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Letter Writing

February 14, 2001

Whether with a pen, a typewriter or a computer, people have written letters for hundreds of years to express thanks or remorse, to declare love or indignation, to tell the stories of their lives, conduct business and right wrongs. Letters not only allow us to peek into the thoughts and lives of people from the past, but also remain a powerful communication tool for the present. Discover how letters can give valuable historical insights and learn how to develop your own letter writing skills through these direct links on the Times Launch Point Web site,

Here are the best sites for getting your schoolwork done or for just having fun.

Level 1

Arthur's Letter Writer Helper: Let Arthur the Aardvark explain the parts of a good letter and how to address an envelope. Discover interesting facts about the history of mail, find out how e-mail and regular mail are delivered and have fun sending some electronic postcards to your family and friends.

The Land of Glittering Dreams: Discover what life during the Gold Rush era was like through this collection of letters and archival photos.

Spy Letters of the American Revolution: During the Revolutionary War, people used special techniques for safeguarding their messages, such as secret codes and invisible ink. Discover the history of spies on both sides of the war and learn about the war through reading the letters of such important figures as George Washington and Benedict Arnold.

Level 2

Unforgettable Letters: Find a letter by Leonardo da Vinci seeking employment or Amelia Earhart's last letter to her mother. Explore moments in history through this collection of letters by people such as Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, and Napoleon, who wrote 75,000 letters in his lifetime. Letters range from those written during wars and other historic events to love letters and "Dear Santa" notes.

How to Write a Thank-You Note: Find out how to write a proper and meaningful thank-you note through this step-by-step guide.

Write to your representative: Want to make a difference? Find out how to write an effective letter to your member of Congress about issues or legislation that concerns you.

Level 3

OWL: Business Writing Resources: Are you applying for college or seeking a job? Find advice on how to write a variety of letters and answer questions that can help you develop a strong personal statement for a college application.

Vincent: The Letters: Many people consider Vincent van Gogh's letters to be an art form, just as important as his paintings and drawings. This site cross-references letters with certain paintings and indexes the letters by correspondent.

Dear Home: Letters from WWI: In less than 10 months during World War I, more than twice as many Americans were killed than in a decade in Vietnam. Learn what it was like in the trenches from the letters of soldiers and a nurse on the front lines, and find out how to preserve historical letters.

Launch Point is produced by the UC Irvine department of education, which reviews each site for appropriateness and quality. Even so, parents should supervise their children's use of the Internet. This column was designed by Katherine Utter, Elizabeth Triana, Michele Durfee and Anna Manring.


The answer to this Internet quiz can be found in the sites at right.

How would a Revolutionary War soldier read a letter written in invisible ink?

CLUE: See Spy Letters of the American Revolution

Find What You Need to Know: Have a project on California history? Need help doing a math problem? Launch Point covers more than 150 topics for getting your schoolwork done. Go to for the full list of subjects and direct links to the best Internet sites.

Answer to last week's Quest: The .gif is the oldest graphic format invented as a way to show graphics on any computer.

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