Epistolary (adjective)

Photo by Shaun Bell via Unsplash


  1. of, relating to, or suitable to a letter
  2. contained in or carried on by letters
  3. written in the form of a series of letters.

(Ref: Merriam-Webster Online, Word of the day, 26 July 2020)

Use it in a sentence

In the 21st century it was almost inconceivable, but there it was – they had an epistolary relationship for weeks before they met in person. Not email, not Messenger or WhatsApp, but indigo ink on real creamy white paper. Of course, they ‘met’ first on Facebook. She had commented on a friend’s post about how the only items that ever arrived in the mail were bills and misjudged online shopping. He had ‘Liked’ her comment and then posted a cheeky reply: ‘DM your address and I’ll send you a letter’.

It wasn’t lost on her that he could have been a psycho stalker with a sharpened axe in the boot of his car. But their common friend reassured her – oh no, he was lovely. Artistic, clever and witty. Good with words. Single. Grin.

So she messaged him her address. She noted the ‘Read’ and then waited.

Five days later, a long, crisp envelope arrived. Inside were two A4 pages neatly filled with lines of handwriting – cursive, no less. In the letter, he introduced himself, gave a potted work history, and a brief and tidy summary of his love life. Tucked into the paper folds was a printed photo of him smiling, sitting next to a Labrador. His?

On the last page, a series of questions, ‘To get to know you better.’

  • Signature dish? (Do you like cooking?)
  • Favourite way to spend Sunday.
  • Dogs or cats? (A-ha, she thought. The Labrador/best friend.)
  • Movie that best epitomises your life.
  • Which book would you read if you could only read one more book in this lifetime? (Please tell me you like reading?)

She was breathless after reading through the two pages. She paused a moment and then read them again.

Then she rummaged around for paper and pen and sat down to write. She fired off a list of responses and then posed her own questions. The photo will have to wait, she told him. (Her inkjet printer was dry, but let him think she was just being coy.)

She posted the letter and waited again. It wasn’t long before she received a reply. On they went like this, posing questions, including snippets like comics, funny quotes, interesting pictures cut out of magazines (memes, if you like). Her heart would snag in her chest when she saw the handwritten envelope in her letterbox. She automatically grinned and whooshed inside the house again. But she no longer tore at the envelope greedily. Instead she would make a cup of tea, fetch a nice biscuit and enjoy his words. The letters by now, ran into multiple pages.

After six weeks of this, he sent her a postcard – a picture of the Eiffel Tower (when had he been there?) and just a few words: Saturday 18 August, 7pm dinner at Sybil’s. I’ll be the one wearing a red bow tie 😉 He wears a bow tie.

It was Tuesday 14th but already her throat was dry, her hands shook. She gulped and smiled weakly to herself. What on earth was she going to wear?

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