if only in writing."
The narration voiceover of what the on-screen characters are reading. This narration is usually in the voice of the person who wrote the text, although whomever is reading the text may fade in/out at the start/end of the message.
While named for letters being read by a second party, this trope covers any text that gets a voiceover from the author. These could be text messages, diary entries, or posted signs. Often the audience will not see the text in question, but shorter scripts may allow the whole thing to be shown briefly on the screen. Visually, we are often watching the reader for the Reaction Shot, the author while they write, or a flashback that the writing narrates the events of.
Compare Reading Foreign Signs Out Loud (for the methods of translating foreign language text shown onscreen) and Sounding It Out (for when the character who is reading the letter does so out loud). Often overlaps with other letter tropes, such as Epistolary Novel (for when one or more letters form a Framing Device for the story), and Epilogue Letter (for when the letter serves as summary/ending for a story).
- There's a case from Yu-Gi-Oh! when Tea reads Pegasus's diary.
- When Cobra gets Vivi's letter in One Piece, which reveals Crocodile to be the mastermind behind the Alabasta civil war, she begins reading the letter aloud.
- At the end of Infinity Game this is subverted. It looks like Long Wei is reading out his letter to Lu Xiao, but really he's writing his diary as though it were a letter to her and she's reading a menu somewhere else.
- In Bleach, Aizen's letter to Momo, which he leaves behind just before his apparent death, is read aloud in his voice.
- Used in episode 158 of Ranma ½.
- Misa's farewell letter for Yusa in episode 12 of Charlotte, where at first it's Yusa who reads the letter, but halfway through the voice changes into Misa's. They share the same voice actress, though.
- Episode 16 of Steins;Gate: Suzuha's letter, which is read by Okabe, that explains her failure. At first it's Okabe who reads it, but not long after that the voice changes into Suzuha's, in a depressed tone.
- Kaori's letter at the end of Your Lie in April is voiced by her. It also counts as Dead Man Writing.
- In Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online, when LLENN reads the letter from Pito to M, she starts reading, then the voiceover switches to Pito's voice.
- In Yuki Yuna is a Hero - Hero Chapter, Yuna's journal that details the circumstances behind the curse she's been implanted with is narrated in her voice.
- In Yume Kira Dream episode 10, Mametchi leaves Ikaritchi some cookies he brought back from Tamagotchi Town along with a letter explaining them. The brief letter is read aloud in Mametchi's voice when Ikaritchi reads it.
- In Yume Kira Dream episode 35, the farewell letter written by Himespetchi is read in her voice as the others receive it and run to say goodbye to her.
- In the Simple Samosa episode "Tutti Frutti", Tutti Frutti's voice reads the letter she wrote to her father, Mayor Royal Falooda, informing him that she's tired of him repeatedly asking her questions and she's running away.
- Kiki's Delivery Service, the letter right near the end. Her father begins reading it but it fades out into Kiki's voice.
- In When Marnie Was There, when Anna reads Marnie's diary, the lines are voiced by Marnie herself.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Starting with the ending of Rainbow Rocks, each time Sunset Shimmer writes a message to Princess Twilight in her magical book, we hear the content as a voiceover. In Forgotten Friendship, we also hear Twilight responding, making it sounds like a dialogue.
- Done twice in Anomalisa. In the beginning we hear Bella voicing her letter that Michael reads on the plane. Happens again at the end. This time it is Lisa voicing out her letter to Michael.
- At the end of Shaun the Sheep: The Movie, Shaun finds a letter left by Slip the dog, and we hear her voiceover as he reads it. Except, Slip, like all animals (and indeed humans) in Shaun the Sheep doesn't actually talk, so we just hear her barking.
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button uses this for its frame story (although it's a diary, not a letter).
- All the time in You've Got Mail. In her commentary Nora Ephron made it clear that she wanted to get away from the computer screens ASAP, for fear that the audience would get spooked and leave the theater.
- Played with in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Harry reads an article by Rita Skeeter, and we hear her voiceover of what it says. A few sentences in, it pisses him off so much he throws it into the fire, and Rita's voice first tries to cram in as much as possible, and then screams as the article burns. Given that talking envelopes exist in this series, it's quite possible that the letter was actually reading itself out loud.
- In The Dark Knight, Rachel's "Dear John" Letter to Bruce that we see Alfred reading is voiced out by Rachel herself.
- Spoofed in Top Secret!. Nick Rivers arrives at his banquet table and finds a note from his agent waiting. As he starts reading it, the agent's voice appears, slightly distorted, as if done in voiceover. As Nick keeps reading, the agent walks into frame towards the table, talking in stride with the letter with a small megaphone over his mouth.
