How to Write a Letter to Your Penpal

Three Parts:Getting to Know a New Pen PalBuilding Your Relationship With Your Pen PalFinding a Pen Pal

Do you enjoy writing? Do you want to make new friends without ever leaving the comfort of your own home? Corresponding with a pen pal allows you to do just that! Thinking about what kind of pen pal you want, sharing your life with them in prose, and developing a genuine interest in them is the surest way to build a solid foundation for many years of happy letter-writing.

Part 1
Getting to Know a New Pen Pal

  1. Image titled Write a Letter to Your Penpal Step 1
    Choose an appropriate format for your letter.[1] While there are no hard rules regarding how to structure your letters, many people choose to employ a three-part format. A well-written letter will have a greeting, a body paragraph (or paragraphs), and a closing.
    • Your greeting (or salutation) should start with the words, “Dear [pen pal’s name].” It should always go at the top of the page.
    • After the greeting, you will develop the body of the letter. The body is the main text where you communicate at length with your pen pal.
    • Finally, you will sum up or conclude your thoughts in a closing. The closing usually consists of a final paragraph and a signatory phrase like “Sincerely,” followed by your signature.
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    Write the body of your letter. This is the meat of the letter where you introduce yourself, ask lots of interested questions, and share your thoughts. The body of your letter might be two to five paragraphs depending on paragraph length.
    • In your first letter, you should introduce yourself in a general way. Offer info about your home life, hobbies, and interests. Even obvious things that your pen pal probably already knows can be included in your introductory letter.
    • For instance, you might introduce yourself by writing, “I am twelve years old. I live with my father and two sisters. I am in sixth grade and my favorite subject is history. In my spare time I enjoy reading and playing X-Box.”
    • Don’t write everything about your life all at once.[2] You'll have plenty of time to share things with your pen pal as you grow closer.
    • Be specific. For instance, don’t say that you like film, crafts, and exercise. Instead, say that you enjoy Marvel movies, knitting and needlework, and riding your bike.
    • As you get to know your pen pal better, you will be better equipped to respond to his or her perspectives, sense of humor, and ideas in the body of your letter. You will also feel more comfortable expressing yourself and confiding in your pen pal. The more you write to your pen pal, the easier it will be to know what topics are of interest to both of you.
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    Be cautious about what you share. If writing to a pen pal in prison, do not include self-incriminating information. Prison mail is screened carefully and you might get in trouble when prison staff discovers your secrets.[3] If you are an undocumented immigrant, do not include this fact in your letters -- you never know who your pen pal is sharing their correspondence with. Information about your income or wages should also remain confidential.
    • Do not share too much too soon.
    • You may want to rent a PO box if you don’t feel comfortable with a stranger knowing where you live.
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    Ask lots of questions.[4] Show an interest in your pen pal’s life. Ask questions about your pen pal’s work, hobbies, and family. Invite your pen pal to share their feelings on a variety of common interests. Develop a genuine curiosity about your pen pal and don’t be shy when writing.
    • For instance, if your pen pal mentions he or she does track and field, ask how fast they can run, if they’ve ever participated in a relay race, and what the furthest distance they’ve ever run is.
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    Don’t be invasive. While you will have lots of questions about your pen pal and his/her life, you need to stay cognizant of their boundaries. If you’re writing to a pen pal overseas, they might assume a different level of familiarity and comfort with you than you do with them. It may be awkward for them to talk candidly about certain topics. If you sense some reticence on the part of you pen pal, avoid snooping into their habits and life. If your pen pal doesn’t answer certain questions, don’t ask them again and assume the topic is sensitive.
    • Alternately, if your pen pal is more direct and insists on certain boundaries, respect them. For instance, if your pen pal does not want to talk about their sexuality or family life, do not insist they do so.[5]
    • Similarly, do not feel obligated to confess everything about yourself if you are not comfortable doing so. If your pen pal tries to engage you on a certain topic or issue you do not want to talk about, don’t feel as if you have to open up to them. Let your pen pal know in a direct way if there are any topics which you do not want to talk about. Like any other friend, your pen pal should be respectful of your boundaries and mindful of your feelings.
  6. Image titled Write a Letter to Your Penpal Step 6
    Close your letter. The final part of your letter is the closing. Pen a final paragraph saying goodbye to your pen pal and leave him or her with something to think over or answer. For instance, you might close with a few brief sentences which conclude the main idea you’ve traced through the letter.[6]
    • For example, if your letter was mainly about how excited you are for summer, you might write, “With luck, the weather will clear up here soon. I really want to start swimming again. How about you? Do you like swimming, too? Or are there other summer sports you’re interested in? Hope to hear from you soon.”
    • Skip two lines and write “Sincerely,” “Take it easy,” or “Until next time,” with your signature on the line just below the final word you write.
  7. Image titled Write a Letter to Your Penpal Step 7
    Address your envelope. The envelope should include both a return address (your address) and the receiver’s address. Write your address in the upper left corner of the envelope. Write your name first, then your street address below that, and then on a third line, write your city, state, and zip code. Follow the same format for the receiver’s address, but put it in the center of the envelope.
    • Don’t forget to add postage. It’s a good idea to take your letter to the post office the first time you send it out so that you know which stamps you need to mail it, especially if your pen pal is in a foreign country. If your pen pal resides within the US, you could use forever stamps, which cover the cost of mailing a letter no matter how the price of postage to or from a particular place fluctuates.
    • Drop your letter in the mailbox or bring it to the post office for delivery.
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    Be patient when waiting for a reply. Your pen pal, like you, is a busy person. Don’t expect a reply overnight. Wait at least two weeks for a reply. If your pen pal doesn’t write back within two weeks, send them another letter or -- assuming you have their email address -- an email.[7]
    • Many people are used to instantaneous communication via email, texting, and phones, and consider letter-writing a waste of time. However, one of the virtues of writing letters is that it does take time and thus requires (and instills) patience.

