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The Language of Love: How Not to Write a Love Letter

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Valentine's Day around the world!
Valentine's Day around the world!

Saint Valentine's Day falls on February 14. Traditionally, Valentine's Day is the day when lovers show their feelings for each other. They do that with presents like flowers and chocolate. They go out to dinner and maybe go dancing.

Sometimes, you fall in love so hard that you must, simply must, tell the person in a love letter.

But love is hard to explain. Love is even harder to write about. The idea of sharing your feelings of love in a letter may fill you with fear.

Well, fear not. Take a pen and chose your best paper. In this day of electronic communication, a handwritten letter may win you big points in the game of love.

But if you chose to write a love letter in English, here are a few suggestions on what not to do.

Do not make mistakes. Try your best to not make any spelling or grammar mistakes. Nothing kills romantic feelings more than a lover correcting your letter with red ink.

Do not have a friend write your love letter. The person receiving the letter may fall in love with the real letter writer and forget all about you. And do not use commonly heard expressions or poems, such as "Roses are red, Violets are blue; sugar is sweet and so are you." Just be yourself.

Do not use general words. Use specific details about the person you are in love with. Write about the time you saw the sun light up her beautiful face as she laughed with a friend. Write about the sparkle in his eyes as he fixed your bicycle. If she loves a certain song, include the song's name in the letter. If he is good at a sport, mention that. Writing about these details proves that you are paying attention. And that is very attractive.

Do not write a love letter as if it was for your English class. A love letter is not homework. Also, writing a love letter is not the time to use a new idiom you just learned. It is better to write simple words that are your own than to write new-to-you idioms.

Do not steal song lyrics. Nothing kills a budding romance more than getting caught copying someone else's words.

Here is a true story.

When I was in high school I had a crush on a boy. He liked me, too, and wrote me a long poem. When he gave it to me in history class, I was sure he could hear my heart beating. I was so nervous. The poem was written on simple notebook paper. It was folded, not once but twice, and had pencil eraser marks all over it. I thought to myself, he must have worked hard on this letter.

Later, I read the letter out loud to my best friend. We swooned reading his intense words of love.

"If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.

When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me."

Then we both paused.

"Wait a minute. This sounds familiar," my friend said. "Aren't those the lyrics to that song 'Thank You' by the rock group Led Zeppelin?'''

"No, of course not," I said. "At least…I don't think so."

One look at the song lyrics proved that this guy had, in fact, copied the lyrics. That was the end of that relationship.

That is not to say that you cannot get motivation from a famous song or love letter.

The British insurance company Beagle Street recently asked 1,000 people to vote on the most romantic letter. A letter by musician Johnny Cash to his wife June Carter Cash won first place.

Country music legend Johnny Cash performs with his wife June Carter Cash, a member of the famous Carter Family.
Country music legend Johnny Cash performs with his wife June Carter Cash, a member of the famous Carter Family.

Some say it is not the most romantic letter ever written. But Johnny and June's long life together was evidence of their strong relationship. They married in 1968 and stayed married until June Carter Cash died in 2003. Johnny Cash died four months later.

Here is his love letter to June:

"We get old and get use to each other. We think alike. We read each other's minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted. But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met." -- Johnny Cash

His letter is simple and heartfelt. That is the best advice when writing a letter to the one you love – write from the heart and keep it real.

I'm Anna Matteo.

Do you have a successful love letter story or maybe a failed one? Do share in the comments section.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for Learning English listeners. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

romantic adj. thinking about love and doing and saying things to show that you love someone

personality n. the set of emotional qualities, ways of behaving, etc., that makes a person different from other people

sparkle n. a lively quality

specific adj. relating to a particular person, situation, etc.

attractive – adj. having a feature or quality that people like

swoon v. to become very excited about someone or something

lyrics n. the words of a song

budding adj. beginning to develop

crush n. a strong feeling of romantic love for someone that is usually not expressed and does not last a long time

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