Shrtr ltrs 2 cmp
By now, you’re a seasoned letter-writer. Your letters to camp are masterful. Funny. No, hysterical. Engaging. Illuminating. Pieces of fine art. World-class prose. On par with those of John and Abigail Adams. But if your letters are too long, how can you shorten them?
The end of summer is coming and, well, you’re waxing nostalgic about the great letters you’ve been sending this summer. There’s just one problem: your letters may be… GASP! …too long! Alas, this is the curse of the too-good letter. A curse with which I must deal each and every day.
Is it possible to write too much? Yes indeed, it really is possible to write too much. Say, if your camper never reads your letters (a common affliction of boys under 10 who are having a great time at camp or who leave their glasses at home “by mistake”). Or if, your summer camper has the temerity to inform you that, no, she really doesn’t need any letters from you. Well, you get the picture.
The dreaded one-page letter limit
Oh, and you might be writing too long letters if your summer camp imposes a one page per email per camper limit each day. Turns out that almost all of our letters are sent by email, and yes, our kids’ camp has a one page/day/camper limit. It sounds rather severe and I complained about it to the only person who’d listen, my wife (well, she had to listen as we were eating dinner).
Letters to camp math – YIKES!
It all seems so simple to me – why can’t the camp let parents and unlimited others send unlimited emails of unlimited length? It sounded reasonable until my wife did the math. Let’s see, 350 or so campers at any one time, multiplied by 2-3 pages per camper equals over 1,000 pages per day. At about 7 weeks or 42 letter-days per year (give or take), that could be as much as 42,000 sheets of paper, assuming that each kid got an email each and every day. Of course, that’s on the high side but even half of that is still 21,000 sheets! The “good news” – that 21,000 is “only about 1/4 of a tree (see links below). Well, no I guess that’s not really good news. And that’s what my wife said too. Far better to limit letter size so as not to waste resources – and keep camp costs down. After all, if we all sent too many long emails, there wouldn’t be any more trees to shelter our kids at summer camp while they read our printed emails.
Letter-shortening schemes, er tips
It all boils down to this: at some point, you may just have to limit the length of your letters. Here are a few tips to keep things in check and not overwhelm the global ecosystem. Different tricks will work depending on your email or word-processing program or online service.
- Use small fonts in email. Very small fonts. Arial narrow 7 point is fine. And remember, you yourself don’t need to be able to see 7 point font. But most kids have great eyesight (compared with adults) and they’ll see it just fine. Judging by the size of my kid’s handwriting, I’m pretty sure they could actually read 2 point fonts. And I’m not kidding. Caution: use fonts in HTML and formatted emails. Plain text (BlackBerry and some email programs) can’t be formatted. I think that’s redundant… Concerned that you won’t be able to read 7 pt? Write the email in 20 pt font and change the font to 7 pt just before you send it.
- Half a line will do, thank you. Leave a half height line or less between paragraphs. Don’t waste a full line when you don’t have to. In Microsoft Word, change spacing before paragraphs to 3 pt or 6 pt between paragraphs.
- Condense line spacing. Don’t blindly settle for 1 line. Drop down to 0.9 lines instead.
- Use abbreviations. Your camper is smart. They’ll understand. In fact, it’s possible that your camper will have an easier time understanding your TXT-style (as in phone texting) abbreviations (used in phone texting):
Dear MK, Hp u’r havng grt tym @ cmp this sumr.
Luv U. Mm/Dd
- Cut the cr*p. Maybe you’re just trying to cram too much into your letters. I don’t want to be the one to break it to you, but it’s possible (unlikely but possible) that your camper doesn’t care what you had for dinner, that you went off to work today just like you do every day, that you wore the cute green sweater to lunch, that you miss your camper, that you hope they’re eating etc. Heck, your kid’s probably not reading your letters anyways (NO I DID NOT SAY THAT).
- Set limits. When my son started camp, this whole email@camp thing was new and we were new to camp so we had no idea what was appropriate for sleep-away camp letters. He asked for the daily baseball standings and we gladly (OK, I’ll admit it was a hassle) obliged as an act of love (why else would we do it?), and sent them each and every day. Of course, if we’d put our collective feet down, we might have sent 1 page emails instead of 5+ pagers (which, apparently, the camp did not like). And it would have taken less than 2 hours to write each letter… Yes, we need to just say no (to long letters).
Oh, and if all else fails,
- Write shorter letters. Yeah, I guess this one is obvious.
- Send paper letters instead. But, PLEASE, in the name of ecology, Earth Day, Al (but not Tipper) Gore, and Global Warming, please do limit the length of your paper letters – and make sure to write on both sides.