- Subtly played with in Back to the Future Part III. At the end of Part II, Marty receives a letter from the time-displaced Doc Brown which had been sent 70 years prior. Marty begins to read it aloud... and then the next morning it's read aloud in its entirety for both Marty and the audience by Doc Brown's younger self.
- In Guardians of the Galaxy, when Peter reads the note from his mother.
- Played with in WarGames, when Joshua types, somewhat justified in the fact that David has a text-to-speech device, but it's totally unnecessary in-universe, but is HandWaved by David trying to impress Jennifer with it. This is a bit taken Up to Eleven later, when they are conversing with Joshua at NORAD, which apparently has the exact same consumer-grade TTS device piped into their loudspeakers — perhaps to impress visiting Congresspeople.
- In The Cranes Are Flying, when Veronika starts reading the letter from her boyfriend Boris, her voice switches over to his.
- The letters from Anna to her parents-in-law in The Seventh Continent are voiced by her.
- Rocco and His Brothers: The "Rocco" section of the movie starts with Rocco getting a Voiceover Letter from his mom in which she catches him up on events while he's been away in the army.
- This, from Tough Guys Don't Dance, has a voiceover when reading a letter about a woman's husband in bed with the reader's wife, mentioning that he was killed, followed by Narmish melodrama.
- In Corvette Summer, Kenny voices the letters he writes to McGrath about his progress in tracking down his stolen car.
- The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill: After each client, Kissey writes her thoughts regarding them down in her diary. The shots of her writing are accompanied by a voiceover of her reading what she is writing. Oddly, the actress seems to actually seems to be reading at the speed she is writing, so there are significant pauses between words.
- Aaron Sorkin has used this trope a couple of times.
- On two episodes of Sports Night, Jeremy writes a couple of letters to his sister in this way.
- Also on the second season The West Wing episode "The White House Pro Am", C.J., Josh, and Sam all narrate the episode through e-mails they're sending (C.J. and Josh to their respective mothers, Sam to his father).
- Baywatch episode "Baywatch Down Under Part 2". As Jake reads a letter from his ex-wife Clare, we first hear it in his voice, then hers. Bonus points because she's deceased at the time.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy tries to get her sister Dawn out of town to safety before the Grand Finale. As Xander drives them away, he gives (the understandably angry) Dawn a letter from Buffy.
Voiceover: Dearest Dawn, don't be angry with Xander. He only did what I told him to do. This isn't the place for either of you. Please know that I love you and that everything I do is for you. I promised once to show you this beautiful world, and I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen —
(Dawn knocks Xander out with a taser, takes the wheel and turns them around)
- On CSI, when Sara leaves, v. unexpectedly, the letter is read in her voice, with shots of her in a taxi, as Grissom reads it. Major Tear Jerker.
- Played straight in CSI: NY's "Misconceptions", when Lindsay reads the last entry in the original suspect's journal.
- Lampshaded in the sketch show Exit 57, where Amy Sedaris's voiceover gave way to a hacking smoker's cough during the first sentence of her letter, forcing her to start over.
- Textbook example in Frequency, when Frank cites from Larissa's diary, describing the appearance and disappearance of Meghan at the Hideaway Camp. Frank's voice morphs into Larissa's voice at the beginning and back to his at the end of the narration.
- In episode 12 of Jane the Virgin, the Lemony Narrator starts reading a letter Luisa wrote, before realizing that Luisa's voice should be reading it, not his.
- Spoofed into the ground by The League of Gentlemen, which opens with a character reading a letter from his aunt, the voiceover narrating the contents in an old lady's voice. Then panning to show the old lady next to him reading out loud over his shoulder.
- Several of the characters on Series/MASH write letters home this way, including Hawkeye (several times), Trapper, Radar, B.J., Colonel Potter, Klinger, and Father Mulcahy. On the ninth season episode "Letters", all of the major characters do this when they're responding to letters from the fourth-grade class of a teacher Hawkeye knows.
- In the Season Finale of Murdoch Mysteries Season 13, Detective Watts leaves a note for Inspector Brakenreid, with one word scribbled out. In the voiceover, Watts does one of his distinctive self-interruptions as he reconsiders that word.
- Parodied in My Hero: Cassie runs away, leaving a letter for her parents. At first, the trope seems to be upheld, then Janet asks George to stop reading it out loud in Cassie's voice.
- Occurs whenever Lizzie reads a letter in the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.
- Spoofed in an episode of Scrubs where it initially looks like an example of this trope, Dr. Cox sitting reading a letter from J.D. with J.D.'s voiceover, but then the camera zooms out to show J.D. is in fact, right there, reading the letter he wrote out loud over Dr. Cox's shoulder.
- In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina occasionally gets letters from Drell, head of the Witches' Council. Her recoils suggest that she can actually hear the voiceover herself, which makes a certain kind of sense.
