What a love letter looks like in 2017

How to express your boundless love, affection and desire without having to use words or eloquence.

Morgan Little Senior Director, Audience
Morgan leads the teams managing CNET's presence and content across social media, news platforms and more after stints in the marketing world and LA Times. Eventually his last byline on the site will be about something other than Godzilla
Morgan Little
4 min read

Click for more coverage.

This is part of CNET's "It's Complicated" series about the role technology plays in our relationships.

Love letters have been dead so long it's not worth giving them a eulogy.

Gone are the days of living vicariously through the saccharine letters exchanged between Ronald and Nancy Reagan. And gone is the paper trail that gave us way too much insight into the depth of James Joyce's affection for his wife Nora.

Times have changed, and our romantic exchanges have evolved from infrequent letters fraught with longing and desire, to quick, GIF-laden, emoji-rich text messages.

There are probably one or two Cyranos left out there, but let's be honest: The world lives in bite-size chunks, and we all seem to prefer it that way. People are reading more short stories on their pocket-size screens. Snapchat's success rests on the backs of 5-second messages. Even the NBA is considering speeding up games to accommodate for shorter attention spans.

It's only natural we'd prefer our love letters that way too.

So, I've decided to step up and help aspiring Casanovas of the internet generation by modernizing some of the world's most famous love letters and poems.

Everyone knows "roses are red, violets are blue."


But there's other material out there, like this gem from Emily Dickinson.

My River runs to thee.
Blue sea, wilt thou welcome me?
My river awaits reply.
Oh! Sea, look graciously.

I'll fetch thee brooks
From spotted nooks.
Say, sea,
Take me!

Basically, it's a lot of thirst.


Of course, there's always Shakespeare.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed; But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade, When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Put more simply...


If letters are more your style, there's this excerpt from a note Winston Churchill wrote to his wife Clementine, just a year after they were married. The original:

Sweet cat --

I kiss your vision as it rises before my mind. Your dear heart throbs often in my own. God bless you darling keep you safe & sound.

And the remix:


And not all love letters were worthy of literary inspection. This letter, written by Marlon Brando to an air stewardess, is the 1966 equivalent of a Missed Connections post on Craigslist, spelling errors and all.

Dear Lady --

There is something not quite definable in your face -- something lovely, not pretty in a conventionally thought of way. You have something graceful and tender and feminine. You seem to be a woman who has been loved in her childhood...

Or more simply:


Hey. Picking up on a trend here?

And for the emoji-averse, there are always GIFs. Though you can pick from any of these methods, the CNET team is big on the Make GIF Video Capture plugin for Chrome.

It's especially handy for those of us who prefer to express our love with cheesy (and terrible) movie references.

For example, here's a letter written by Abigail Adams for her husband John Adams, the second president of the United States.

... Should I draw you the picture of my Heart, it would be what I hope you would Love; tho it contained nothing new; the early possession you obtained there; and the absolute power you have ever maintained over it; leaves not the smallest space unoccupied.

I look back to the early days of our acquaintance; and Friendship, as to the days of Love and Innocence; and with an indescribable pleasure I have seen near a score of years roll over our Heads, with an affection heightened and improved by time - nor have the dreary years of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the Image of the dear untitled man to whom I gave my Heart.

Sure, those sentiments could be expressed by that wordy paragraph, but why bother with that when a single GIF would do?

That's a face of someone recollecting years spent in love. And of someone who just saved a ton of time that would have been spent flipping through a thesaurus looking for a different way to say "I like you a whole lot."

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET's newsstand edition.

Batteries Not Included: The CNET team reminds us why tech is cool.