Writing is one of the oldest forms of long distance communication. Unlike the oral tradition form of communication which came before it, writing is not ephemeral; words on a page or tablet or screen don't fade from memory as easily as spoken words. Written words are eternal. As such, there is something deeply intimate or personal about writing letters back and forth.
This is even applicable to modern forms of written communication, such as email and text messages.
Supertrope to Unseen Pen Pal, which is about a pen pal relationship in which one or both parties are unaware of what the other looks like, usually due to them having never met in person.
See also Epistolary Novel.
Not to be confused with the Sharon Dennis Wyeth series or the Star Trek: TNG episode of the same name.
- Nanoha and Fate sent each other video letters for the six months between the first and second seasons of Lyrical Nanoha since Fate wasn't allowed to contact anyone in real time until her trial concluded, though Lindy pulled some Loophole Abuse to allow them real time contact on the anniversary of Fate's familiar contract with Arf. Due to Arisa and Suzuka having also watched and recorded videos along side Nanoha (the ones that omitted any mention of magic anyways), it allowed Fate to comfortably insert herself into their circle of friends when they finally met her in A's.
- In chapter 71 of Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, Kobayashi and Kanna exchange letters with Kanna's father Kimun. While Kimun doesn't really understand what they're talking about (and mostly just writes about sake), he does view it as a chance to learn more about them.
- The Framing Device for AQUA and its sequel ARIA is that protagonist Akari Mizunashi writes letters about her life on Aqua to an unseen pen pal. The anime invents Ai to take up the pen pal role up until The Origination, but the finale of the manga reveals that she's really just making a public blog that sounds like she's writing to somebody.
- One episode of Crazy Candies is about Marshyo wanting to make a pen pal, but failing to capture anyone's interest. He eventually decides to become his own pen pal and write letters to himself, for which the other candy folks make fun of him.
- A Running Gag of B.C., is one of the main characters carving a letter on a slab of stone and then floating it to their pen pal across the ocean, and then waiting by the beach for a reply. The replies have ranged from profound to snark.
- Peanuts: Charlie Brown often wrote letters to his "pencil pal". It is later revealed she is a Scottish girl named Morag who has about 30 other pen pals.
- Pugad Baboy has Kules Sungcal who writes with pen pals who claim to be attractive women, but are comedically not. When he switches to e-mail, he told his colleague 'Adre about "email pals" or "e-pals" about it, by which 'Adre replies "epal", which is a Filipino term for Attention Whore; Kules softens it to "e-mail buddies" instead.
- In I Am NOT Going Through Puberty Again!, it's mentioned that Shino is pen pals with Fu, and the epilogue states that they have a Long-Distance Relationship.
- Unlike in canon, in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines Ash and Serena have been in contact through traditional mail for about one year before Ash begins his Pokémon journey.
- In Son of the Sannin, Choji and Karui are mentioned to have become pen pals during the Time Skip (having first met during the Chunin Exams). It takes until the lead up to the Fourth Shinobi World War for them to have a Relationship Upgrade (second only to Kiba and Tamaki in terms of how long it took for any of the canon couples), but there was a lot of Ship Tease in the interim.
- Mary and Max: Mary discovers Max's name in a phone book and decides to write to him, leading to a friendship through correspondence that endures for several decades.
- A Cinderella Story: The two leads, despite being from different social circles, fall in love with each other via anonymous text messages.
- The Lake House: A woman and a man send letters to each other using a mailbox in front of their homes. The twist: they live in the same home, but they're separated in time by two years: the man lived in the house two years before the woman moved in.
- The Shop Around the Corner: James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan are coworkers in a leather goods store who snipe at each other, neither knowing that they are falling in love as anonymous pen pals.
- You've Got Mail: The two leads, despite being adversaries in real life, fall in love with each other via anonymous email. A modern remake the above Shop Around the Corner.
- The Greatest Showman: Phineas and Charity keep their Childhood Friend Romance alive while Charity is at finishing school and Phineas works on the railroad through writing letters to each other.
- In the film adaptation Mansfield Park, Fanny's older brother William is written out and her Pen Pal relationship and sibling bond is transferred to her younger sister Susan.
- Artemis: Jazz's Earthbound childhood friend and smuggling business partner, Kelvin, is only ever shown by the letters he and Jazz send back and forth.
- Bigfoot and Littlefoot: Boone's and Hugo's relationship starts with the two of them sending each other notes via Boone's toy ship.
- In Mansfield Park, Fanny Price is sent to live with her rich relatives when she is just nine, and her older brother later becomes a midshipman and goes to sea. William is Fanny's favourite among her Massive Numbered Siblings and their mutual correspondence provides her a great comfort and he's one of her two most beloved people in the world.