- Stranger Things: In the Season 3 finale, the speech Hopper intended to give Eleven and Mike at the beginning of the season is instead shown to the audience in his voice as Eleven reads through it.
- A Touch of Cloth: Parodied/subverted when Anne comes home to find a letter written by her girlfriend telling her that she's leaving because Anne is always so focused on work. Turns out she was simply standing offscreen.
- Lampshaded in a You Can't Do That on Television sketch. Adam Kalbfleisch reads a letter from his father and looks around wondering where that voice is coming from. Turns out Adam's father is standing right there.
- Spoofed all over the place in Bleak Expectations. It often happens with Mr. Benevolent's letters in particular, where Benevolent's voice reads the letter ... then the character actually reading aloud is complimented on how well they can do the voice.
- Used in The Musical of The Phantom of the Opera, with a letter starting to be read by one of the managers, but then it switches to the Phantom, before ending with the manager again. In The Movie of the The Musical, we see the Phantom illustrating what he's talking about in the letter with a diorama.
- Used extensively in the Stephen Sondheim musical Passion.
- Aida turned this into a song, aptly named "Radames' Letter."
- In She Loves Me, most of the third "Dear Friend" letter is read in voiceover by Georg together with Amalia. Georg's voice fades out towards the end, when Amalia realizes she's late for work.
- Spring Awakening: "And Then There Were None" has Mrs. Gabor speaking a letter that she wrote to Moritz in between Moritz' lyrics (which are a reaction to the letter).
- Used in Super Mario 64, Paper Mario 64, and Super Mario Galaxy for letters read by Princess Peach.
- Silent Hill 2 - the letter from Mary serves as Book Ends to the game.
- Tales Series:
- In Tales of Symphonia, Colette's voice is used as the voiceover when Lloyd reads a letter from her.
- In Tales of the Abyss, Luke, after being separated from his friends for around a month late in the game, reads letters from Tear, Anise and Guy, and their voices describe what's been going on in their lives.
- In Eternal Darkness, one of Edward's later letters to his granddaughter Alexandra, regarding how she can defeat the Ancient that Pious is summoning, is read aloud in his voice, and this is the only letter in the game that receives this treatment, emphasizing its importance.
- Oni has Konoko reading her father's memoirs like this. Specifically, the part that narrates how he met his wife and how he took her life via Mercy Kill.
- In Assassin's Creed II all important letters are read like this.
- Most games in the Dark Tales series begin with Dupin reading a letter about the current case, and the letter writer provides the voiceover.
- The PC game Secrets of da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript begins with the protagonist, Valdo, reading a letter from his mysterious employer which explains the situation for the player, with this trope happening simultaneously.
- Yeesha's memory amulet Myst IV: Revelation allows for every journal in the game to be read aloud by whoever wrote them. Played straight with her mini-journals in Myst V: End of Ages.
- In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III, Rean receives a letter from his step-father that's read in his voice, telling Rean that he's proud for his actions and apologizes for hiding the truth that Giliath Osborne is his real father.
- Kingdom Hearts:
- After the final boss of Kingdom Hearts II, Riku finds a letter in a bottle from Kairi that she sent out at the beginning of the game. After realizing it's for Sora and handing it to him, Sora reads the first few lines before it changes to Kairi reading it instead.
- At the end of Kingdom Hearts coded, Mickey Mouse writes a letter to Sora, Riku, and Kairi. While the scene shown is him writing it and then cuts to the trio reading it, Mickey's voice over is reading what he's writing out loud.
- In the voiced version of King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow, the hero reads a letter by his beloved princess in her voice. Lampshaded by the narrator: "For the first time in his long search, he has heard her voice again — if only in writing."
- In Labyrinths of the World: Shattered Soul a letter from the main character's sister is treated this way.
- If the player clicks on Oedipus' letter in day 3 of Oedipus in my Inventory, Oedipus' voice will read it aloud.
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses
- In a variation, Jeralt gives a voiceover for his diary when Byleth discovers and reads it after he is killed in Chapter 9.
- This also happens to various letters, such as a letter Seteth sends to Rhea if he and Flayn survive Chapter 15 of Crimson Flower, and a letter Claude sends to the protagonist on Silver Snow.
- Persona 4: In the Updated Re-release, Marie reads aloud her poems if you go to the Velvet Room on certain days and find her absent. If you complete the Jester Social Link, Adachi will do the same with the letter that he sends you after being arrested and imprisoned for the murders.
