|Chapter XXVII. |
Notes and Shorter Letters
|IN writing notes or letters, as in all other forms of social observance, the highest achievement is in giving the appearance of simplicity, naturalness and force.||1|
|Those who use long periods of flowered prolixity and pretentious phrases—who write in complicated form with meaningless flourishes, do not make an impression of elegance and erudition upon their readers, but flaunt instead unmistakable evidence of vainglory and ignorance.||2|
|The letter you write, whether you realize it or not, is always a mirror which reflects your appearance, taste and character. A “sloppy” letter with the writing all pouring into one corner of the page, badly worded, badly spelled, and with unmatched paper and envelope—even possibly a blot—proclaims the sort of person who would have unkempt hair, unclean linen and broken shoe laces; just as a neat, precise, evenly written note portrays a person of like characteristics. Therefore, while it can not be said with literal accuracy that one may read the future of a person by study of his handwriting, it is true that if a young man wishes to choose a wife in whose daily life he is sure always to find the unfinished task, the untidy mind and the syncopated housekeeping, he may do it quite simply by selecting her from her letters.||3|
HOW TO IMPROVE A LETTER’S APPEARANCE
Some people are fortunate in being able easily to make graceful letters, to space their words evenly, and to put them on a page so that the picture is pleasing; others are discouraged at the outset because their fingers are clumsy, and their efforts crude; but no matter how badly formed each individual letter may be, if the writing is consistent throughout, the page as a whole looks fairly well.
| You can make yourself write neatly and legibly. You can (with the help of a dictionary if necessary) spell correctly; you can be sure that you understand the meaning of every word you use. If it is hard for you to write in a straight line, use the lined guide that comes with nearly all stationery; if impossible to keep an even margin, draw a perpendicular line at the left of the guide so that you can start each new line of writing on it. You can also make a guide to slip under the envelope. Far better to use a guide than to send envelopes and pages of writing that slide up hill and down, in uncontrolled disorder. ||5|
CHOICE OF WRITING PAPER
Suitability should be considered in choosing note paper, as well as in choosing a piece of furniture for a house. For a handwriting which is habitually large, a larger sized paper should be chosen than for writing which is small. The shape of paper should also depend somewhat upon the spacing of the lines which is typical of the writer, and whether a wide or narrow margin is used. Low, spread-out writing looks better on a square sheet of paper; tall, pointed writing looks better on paper that is high and narrow. Selection of paper whether rough or smooth is entirely a matter of personal choice—so that the quality be good, and the shape and color conservative.
|Paper should never be ruled, or highly scented, or odd in shape, or have elaborate or striking ornamentation. Some people use smaller paper for notes, or correspondence cards, cut to the size of the envelopes. Others use the same size for all correspondence and leave a wider margin in writing notes.||7|
| The flap of the envelope should be plain and the point not unduly long. If the flap is square instead of being pointed, it may be allowed greater length without being eccentric. Colored linings to envelopes are at present in fashion. Thin white paper, with monogram or address stamped in gray to match gray tissue lining of the envelope is for instance, in very best taste. Young girls may be allowed quite gay envelope linings, but the device on the paper must be minute, in proportion to the gaiety of the color. ||8|
|Writing paper for a man should always be strictly conservative. Plain white or gray or granite paper, large in size and stamped in the simplest manner. The size should be 5 3/4 x 7 1/2 or 6 x 8 or 5 1/8 x 8 1/8 or thereabouts.||9|
| A paper suitable for the use of all the members of a family has the address stamped in black or dark color, in plain letters at the top of the first page. More often than not the telephone number is put in very small letters under that of the address, a great convenience in the present day of telephoning. For example: ||10|
DEVICES FOR STAMPING
As there is no such thing as heraldry in America, the use of a coat of arms is as much a foreign custom as the speaking of a foreign tongue; but in certain communities where old families have used their crests continuously since the days when they brought their device—and their right to it—from Europe, the use of it is suitable and proper. The sight of this or that crest on a carriage or automobile in New York or Boston announces to all those who have lived their lives in either city that the vehicle belongs to a member of this or that family. But for some one without an inherited right to select a lion rampant or a stag couchant because he thinks it looks stylish, is as though, for the same reason, he changed his name from Muggins to Marmaduke, and quite properly subjects him to ridicule. (Strictly speaking, a woman has the right to use a “lozenge” only; since in heraldic days women did not bear arms, but no one in this country follows heraldic rule to this extent.)
