By Brenda Miller, Columnist

Ever since I was a kid, I have loved getting mail.  When I was younger and I got mail, it was usually something exciting, like an invitation to a birthday party or a card for some special occasion.

When you go to the mailbox now and flip through the letters, the composition is usually the same.  Bills, ads, junk mail, magazines.  You absently toss them on the table to be dealt with later or in the recycling bin where they belong.

Then there are those occasions where, in place of the typical generic font precisely dictating your address, there is the scrawl of pen on paper – the handwriting of an actual human being.

Handwritten notes can bring any number of things.  They can be invitations, thank-you notes, cards or a letter.  In any case, it breaks the monotony of the barrage of junk mail.

Since freshman year, my friends from back home and I will write letters to each other at least once or twice per semester.  Sure, we text and chat and Skype, but it’s not the same as writing a letter.

Letters carry a meaning that more technologically advanced forms of communication cannot. We spend so much time at our computers that it is easy to become depersonalized from what we are writing.  For example, a love letter seems to mean more than a love email.

There are a lot of things about writing a letter that are more personal than emails.  Handwritten letters say that someone took the time out of their busy day for you specifically.  They pulled out a pen and put it to a piece of paper and wrote for you.  They folded it into an envelope addressed to you.  Everything they did was specifically for you.

Another thing about letters is their permanence.  It is easy to start typing a message, decide against it, and delete it to type something else.  Writing does not offer that luxury.  When you write in pen, you think more carefully about what you are going to say and, once written, all you can do to change it is cross it out or start over.

Sometimes our letters don’t say much, just a simple greeting and overview of how our lives are going.  Other times, they are a long outpouring of news and stories.  Regardless of how much is written though, I know I’m always in a better mood just by retrieving that personal letter from my mailbox.

As much as I love getting mail, I enjoy sending letters as well. Electronic communication is like having a long-distance conversation, which certainly has its perks, but when you write a letter you are sending a message to the near future.  The writing style and mindset is considerably different.

Writing is a great way to stay in touch with people from back home.  And if you know a friend is having a rough time, just sending some form of support or comfort can mean a lot.

True, writing letters is a slow form of communication.  But for things that don’t need to be addressed immediately, snail mail adds a personal touch that can’t be replicated electronically.