make me overlook all that is not high and beautiful in life. Each and every one of us, dear Mary, must have a resting place somewhere. The resting place of my soul is a beautiful grove where my knowledge of you lives.”
“I will cover you with love when next I see you, with caresses, with ecstasy. I want to gorge you with all the joys of the flesh, so that you faint and die. I want you to be amazed by me…”
“Vita — throw over your man, and we’ll go to Hampton Court and dine on the river together and walk in the garden in the moonlight and come home late and have a bottle of wine and get tipsy, and I’ll tell you all the things I have in my head, millions, myriads. They won’t stir by day, only by dark on the river. Think of that.”
“…I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.”
“Well, you ask me pointblank why I love you… I love you, Vita, because I’ve fought so hard to win you… I love you, Vita, because you never gave me back my ring. I love you because you have never yielded in anything; I love you because you never capitulate. I love you for your wonderful intelligence, for your literary aspirations, for your unconscious coquetry. I love you because you have the air of doubting nothing! I love in you what is also in me: imagination, the gift for languages, taste, intuition and a host of other things… I love you, Vita, because I have seen your soul…”
(Apparently Ms. Sackville-West was quite the catch.)
“Last night I dreamed about you. What happened in detail I can hardly remember, all I know is that we kept merging into one another. I was you, you were me. Finally you somehow caught fire.”
(Do I sense an innuendo here?)
“I woke up this morning with great bliss of freedom and joy in my heart... I’m saved, you’re saved, we’re all saved, everything has been all rapturous ever since — I only feel sad that perhaps you left as worried when we waved goodbye and kissed so awkwardly — I wish I could have that over to say goodbye to you happier and without the worries and doubts I had that dusty dusk when you left…”
“It’s tough as hell without you and I’m doing it straight but I miss you so I could die. If anything happened to you I’d die the way an animal will die in the Zoo if something happens to his mate. Much love my dearest Mary and know I’m not impatient. I’m just desperate.”
“I already love in you your beauty, but I am only beginning to love in you that which is eternal and ever previous — your heat, your soul. Beauty one could get to know and fall in love with in one hour and cease to love it as speedily; but the soul one must learn to know. Believe me, nothing on earth is given without labor, even love, the most beautiful and natural of feelings.”
“I adore the texture of your mind; and you are a writer and a thinker and beautiful. And you are witty. These things, though they remain scattered, are good and enrich me. I loved your flowers and your sending them — I have had much pleasure from them and they still bloom…”
“You have touched me more profoundly than I thought even you could have touched me — my heart was full when you came here today. Henceforward I am yours for everything....”
“My greatest torment since I have known you has been the fear of you being a little inclined to the Cressid; but that suspicion I dismiss utterly and remain happy in the surety of your Love, which I assure you is as much a wonder to me as a delight. Send me the words ‘Good night’ to put under my pillow.”
(The English poet died before the two could be married.)
“…it is a marvel that those red rose-leaf lips of yours should be made no less for the madness of music and song than for the madness of kissing. Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry.”
“…my destiny rests with you, and you are a woman, eighteen years of age, and two out of a convent. I love you, and you love me — at least, you say so, and act as if you did so, which last is a great consolation in all events. But I more than love you, and cannot cease to love you. Think of me, sometimes, when the Alps and ocean divide us — but they never will, unless you wish it.”
"Many a man who loves spiritually is a weakling — a professor. Many a one who loves physically is a brute. But when the two are mixed, he loves with all the fire and passion of a poet and a caveman… If I ever kiss you you’ll know that — and you’ll know what a wonderful thing my love is.”"
(It’s worth noting she was just not that into him. Like, at all.)
"…it is not in my power to tell thee how I have been affected by this dearest of all letters — it was so unexpected — so new a thing to see the breathing of thy inmost heart upon paper that I was quite overpowered, and now that I sit down to answer thee in the loneliness and depth of that love which unites us and which cannot be felt but by ourselves."
"I say this is a wild dream—but it is this dream I want to realize. Life and literature combined, love the dynamo, you with your chameleon's soul giving me a thousand loves, being anchored always in no matter what storm, home wherever we are. In the mornings, continuing where we left off. Resurrection after resurrection. You asserting yourself, getting the rich varied life you desire; and the more you assert yourself the more you want me, need me. Your voice getting hoarser, deeper, your eyes blacker, your blood thicker, your body fuller. A voluptuous servility and tyrannical necessity. More cruel now than before—consciously, wilfully cruel. The insatiable delight of experience."
