How to write an awesome first letter to your penpal

Yay! We are lucky enough to have guest poster & happy-mailer extraordinaire, Ines Hristova from To The Lovely here to share her ideas, tips & inspiration for how to write an awesome first letter to your penpal…

Ines Hristova

Hello, my name is Ines Hristova and I try to stay as different as the name itself.
Happy mail brings me smiles and inspiration. And a big push to keep on going and prove to everybody they can make others happy just with their words.

Simply said I send love, though people see it as envelopes filled with little things.


Awesome penpal letter

Why are penpal first letters so important?

It gets me kinda bugged when people say they have a ‘prepared first letter’.
What is that? Basically it’s a letter copied many times with the same simple information about them that they send to everybody.

Why do I think this is wrong..? Well, in all of the penpal groups I am in, people complain about no-one writing back. One of the not-so-many reasons could be exactly that letter.

Every first letter is even more important than every first response you get.

Be creative!

Don’t just put dry information out there. Of course this person doesn’t know you and they will want to know more about you, but it doesn’t have to be just the simple stuff – almost all of us can already see this in your social media profiles.

Be honest. Tell them about the little things you love that make you different. If you share your passion about something with the other person it’s probable this will create a desire to answer back.

Don’t just write about yourself. Ask the other person who they are and what they love.

How to start your first letter

First letters are always a little hard to write, you feel like you are talking to yourself, but you don’t have to. Just sit down and tell the latest thing that made you excited – this will show on paper and the other person will feel your passion about whatever you are writing about. Tell something funny. Or just your daily life.
If you think your daily life will not be so interesting to someone else – here is where you are wrong. You probably live in another country, with your customs, your beliefs – all of that is different to everybody, so for me and probably for a lot of other people it will be very interesting to learn about the day of someone in Iceland, for example.

Let the other person into your life. Send them a picture of the place where you write your letters, say something like ‘this is where I am when I write to you’. Or your mail box, so they can imagine you going to it and opening their letter with a thrill. Or if you have a hobby, send them a piece of that – something knitted, something carved, an accessory. Since using only words cannot describe perfectly the world around you – show it to them with different materials.

A picture can tell a thousand words

Here is another idea I came up with when I was putting together a package for a project. Instead of writing down my interests and the things I love etc. I made a little envelope that I glued to the letter and filled with confetti like pictures of the things I love. Awesome, right? And easy! And you don’t have to tell – just let the other person wonder what you mean, it will surely intrigue them. If you need ideas – do you like to travel, eat, draw, read, paint, write, craft, game, music… endless!

penpal pictures

Create anticipation…

Go secret and creative, write a letter with gaps to be filled in the second one – make a template with information where you take random facts out and then fill the gaps in your second letter. Or even better, send a sheet with questions and blank spaces to your pen pal so he can write his information in the blanks and return it.
We have created a free printable for you to download with some ideas. You could send a blank version for your penpal to complete and return to you, then complete a second copy in reply to them.
Here’s The Paperdashery’s completed version (we used kraft paper and washi tape to create highlights & frames)…

Penpal printable example

All this is a great stimulation for the other person to be interested and to want to answer back without feeling like he doesn’t know what to say. One last thing, people are fearful of sending presents and good stuff in their first letters because they often don’t get a response. Don’t be! If you did, you’ll know you did your best to have that person interested in you, if they are not – it’s their loss!






11 responses to “How to write an awesome first letter to your penpal”

  1. […] printable Q&A sheet like the one in this post for them to complete and […]

  2. mandysea avatar

    I’ve just come over from Jennifer Grace’s blog event and been to your amazing shop to see all the delights… especially the Christmas ones! Its fabulous… have a great week!~

    1. The Paperdashery avatar
      The Paperdashery

      Thanks for visiting Mandy & good luck with Jennifer’s giveaway!

  3. […] Mail tag printable 1 Mail tag printable 2 […]

  4. Dehanna avatar

    I love the tips ,it helped me alot ,because I was so scared to write my first letter and when I read this information I asked myself,’ Why was I scared?”

  5. Alekhya avatar

    Love this! can you please tell me where I can find vintage black and white pictures as above to send to a pen pal..

    1. The Paperdashery avatar
      The Paperdashery

      Hi Alekya, Pinterest is great for sourcing images. I also love The Graphics Fairy.

  6. Jennifer avatar

    Fantastic post! Thanks for the great ideas!

  7. Mia avatar

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this! International Correspondence Writing Month isn’t far away…

  8. Debra Barth avatar
    Debra Barth

    I sold a home to a man and his wife 1992! He has now contacted me by email asking to be Pen Pals, they have divorced, living in two separate states. Children are all young adults, they share holidays, which I really like. Any suggestions? I thought a lot of him and they way he handled his business. So, I know he was a honest and kind person, plus a good dad. All good points. I am really curious why he is looking me up now! I am single, grown kids, this has made me smile.

    1. The Paperdashery avatar
      The Paperdashery

      Being penpals is a great way to get to know someone. I’d suggest using a PO Box to start with, since you don’t really know this man yet and it can be dangerous to give out your home address, especially if you live alone. Stay safe and ask lots of questions. Mail tag can be a fun ice-breaker for a new pen pal.