- She Loves Me: The characters anonymously fall in love by exchanging letters without knowing who each other are.
- Life Is Strange franchise:
- Life Is Strange: Max admits to her shame that, after moving away from Arcadia Bay shortly after her best friend Chloe's father died, they fell out of contact because Max felt too awkward to keep up communication. She's so ashamed of not becoming a pen pal with Chloe that she doesn't even look Chloe up after moving back to Arcadia Bay. In episode 4, one of the more noticeable differences that comes about from her Time Travel is in the alternate timeline where Chloe's father didn't die, she not only stayed in contact but wrote letters on "fancy parchment paper".
- The prequel Life Is Strange: Before the Storm reveals Max left behind a solemn promise to Chloe that they would remain in contact in spite of their separation, a promise we already know that she broke. It's also revealed that Chloe tried to write a letter to Max after failing to engage her with text messages but could never bring herself to send it. Instead, she started journaling her thoughts, with each entry posed as another unsent letter to her wayward former friend.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has Finley and Sasan. Finley is a Zora girl who is several decades old but looks like a short child due to comparatively slow Zora growth rates. Sasan is a Hylian guy who has regularly been receiving love letters from Finley by way of messages attached to barrels that she drops from the Bank of Wishes, to which he regularly responds. Link can convince Sasan to finally go meet Finley in person despite the latter's initial reluctance to reveal that he isn't the muscular athlete he made himself out to be in his letters (though he does resolve to make up for it by exercising rigorously).
- In BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, Cornelia gives the player an Email Bag at the start of Chapter 3, and explains that it’s a way for friends to keep in touch over long distances. True to her word, she sends you several well-wishing emails throughout the adventure, although sadly the player has no way of sending her any replies.
- My Child Lebensborn: One way the Player Character can address the fact that the child's former best friend Liv has secretly rekindled their friendship by the time they leave town is by suggesting that they write to each other. Whether the child still thinks it's a good idea or not at the very end of the game will depend on how the player handled Liv giving in to peer pressure and stopping to be friends with the child in the first place.
- Royal Correspondence is a crossover series in which Princess Luna from Scootertrix the Abridged exchanges letters with alternate universe counterpart from Friendship Is for Adults.
- The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius: In "Carl Wheezer, Boy Genius", Carl's European pen pal comes to visit, leading him and Jimmy to try to pass Carl off as a genius because he claimed Jimmy's many adventures as his own in his letters.
- Hey Arnold!": Arnold has a pen pal from France named Cecile who is about to visit him on Valentine's Day. But Helga forges the letter so she can set up her date with Arnold and prevent him from meeting up with his crush, Ruth. Then things get complicated when the real Cecile meets Arnold in person.
- Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: In "Pen Pal", Ami gets a visit from her pen pal from Paris. Paris, Idaho, to be exact.
- The Legend of Korra: Although they had known each other in person for quite some time, the only person to whose letters Korra would reply during her sabbatical was Asami. Fitting, that they would later become a couple.
- The Simpsons:
- Lisa receives a letter from her pen pal Anya in Cape Feare in which she describes her country's president being overthrown.
- In YOLO, Marge invites Homer's childhood penpal, Eduardo, over to help him fulfill his bucket list.
- On Peppa Pig, Peppa has a French pen pal named Delphine Donkey, who appears in some episodes.
- Ready Jet Go!: In "Mindy's Bedtime", it is revealed that Sydney has an Indian pen pal named Ahana. Since it is night in India when it is day in Boxwood Terrace and vice versa, Sydney and Ahana email each other.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy has the episode "No Speak Da Ed", where the Eds all have pen pals as a part of their International Studies class. Edd is pen pals with a Norwegian girl named Gerta, while Eddy has been assigned a Korean boy named Hyuck. Ed's pen pal, however, sent him various wolf-themed gifts, pressing Rolf's Berserk Button and causing the Eds a lot of trouble. It's eventually revealed that Ed's pen pal is the same as Edd's, who Rolf recognizes as Gerta the Goatmilker, apparently a well-known prankster. Rolf then laughs the whole thing off as just a prank. Meanwhile, Eddy tries to scam his pen pal by sending him "moon rocks" (actually just discarded wads of gum painted blue). His scam actually works, and Hyuck sends him a massive pile of money, but being Korean money, it's worthless to Eddy.
- The Owl House: Hooty and Lilith start up a correspondence after the latter gets Put on a Bus early in the second season, and one of the former's letters is used as a Framing Device in a later episode.
- Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum: Xavier has a friend who lives in Japan called Hikari, who appears in the Nikola Tesla episode. They communicate over his tablet.