Editorial Reviews. Review. This is a lovely set of encouragement letters for writers! She touches.
Somewhere in my childhood bedroom lurks an old Nine West shoe box brimming with love letters scrawled on craggy college-ruled paper. In high school, when my interest in the day’s physics or math lesson would inevitably wane, I’d turn the page in my notebook and write my then boyfriend hormone-fueled rants about my unparalleled love for him, and occasionally, in what may be a Joycean hallmark (minus the farts, see #11), the things I wanted to do with him. We traded these missives back and forth at our lockers, which amounted to hundreds of inside-joke riddled professions of young love.
Once, to our mutual horror, my dad found a stray note while cleaning out the trunk of his car. That day, I learned an important lesson about privacy and secure backpack zippers. But after a mortifying conversation, I emerged with the upper-hand, admonishing him for having the audacity to read a letter so obviously not for him. Polite company (excluding dads) know better than to read others’ private exchanges.
In literature, we are offered a rare, perhaps singular invitation into such intimate correspondences. Whether the following love letters are artfully penned in a novel, memoir, or the anthologies of long-dead greats — these 11 vulnerable glimpses into the besotted human-id are all-consuming reads.
The reconciliation letter
When I polled friends and coworkers about this assignment, for good reason, the prevailing response fell along the lines of: “Include Persuasion, duh.”
In Jane Austen’s final, posthumously published novel, Persuasion, the heroine Anne Elliot was convinced (or some would say, persuaded) by her godmother, Lady Russell, to call off her teenage engagement to the impecunious Frederick Wentworth. Fast-forward almost a decade later, and the two reconnect via the typical Austen scaffolding of events, and it’s revealed that they’ve never truly forgotten each other.
After overhearing a conversation in which Anne argues that men move on more swiftly from their past loves, Wentworth counters her claim with one of the most highly regarded love notes in all of literature:
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
The Love-dumb Husband Letter
In 2014, Knopf published a meticulously annotated compilation of 50+ years of correspondence between Vladimir Nabakov and his beloved wife, Vera. Although the couple had their share of obstacles (infidelity, to name one), the letters demonstrate an abiding love capable of overcoming even the most treacherous of threats (Nazi persecution, another).
In an uncharacteristic moment, Nabokov found himself at a loss of words while trying to articulate just how much he adored his wife:
My tenderness, my happiness, what words can I write for you? How strange that although my life’s work is moving a pen over paper, I don’t know how to tell you how I love, how I desire you. Such agitation — and such divine peace: melting clouds immersed in sunshine — mounds of happiness. And I am floating with you, in you, aflame and melting — and a whole life with you is like the movement of clouds, their airy, quiet falls, their lightness and smoothness, and the heavenly variety of outline and tint — my inexplicable love. I cannot express these cirrus-cumulus sensations.
The Final Words Letter
Before the English patient sustained the burn-injuries that rendered him amnesic in an Italian hospital, he was an explorer in the Sahara Desert who fell in with another man’s wife, Katharine. At the heart of Michael Ondaatje historiographic metafiction masterpiece is this torrid affair, which ends in high melodrama when Katharine’s husband, Geoffrey, attempts a three-way murder-suicide. The English patient and Katharine survive, and find shelter in a cave. When the English patient leaves to seek help, Katharine writes him a final goodbye as she withers away in the cold, echoing darkness.
The 1992 Booker Award-winning novel was adapted for the silver-screen — watch the tearjerking performance accompanied by a tasteful amount of sad-piano below:
The Desperate Adulteress
Say what you will about the morality of affairs, but damn do they inspire some impassioned writing. Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf began a covert-ish relationship in the mid 1920’s, and IMHO, the world is better for it because it inspired Woolf’s satirical, gender-bending novel, Orlando. The collection of these lovers’ letters are evidence that she had superb material to work from.
Here’s a selection pulled from the Paris Review:
From Sackville-West to Woolf
Milan [posted in Trieste]
Thursday, January 21, 1926
I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your un-dumb letters, would never write so elementary phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it would lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is just really a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any the more by giving myself away like this — But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defences. And I don’t really resent it …
Please forgive me for writing such a miserable letter.
The Love is a Battlefield Letter
In Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 French epistolary novel, the principle characters Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont are arch nemesis’ and ex-lovers who wield their inimitable letter writing skills as weapons of manipulation. The book is comprised solely of letters written back and forth between various characters.
