ELLE Canada uncovers insightful dos and don’ts to help you write a memorable romantic love letter this Valentine’s Day.
Pop culture would have us believe that three little words - "I love you" - are the hardest to say. But anyone who has ever tried to put pen to paper in the name of romance knows first-hand that this simply isn't true.
"I've tried at least a dozen times to write a love letter to my girlfriend," says Derek Wilder, a recent university graduate who wants to surprise his literature-loving lady with a handwritten token.
"But the only thing I ever manage to come up with is, ‘I love you so much' which is more of a mushy memo than anything else-and a bad one at that."
While it's easy to feel intimidated by romantic literary greats - who could ever forgot Mr. Darcy's passionate confession of desire in letter form to Elizabeth Bennett or Robert Browning's touching handwritten poems for his wife, Elizabeth Barrett? - composing a romantic love letter isn't as complicated as it seems.
Why do we love love letters?
According to Brian Johnson, an associate English professor at Carleton University, our adoration of the romantic love letter directly relates to the vulnerable position in which it places its composer.
"The love letter as a literary form allows us to lower our guard enough to tell our beloved things about them, about ourselves, and about how we feel about them that we might feel inhibited about saying in their presence," explains Johnson. "It's a form that is poised halfway between diary and letter. There is no more intimate genre."
But the infatuation does not stop there. "This may sound strange coming from an English professor," Johnson continues, "but I suspect that what makes people swoon over a love letter is not skillful rhetorical flourishes, but precisely those moments when polished language breaks down and a certain clumsiness of expression that we all have when we try to convey powerful feelings to our beloved emerges."
To put it plainly, we love love letters because they are raw and entirely unique, crafted specifically to suit us by somebody who loves us just the way we are. They are a genuine expression of feeling that can't be replicated by Hallmark or Hollywood.
"We swoon not when our lover says something eloquent that we suspect they might have borrowed from a Valentine's card," elaborates Johnson. "But when they call us by private names and address us in a voice we recognize as fully their own."
Keep reading to discover six easy dos and donts for writing a romantic love letter on the next page...