Do you save a copy of your letters?

February 6, 2014 in Journal

One of the charms of writing letters and sending them off via snail mail is that it takes some time for the recipient to get your letter and for you to get one back. The difficult part of this for me is that I sometimes forget what I wrote to people all those weeks ago, and so I might not grok what they’re referring to right away. The solution is to make a copy of the letter and file it away, right? But then there’s all this paper everywhere and I am digital, baby. (Except when I’m writing letters…)

Lucky for me, there is a digital solution. How many of you use Evernote? I’m slowly getting into it, but millions of others can’t live without. One feature I do use regularly is Page Capture. With it you can snap a picture of a piece of paper with writing on it and save it as a note. Not so revolutionary, right? Any camera can do that. What makes Page Capture extra special is that it will look at the text on the page, translate it to digital text, then index it to make your captures searchable.

evernote page capture

This works with handwriting, and your handwriting doesn’t even have to be super neat. The neater it is the more words Evernote can recognize, of course. However, you might be surprised at how many words it picks up.

I don’t necessarily need Evernote to index the whole letter. I just like having a readable digital copy of my letters, all sorted neatly into folders by correspondent, so I can reference them later. This year I will probably save the letters I get as well just in case something happens to them or I decide to truly go all digital and eschew all paper forever.

This process works best if you have a well-lit area and can hold your smartphone steady for the shot. Since I do this a lot (I also save my journal pages) I use a $20 scanner box for the purpose. Check out an in-depth comparison between the scanbox I have and a more expensive one if you’re interested in purchasing. There are several examples, including one of handwriting.

Do you save a copy of the letters you send? How do you save them?

18 responses to Do you save a copy of your letters?

  1. Have you tried the Jot Script? I work for Adonit now; you should check them out. :)

  2. I hadn’t thought of saving a copy of my letters that way; what a good suggestion.

    Meg: I just got one of Adonit’s styli to use. I hope you’re enjoying working for them.

    Ruth

  3. That’s great! I kept finding last LetterMo, and even more so with the people I continued to write to throughout the year, that I didn’t remember what I’d written before and was worried about repeating myself. Repeating myself. Unfortunately, my dinosaur phone isn’t smart enough to run something like that.

    So I have a low-tech approach this time. I have a small notebook I’m carrying around all month. Each day I jot down what I’m sending. If I want to remember what I said in the letter, I just add a few phrases to remind myself. It’s not a perfect system (and sometimes I forget) but it’s better than no system at all.

  4. No, although I used to write drafts for letters… however, the words would change and then I lost track.
    Now, if I am unsure if I’ve mentioned something before, I would write, “I don’t know if I’ve told you…” or, “Did I tell you….?”
    However, if I lived in a more unreliable postal area… I would consider it… However, by the time you realise a letter is lost, some of the contents may be out of date, e.g. “Next week, I’m going to Timbuktu”… then could become… “I visited Timbuktu and stayed in an igloo”.

  5. I don’t normally same a copy of the letter. I do keep a log book of what I’ve sent (and received) and jot a bit about the context of the letter. I’ve been taking photos of the envelopes for online sharing purposes for this month, though. Great post! :)

  6. Well, shit, Tempest, I think you have finally found the Evernote feature that convinces me to use it regularly. I have been contemplating keeping copies of the letters I’m sending out just because I’m sending out so many MORE and I want to keep track. I started an outgoing mail log and I’ve got some little notations just about dominant subject in the description but keeping the whole thing might be good…

    There’s a post in the forums right now about how ephemeral letters can be — and so part of me feels like it is cheating to keep a copy of the letters I have written.

    • The ephemeral nature of letters is attractive, but I also like being able to read over stuff I’ve written to people. Long ago back when email was around but not widespread i had a few penpals that I wrote to. I typed my letters on my computer and kept them in a folder. Years later I found the folder and enjoyed reading those letters again.

      • I definitely love going through old email threads (thanks, gmail!) and that might be why I’m more tempted these days to document my end of the pen-and-paper conversation — when I was a kid, it never even occurred to me to want to do that.

  7. I am downloading this app on my phone right now to see how it works. Its a small smart phone, so I do not have much hope for it. haha.

  8. Starting way back in the 1970s I used to make photocopies of important letters and those for ongoing correspondences, and I have ancient manila folders bulging with some of those. But things are much easier now that my copies can be digital…

    I’ve been saving digital copies of all my letters, plus the backs of my collage postcards, plus any mail art envelopes, for about four years now. Sometimes I even scan the backs of commercial postcards. I just use a regular scanner hooked up to my laptop.

    The trick is, to make an easily accessed archive. The way I do it is, I have a directory called “correspondents,” then underneath that are several sub-directories for where I met the people (lettermo, swapbot, flickr, etc.), and then under those are sub-directories listing my correspondents, last name first. I scan ‘em at low resolution (150 dpi) to save on space, then I name each scan like this: “2014-02-08–letter–page_0001″. Obviously, I don’t have to put the recipient’s name in the filename, because I’m filing it in the sub-directory “doe-jane.”

    My scanner software has a feature where if you end a filename in “0001,” it will prompt you to name the next one with all the same characters plus “0002″ and so on. I like that because it makes it a lot easier to blitz through scanning my letters that are often 8-10 pages (and more!). (I have big sprawling handwriting.)

    I find that reading through what I’ve already written to the person is an invaluable step, right before I’m beginning a new letter.

  9. i take pictures of my letters before i send them. it’s so much easier to do in the age of smartphones with good quality cameras! back in the day i might have photocopied one or two before sending, but that was a rarity because of the hassle involved.

  10. Is the page capture app an I-device app? I’ve found page capture in the App Store but it specifies web pages so I just wanted to check as it’s a paid app not free! I’m intrigued by the use of evernote to store my letters – I tried it out ages back but didn’t really click with it but from your post, I’m having another play with it and with the related apps (food & webclip). Do you pay for the extra storage or do you find the free amount enough?

  11. I used to have evernote and had no reason for it and deleted the app now I have it back and am coping all my letters and postcards from now on. I believe this is a wonderful idea… I have no other reason to use evernote though lol or am I not looking too much into the features?

  12. I actually have EverNote, but have never figured out how to make it useful for me. This may the the answer! Thanks!

  13. I started keeping a draft of the letters I wrote, them took a photo of them or scanned the letters and made a folder for them. But then I stopped doing it and now I handle it like Mia. I rarely ever look into the copies anyway. If I really have problems I look back to the last letter they wrote and then I may remember. If not, I ask.

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