- In a Rooster Teeth short, Kerry the intern is ordered by Gus to mow the lawn on the company campus with a push mower (When Kerry asks why he can't use a motorized mower like normal people have since thier invention, Gus yells at him about the price of gas before walking away). As Kerry attempts to mow, he stumbles across a box labeled "Gus' Time Caspule" or something along those lines. He finds some random things inside including a letter, which he begins to read. The letter is read and narrated in Gus' voice, getting progressively creepier and stalkerlike towards Kerry until at the end, where Gus is shown to be reading the letter out loud over Kerry's shoulder with his shirt off.
- In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, when Billy receives a letter from Bad Horse three cowboys lean into the frame to sing the contents of the letter.
- Video Game High School: Ki reads a letter from the Law, with his voice narrating it. When she reaches the end, he rips the letter out of her hands, revealing he was standing there the entire time and really doing the voiceover out loud.
- One part of episode 69 of Critical Role involves Keyleth receiving a letter from a guest player-turned-NPC, Kerrek (played by Patrick Rothfuss), who had befriended the group and provided some much-needed advice to her in particular. As she opens the letter and begins to read it, a recording of Patrick reading the letter is played.
- Spoofed in Aladdin: The Series. The letter from Genie is being "read" in his voice, but then we cut to the other side of the shot and see that the letter is actually a mouth reading out loud.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force:
- In "Video Ouiji", Shake's letter after letting himself get eaten by piranhas on the unreal chance he'd become a ghost to haunt Meatwad.
- Meatwad's message in the episode "Carl" that's just in unreadable scribbles and pictures is narrated in his voice on different parts of Carl's house.
Carl: Alright... what the fuck does this say?
- Parodied in "Brain Fairy" when Shake and Meatwad refuse to read a letter they found on Frylock, and suggest they just stare at it believing the letter would read itself. They end up asking Carl to read it for them.
- Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh has a voiceover for the letters from the drug trafficker leader to his minions.
- The animated version of Tintin: The Red Sea Sharks has Tintin start reading the Emir's letter aloud to share it with Captain Haddock, before the screen transitions to the Emir writing it with echo.
- The Simpsons:
- The parody version is done, complete with Lampshade Hanging from Homer:
Homer: So that wasn't just a sweet voice I heard in my head!
- In "Cape Feare", Lisa receives one from her penpal in a Banana Republic, only for the voiceover to change halfway through:
Anya: Dear Lisa, as I write this, I am very sad. Our President has been overthrown and...
Male Voice: ...replaced, by the benevolent General Krull. All hail Krull, and his glorious regime! Sincerely, little girl.
- Much earlier, in the crossover with The Critic:
Marge: Dear Mr. Sherman, on behalf of the people of Springfield I would like to invite you to judge our film festival. You can stay with us, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the country.
Homer: Marge, is this a pimple or a boil?
Marge: Just a minute, Homer! Oh, look what you made me write.
- The parody version is done, complete with Lampshade Hanging from Homer:
- Parodied in an episode of Chowder when Chowder runs away from home, Mung finds his note, after the letter ends he says "It's a good thing there was a voiceover, because his handwriting is terrible", the screen then pans over to the letter which is just a bunch of scribbles.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Twilight's "Dear Princess Celestia...." letters are always done in her voice.
- Happens twice in Beforel Orel: First, Orel writes a letter to his grandfather, revealing that he plans on murdering his baby brother. At the end, Grandpa writes a letter to Orel telling him that he's a good child and not to let growing up in Moralton affect him.
- BoJack Horseman does this a few times in "Live Fast, Diane Nguyen", specifically whenever Todd is around notes or photos of BoJack in his absence.
BoJack: Todd! Stop singing your dumb scrambled eggs song!
Todd: Who said that?
BoJack: If you're wondering who said that, it's this note that you're reading. You're hearing my voice in your head because that's how reading works.
Todd: Oh yeah.
- Parodied in The Powerpuff Girls (2016) episode "Bye Bye, Bellum", where Blossom reads a letter from Miss Bellum to The Mayor. It turns out Blossom was reading it aloud doing a spot-on Bellum impression.
Buttercup: Wow, Blossom, you do a really good Miss Bellum impression.
Blossom: Thanks, but apparently, it's worthless now.
- The first episode of VeggieTales has Bob reading a fan letter with a child's voice reading it aloud. This was dropped for subsequent episodes because the producers felt it was too distracting.
- Parodied in The Amazing World of Gumball: "The Parasite" opens with an entry in Anais' diary being read in her voice, but it's actually Gumball perfecting imitating her while reading her diary aloud to Darwin.
- Steven Universe: Parodied in "Letters for Lars": The episode starts with Steven giving Lars a letter telling him about what's been happening in Beach City while he's away. Then at the end of the episode it's revealed that the voiceover was Steven reading Lars the letter in person.
Lars: I appreciate the sentiment, but why'd you bother writing a letter if you were just going to tell me in person anyway?