The Fifty-year Correspondence
Love in the Time of Cholera follows the diverging lives of childhood sweethearts Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. Florentino first catches a glimpse of Fermina when he delivers a telegraph to her father, and from there it’s fated that the young postal worker and beautiful girl should start their own passionate correspondence. He goes home and toils over a letter, which soon transforms into a sixty-page “dictionary of compliments” declaring his admiration for her. After he hands her the tome, he waits for what feels like an eternity for an answer, but it turns out she’s mutually smitten, and just really needed the time to wade through the heavy metaphors. They begin an intense exchange of hundreds of love letters, which infuriates Fermina’s father. Life gets in the way and sends the adolescent lovebirds down different paths, but Florentino claims to have remained faithful to Fermina throughout his entire life, and he makes a final (and successful) proclamation of his love at her husband’s funeral five decades later.
The This-is-Why-You-Should-Say-It-In-Person Letter
The plot of Atonement is set into motion by a horribly misconstrued letter that lands Robbie in jail and leaves his secret girlfriend Cecilia hopelessly wishing for his exoneration. Since Robbie is imprisoned, the only way the couple can communicate is through a series of letters. Robbie is eventually released on the condition that he serve in the army during World War II. Perhaps the most devastating missive comes from Cecelia during this time when she writes:
…I know I sound bitter, but my darling, I don’t want to be. I’m honestly happy with my new life and my new friends. I feel I can breathe now. Most of all, I have you to live for. Realistically, there had to be a choice — you or them. How could it be both? I’ve never had a moment’s doubt. I love you. I believe in you completely. You are my dearest one, my reason for life. Cee
The You-Complete-Me Letter
He may not be the titular character, but Levin’s development into a happier, less solipsistic guy is just as integral to the classic’s plot as Anna Karenina’s untimely demise. In Part IV, Chapter XIII, Levin takes another go at courting the object of his affection, Kitty. He’s always had trouble communicating his feelings, but Kitty’s innate understanding of him makes it easier. The two sit down at a card table and Kitty produces a stick of chalk, and they start a game of scribbling the first letter of every word in a sentence they wish to say.
Levin jots down: “W, y, a: i, c, n, b; d,y, t, o, n?”
Kitty responds: “T, I, c, n, a, o.”
Did ya get all that? Doesn’t matter because “everything had been said in that conversation. She had said that she loved him.”
The Grieving Letter
Isabel Allende never intended to write a memoir. She started what became Paula as an informational letter to her daughter to summarize the events she was missing as she lay asleep in a porphyria-induced coma. To the heartbreak of Isabel and her family, Paula never recovered, but she continued writing her letter which blends with some of the classic elements of magical realist fiction.
The High Brow Affair Letters
Anaïs once wrote to Henry, “We are writers and make art of our struggle,” — that statement became truer than ever when Gunther Stuhlman published a compilation of their missives. The writers only spent a short amount of time with each other in the early ’30s, but carried on a love letter exchange for 21-years! Here’s one of my favorite passages from Miller to Nin:
I say this is a wild dream — but it is this dream I want to realize. Life and literature combined, love the dynamo, you with your chameleon’s soul giving me a thousand loves, being anchored always in no matter what storm, home wherever we are. In the mornings, continuing where we left off. Resurrection after resurrection. You asserting yourself, getting the rich varied life you desire; and the more you assert yourself the more you want me, need me. Your voice getting hoarser, deeper, your eyes blacker, your blood thicker, your body fuller. A voluptuous servility and tyrannical necessity. More cruel now than before — consciously, wilfully cruel. The insatiable delight of experience.
The Granddaddy of the Filthy (Fart!) Sext
Save your eggplant emoji for the playground, kids, because James Joyce is about to blow you away with the kinky letter he wrote his wife Nora.
You know it’s real when you can’t get enough of your lover’s ~scent~
**WARNING: VERY NSFW**
My sweet little whorish Nora I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter. I am delighted to see that you do like being fucked arseways. Yes, now I can remember that night when I fucked you for so long backwards. It was the dirtiest fucking I ever gave you, darling. My prick was stuck in you for hours, fucking in and out under your upturned rump. I felt your fat sweaty buttocks under my belly and saw your flushed face and mad eyes. At every fuck I gave you your shameless tongue came bursting out through your lips and if a gave you a bigger stronger fuck than usual, fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora’s fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also.
Writing a love letter is an art. There are certain ways to make it successful and vice versa. Here are some rules to keep in mind when you're.