Fun with letters
Writing letters should be fun. In a letter you should be able to express yourself in any way you wish. Don't be afraid to use different types of paper, fun fonts, drawings, glitter, stickers, stamps or anything else you can think of to brighten up your letter! In fact, pretty ribbons were a popular addition to love letters in the 1800s, so you'll be continuing a whole history of decorative letters!
Letting loose with letters
Think about what kind of letter you would find surprising and exciting to receive in the mail and try to replicate that. Here are some fun ways to be a creative letter writer:
Use coloured paper. You might also be able to find paper with unusual and interesting textures like handmade paper – you could even try making your own!
Design your own letterhead using a photograph, small pictures or bright colours.
Create a pop-up card or letter.
Write a letter using a cut-out of your favourite cartoon character.
Fold and then write a group concertina letter, with a message from a different person on each panel (fold).
Cut out a triangle or any other shape and write your letter inside. Try writing your letter around the edge of this shape, so that each line is on a different edge. The reader will have to keep turning the triangle to read the letter!
Use "alternative handwriting" to write your letter. Use stencils or cut out letters from magazines and newspapers to form words.
Make your letter smell lovely. Spray on a spritz of perfume, or use scented pens. You might even be able to find some scratch and sniff stickers at the newsagent.
Have you heard of a message in a bottle? Why not send a message in a bottle shape?
Make your own envelope by folding a piece of paper, and seal it with a sticker. Remember to make sure that both the address and return address are still clear.
Illuminate your letter
Mediaeval monks worked in monasteries spending months at a time on what were called "illuminated manuscripts". These were heavily decorated with calligraphy and beautiful, intricate drawings. Why not try calligraphy? It means "beautiful writing"!
Some of the earliest illuminated manuscripts date back to the Roman Empire, in 400AD. These texts were originally produced on animal skins, such as calf or goat, but in the Middle Ages they began to be produced on paper. The monks not only decorated these works with beautiful artwork, but the pages were then decorated with gold foil, a process called "burnishing". Gold was available very inexpensively at the time, so this process of burnishing was quite common. In modern times these stunning historical manuscripts can be incredibly valuable.
Try "illuminating" your letter by adding sketches and illustrations around the contents. You might also like to try out some mediaeval lettering or calligraphy on words you want to highlight, such as the recipient's name, or the first letter of a sentence. For extra sparkle add some aluminum foil or glitter to replicate the gold leaf used by the monks.
Have you ever tried to invent your own code to write secret messages to a friend? Well you're not the only one! People all over the world use all types of codes to communicate. In fact, the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar sent coded messages to conceal his secret battle plans from his enemies. That was over 2000 years ago! There is even a way of coding text, called the "Caesar Cipher", named after him.
An easy code to master is a simple numerical code. In this code, each letter of the alphabet corresponds to a number. For example, "A B C" would be "1 2 3". If you tried to write the word "cat" using this code it would become "3, 1, 20". Another simple code would be using the alphabet in reverse, so that "Z" is "A", "Y" is "B", and so on. When someone works out how to read a code it is called "breaking" or "cracking" it.
Spies have used codes in many different wars and revolutions, such as World War II and the American Revolution. Codes have also been part of all sorts of important historical events. In the 1500s, when Elizabeth I was Queen of England, there were many conspirators who wanted to put someone else on the throne. Elizabeth's own sister, Mary Queen of Scots, even wanted to take Elizabeth's place. Mary used coded letters to communicate with a conspirator about her terrible plot to kill Elizabeth and become Queen herself. Mary's code involved swapping letters in the alphabet for symbols such as triangles and dashes. Luckily for Elizabeth, Mary's plot was discovered and Elizabeth was able to continue her reign.
Can you see the important role codes have played throughout history? What type of code would you have used?
Another type of letter that you might be interested in writing is fan mail. This can be a letter to your favourite celebrity, musician, actress or any public figure.
Remember that if you are writing to a big star they could be receiving hundreds of letters a week. You could try writing to a local personality, such as your member of parliament, a local sports player or a less well-known artist, writer or TV star. You could also consider writing to someone who is up-and-coming in their field, rather than a well-known international star.
When writing fan mail it is important to make your letter stand out. Perhaps you could include their photograph for them to sign and a stamped self-addressed envelope. It is important to remember though that it is very rare to receive a personal reply from a big star, so try not to raise your hopes too much.
Letterheads for download
These funky letterheads have been created to help you brighten up letters for special days and events such as birthdays, Father's Day, Mother's Day, Easter, Valentine's Day and Australia Day. The other letterheads are just for fun. To download, just click on a letterhead below to enlarge the image and save it to your computer.