When did you last write a letter?: The rapid decline of long-form communication

This week, I have chaired two meetings at which we’ve discussed different forms of communication and which have led me to draw the same conclusion: we are witnessing the rapid decline of long-form personal communications whether in the form of text or voice.

One meeting was at Citizens Advice which is the statutory body representing postal consumers. When we discussed trends in postal volumes, we noted that such volumes have been in decline since the mid 2000s. In fact, volumes have declined by around 40% since 2005.

Personal correspondence, as opposed to business communications, has always been a minority part of mail volumes and has declined much more rapidly. Most personal mail now is greetings cards and genuine letters from one individual to another is now almost entirely a thing of the past. How often do you send a personal letter?

The other meeting was at Ofcom, the statutory regulator for telecommunications as well as postal services.  We had an excellent presentation drawing out key data from the regulator’s latest “Communications Market Report”.

One might think that nobody writes personal letters anymore because it is so much easier and cheaper to phone a friend. In fact, the volume of calls on fixed lines has been  falling rapidly for years (almost half in the last five years) and and fell by as much as 17% last year alone. OK, so everyone is using mobiles, right? Well, after year after year of growth, call volumes on mobiles have just started to fall too, although by no means as rapidly as for calls on fixed lines (2% last year). How often you you make a phone call for a genuine chat?

Of course, we need to appreciate that voice calls can now be made using a variety of voice apps such as FaceTime and we do not have data for such Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls.

But the reality is that, instead of writing a letter or making a phone call, increasingly consumers are sending messages through e-mail or text or services such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. And a key feature of such messages is that they are short – much shorter than a letter or a phone call.  This seems to reflect the life that so many of us live now: fast and furious with time only for short, quick messages and little time to analyse or converse. What do you think?


  • Brian Saunders

    I am saddened but not surprised by your findings and although now 82, I must admit to seeing something of myself in there! One thing I do like to hang on to is the “Thank You” personal letter. This, I have tried to instil in my younger breed but without much success!

  • Roger Darlington

    Good for you, Brian.
    I aways send a thank you missive – but usually by text,


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