Part 2
Building Your Relationship With Your Pen Pal

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    Decide how committed you are to your pen pal. If you only want to write twice a month, let your pen pal know. Conversely, if you can write every week, or multiple times each week, tell your pen pal. There are no obligations regarding how often you should write, but whatever you decide, let your pen pal know up front so that they don’t expect more from you.[8]
    • Conversely, if you want a more committed pen pal but have not found one, keep looking. Do not feel that you need to limit yourself to just one pen pal at a time.
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    Include a little present or gift. Lots of little things make great gifts for your pen pal. If your pen pal lives in another country, they might be interested in coins from your native country. You could also include recent articles you think your pen pal might find of interest, and reference them in the text of your letter. If you are very close to your pen pal and feel comfortable, you could send a photo of yourself doing a fun activity.[9]
    • If writing to a pen pal in prison, ask if they can receive certain items before sending them.[10] Each prison sets its own guidelines regarding what is and is not allowed in personal correspondence.
    • Decorate your letter. If you’re artistic, include little drawings or sketches to illustrate your text. Include stickers to add a personal touch.
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    Comment on what your pen pal writes. If, for instance, your pen pal comments that they started a new job, ask them in your reply how they like it, if their coworkers are kind, and so on. Take an interest in what they are going through.[11]
    • If your pen pal has questions, answer them. If there are any questions you don’t want to answer, tell your pen pal directly.
    • Ask for photos of your pen pal’s pets, collections, and art.
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    Don’t treat your pen pal letters like a diary.[12] Growing closer to your pen pal requires including personal feelings and experiences, but you should not offer a blow-by-blow account of your every waking hour since your last letter. Let the conversation between you and your pen pal develop naturally.
    • Reference major events in your life, like attending a movie, concert, or play; having a good or bad dining experience; getting an award at school; or learning a new skill like cooking. Don’t reduce yourself to a mere reporter; instead, offer a thoughtful analysis of some of the recent developments in your life.
    • For instance, instead of flatly stating, “I saw the new Captain America movie yesterday,” and leaving it at that, say, “I saw the new Captain America movie. I loved all the characters that were included from the many other Marvel films. The cinematography and acting were, in my view, the best in the series. You should check it out!”
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    Connect with your pen pal over common experiences. In your letters, comment upon things that your pen pal might also have experience with or opinions about, such as news stories or your work life. For instance, you could write, “I am really excited about Candidate X. I donated to her campaign and volunteered to go door-to-door on her behalf. How about you? Do you plan on voting?”
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    Talk to your pen pal online. Use social media like Facebook and Tumblr to connect more deeply with your pen pal. Staying in touch this way ensures your friendship blossoms during the interim between getting each other’s letters.[13]
    • Don’t let social media or digital communication replace your letter-writing relationship. While modern forms of communication are important, they offer no substitute for the joy which letter-writing provides.

Part 3
Finding a Pen Pal

  1. Image titled Write a Letter to Your Penpal Step 15
    Consider why you want to write to a pen pal. Are you doing research on a certain topic? Practicing a foreign language? Learning more about life and culture in another land? Depending on your interests and purpose in writing to a pen pal, you will make different choices about who you opt to connect with.[14]
    • For instance, if you are interested in learning German, you should connect with a pen pal from Germany, Austria, or a German speaker in another country.
    • If you are interested in learning more about Japan, you should identify pen pals in Japan who can share their insights into Japanese society.
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    Think about your own interests and background. If you’re interested in simply making a friend, it might be beneficial to write to someone with whom you share some common ground. Try to write to someone who is about your age and has similar interests.
    • For instance, if you are a 17-year-old punk rocker, you will be unlikely to gain much from your exchange with a 45-year-old businessman. Try to locate pen pals who you think are interesting and who you can really look forward to writing to.
    • Many pen pal clubs exist which cater to specific subsets of the population. For instance, there are certain pen pal clubs which cater only to teen and tween girls; others are exclusively for students.[15]
    • Of course, you don’t have to find a clone of yourself to have a great pen pal. Sometimes we learn more about ourselves and the world we live in by interacting with people who are very different from us.[16]
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    Use the web to find a pen pal.[17] There are many forums and websites available which connect people to pen pals both at home and abroad. Pen Pal World, Penpals Now, and Letter Writers Alliance are just some of the many sites which facilitate letter writing connections.
    • Some pen pal connection services require payment, while some are free. Both can provide good pen pals, but check what kind of service you’re enrolling with before you get too excited about the sign-up process.


  • If your pen pal lives far away, you may need special stamps. Check it out at the post office.
  • Investing in some quality stationery can make the letter-writing and reading a more pleasant experience.


  • If your friend is from another country, they might not understand everything you write (like slang or pop culture references). Try to be clear.
  • Be sure to address your envelope correctly.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • A pen (if you want, coloured pens too!)
  • Photos or pictures about you (optional)
  • A dictionary (if you don't speak the same language as your friend)
  • A computer

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Letters | Enjoying Friendship