Pen Friends (Penpals) — A Great Way to Make Genuine Friends

Updated on April 27, 2017

Writing to a Pen Friend

Handwritten letters add a personal touch.
Handwritten letters add a personal touch. | Source

Featured on BBC News Magazine Online

As Katherine Moller, who met her husband online but still hand writes letters says in the BBC News Magazine,

"In a world where it is so easy to hop online to email or to send a fast text, it is so personal and so precious to know someone chose to turn off the virtual world to spend some time with you". (

Pen Friends

The hobby of writing to people all over the world has experienced a mild come back during recent years as many people feel they need a digital detox from emails.

This hobby is known as 'writing to pen friends' if letters are exchanged and 'writing to key pals' if the friends message online. Often the people who are corresponding never meet. However, strong friendships can develop between long-term pen pals.

A circle of friendly people can be built up easily. Any unpleasant or toxic people can be dropped. You just don't write back.

54 Years Is a Long Time to Be Pen Friends

I've been pen pals with Mary Lou for 54 years. Now we follow each other on Facebook as Mary Lou can't write anymore due to ill health. Over the years we have shared ideas, talked about our lives and families in our different countries, (she lives in America and I live in UK), and, knowing each others since we were 14, we have developed a very strong friendship.

Pen Friends Promote World Unity

Pen Friends help mutual worldwide understanding.
Pen Friends help mutual worldwide understanding. | Source

Anyone Can Be a Pen Friend

Pen friends can be from any country, any walk of life, any age and any culture. All that is needed is a friendly nature, a desire to learn about how others live and the ability to communicate through writing letters.

Initially I would advise writing to people of similar age to yourself as new pen pals are more likely to have lots of common interests to write about if they are from the same generation. However, I have written to considerably younger people successfully. I currently write to several aged 80 plus years who are very interesting people.

It's useful to have contacts abroad. I had two lovely holidays staying in France with my pen friend. In turn, I gave her a holiday in UK. Also, when my Finnish pen friend's son came to UK for a convention, I offered him a place to stay in my home.

Ways of Writing to Pen Friends

Letters to penfriends can be hand written using pen and paper. This is known as snail mail because it's a slower means of communicating. The letters are mailed through the postal systems of the countries involved by airmail or surface mail according to the stamp value you put on.

Alternatively, many people use email or other digital ways of messaging each other. They are known as 'Key Pals'. This is still a form of being pen friends and is, of course, much faster than snail mail.

Gold Post Box in Wrexham, UK

Royal Mail has painted more than 100 of its iconic and much-loved red post boxes gold to celebrate every Team GB and ParalympicsGB gold medal won during the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The post boxes will remain permanently gold.
Royal Mail has painted more than 100 of its iconic and much-loved red post boxes gold to celebrate every Team GB and ParalympicsGB gold medal won during the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The post boxes will remain permanently gold. | Source

Finding Pen Friends

There are several ways to find pen friends if you want to join this hobby. I have a few suggestions for you to try according to your preference.

Pen Friend Clubs

Clubs are a good way to contact like minded people. Some clubs offer a matching service which adds to the likelihood of finding a suitable pen friend.

Clubs usually have a joining fee.

Rainbows Penpal Club is an example of this. Run by Marjorie Edwards, it has a Facebook page. The email address is:

International Pen Friends, based in Finland, is a long established club that matches people by age. It also has a website at: Their email is:


'Yours' Magazine has a Facebook page. Every issue of the magazine has a section called 'Friends of Yours' with instructions on how to advertise for penfriends. You have to obtain an issue of the magazine to see it but otherwise the service is free.


PenPal World has an attractive website. They just ask for your e-mail address, birthday, sex, and country to sign you up.

InterPals Penpals ( and Global Penfriends ( say they cater for snail mail as well as online pen pals. As their names suggest they are worldwide.

There are also websites specializing in snail mail. An example is Snail Mail Penpals at

Some sites have a joining fee or you buy credits to see people's addresses.

Schools and Young People

There are special introductory services for schools. They are usually online but when I was teaching I sometimes received advertising shots from offline companies who link up pen friends in schools.

Originally I was introduced to my long term pen friend, Mary Lou, by my school.

PenPal Schools who have a 'PenPals Plus' page that you can join. On their main page there are lots of exciting projects.The website address for pen pals is:

Intercultural E-mail Classroom Connections (IECC) has a basic website where you can sign up to link with classes in other countries. Here is their address:

Find Teen Pen Pals has a fun, attractive site where you can register. The address is:

Some of the Codes Used in Friendship Books

  • A/A means 'all letters will be answered'.
  • NPW means 'new penfriends welcome'.
  • SNNP means 'sorry no new pen friends'.
  • M/F means 'male or female pen friends wanted.

Friendship Books

Once you have several penfriends you can use a 'Friendship Book'.

This is a small booklet that you make yourself. It is then enclosed with your letter to a pen pal. The recipient adds their name, address and a few details about themselves if they want to, then sends it on to another pen pal. When the booklet is full it is returned to you to write to whoever you want. This is all free.

I have found some great pen friends from Friendship Books.

Spam Emails

Just delete spam email penpals and report them.
Just delete spam email penpals and report them. | Source

Problems With Penpals

I only ever had a problem twice in my fifty plus years of penpalling. Once a person sent me an unpleasant letter because I hadn't replied quickly enough to her previous one. I simply threw it away and never corresponded with her again. The other time was when an online pen friend had some kind of bug on her comp that copied her ID. I unfriended her and only corresponded by snail mail from then on.

A Variety of Stationery

Snail mailers have a wide choice of stationery
Snail mailers have a wide choice of stationery | Source


Snail mail penpallers soon develop their preferences for stationery.

Standard letters, notelets, cards and postcards are examples of suitable stationery to use.

Lovely stationery can be found for sale on eBay and other online sites as well as in the high street shops.

Likewise with pens, it is the user's preference. I prefer ink to pencil as I think it gives a better impression to the recipient of the letter.

Why Not Give It a Try?

Should you want to try the hobby of writing to penpals I hope this article will be helpful. Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions. Happy Pen Friending!


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      kindtariq 5 hours ago

      i am fifty plus in twenty plus age , now i am on the edge of retirement. this hobby give you pleasure and very devotional peace of mind as i am educationist. hence, like continue my ambition of expression through literacy with reality of humanity. it is really good forum for exchange of thoughts and views and to build healthy global community

    • profile image

      Thomas Boduwa Nartey 2 months ago

      Let the Global World become unity.

    • profile image

      Neeraj Kumar Mishra 4 months ago

      Tell me the procedure to join the pen pal friends ...expalin it in simple English

    • Dee Marshall profile image

      Dee 10 months ago from London, UK

      Thank you Eduardo :)

    • Dee Marshall profile image

      Dee 12 months ago from London, UK

      Thank you for your comment Genevieve. I'm glad you pen pal too.

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      genevieve 12 months ago

      great blog! i have also been penpalling for years and really love it. i think everyone could benefit from having a penpal and escaping the digital world every now and then. i hope lots of people read this article and check out the links you posted so that they start penpalling too!