THE PERSONAL DEVICE
It is occasionally the fancy of artists or young girls to adopt some especial symbol associated with themselves. The “butterfly” of Whistler for instance is as well-known as his name. A painter of marines has the small outline of a ship stamped on his writing paper, and a New York architect the capital of an Ionic column. A generation ago young women used to fancy such an intriguing symbol as a mask, a sphinx, a question mark, or their own names, if their names were such as could be pictured. There can be no objection to one’s appropriation of such an emblem if one fancies it. But Lilly, Belle, Dolly and Kitten are Lillian, Isabel, Dorothy and Katherine in these days, and appropriate hall-marks are not easily found.
COUNTRY HOUSE STATIONERY: FOR A BIG HOUSE
In selecting paper for a country house we go back to the subject of suitability. A big house in important grounds should have very plain, very dignified letter paper. It may be white or tinted blue or gray. The name of the place should be engraved, in the center usually, at the top of the first page. It may be placed left, or right, as preferred. Slanting across the upper corners or in a list at the upper left side, may be put as many addresses as necessary. Many persons use a whole row of small devices in outline, the engine of a train and beside it Ardmoor, meaning that Ardmoor is the railroad station. A telegraph pole, an envelope, a telephone instrument—and beside each an address. These devices are suitable for all places, whether they are great or tiny, that have different addresses for railroad, post-office, telephone [or] telegraph.
For the Little House
On the other hand, farmhouses and little places in the country may have very bright-colored stamping, as well as gay-lined envelopes. Places with easily illustrated names quite often have them pictured; the “Bird-cage,” for instance, may have a bright blue paper with a bird-cage in supposed red lacquer; the “Bandbox,” a fantastically decorated milliner’s box on oyster gray paper, the envelope lining of black and gray pin stripes, and the “Doll’s House” might use the outline of a doll’s house in grass green on green-bordered white paper, and white envelopes lined with grass green. Each of these devices must be as small as the outline of a cherry pit and the paper of the smallest size that comes. (Envelopes 3 1/2 x 5 inches or paper 4 x 6 and envelopes the same size to hold paper without folding.)
|It is foolish perhaps to give the description of such papers, for their fashion is but of the moment. A jeweler from Paris has been responsible for their present vogue in New York, and his clientèle is only among the young and smart. Older and more conservative women (and, of course, all men) keep to the plain fashion of yesterday, which will just as surely be the fashion of to-morrow.||15|
Persons who are in mourning use black-edged visiting cards, letter paper and envelopes. The depth of black corresponds with the depth of mourning and the closeness of relation to the one who has gone, the width decreasing as one’s mourning lightens. The width of black to use is a matter of personal taste and feeling. A very heavy border (from 3/8 to 7/16 of an inch) announces the deepest retirement.
DATING A LETTER
Usually the date is put at the upper right hand of the first page of a letter, or at the end, and to the left of the signature, of a note. It is far less confusing for one’s correspondent to read January 9, 1920, than 1-9-20. Theoretically, one should write out the date in full: the ninth of January, Nineteen hundred and twenty-one. That, however, is the height of pedantry, and an unswallowable mouthful at the top of any page not a document.
|At the end of a note “Thursday” is sufficient unless the note is an invitation for more than a week ahead, in which case write as in a letter, “January 9” or “the ninth of January.” The year is not necessary since it can hardly be supposed to take a year for a letter’s transportation.||18|
SEQUENCE OF PAGES
If a note is longer than one page, the third page is usually next, as this leaves the fourth blank and prevents the writing from showing through the envelope. With heavy or tissue-lined envelopes, the fourth is used as often as the third. In letters one may write first, second, third, fourth, in regular order; or first and fourth, then, opening the sheet and turning it sideways, write across the two inside pages as one. Many prefer to write on first, third, then sideways across second and fourth. In certain cities—Boston, for instance—the last word on a page is repeated at the top of the next. It is undoubtedly a good idea, but makes a stuttering impression upon one not accustomed to it.
FOLDING A NOTE
As to whether a letter is folded in such a way that the recipient shall read the contents without having to turn the paper, is giving too much importance to nothing. It is sufficient if the paper is folded neatly, once, of course, for the envelope that is half the length of the paper, and twice for the envelope that is a third.
If you use sealing wax, let us hope you are an adept at making an even and smoothly finished seal. Choose a plain-colored wax rather than one speckled with metal. With the sort of paper described for country houses, or for young people, or those living in studios or bungalows, gay sealing wax may be quite alluring, especially if it can be persuaded to pour smoothly like liquid, and not to look like a streaked and broken off slice of dough. In days when envelopes were unknown, all letters had to be sealed, hence when envelopes were made, the idea obtained that it was improper to use both gum-arabic and wax. Strictly speaking this may be true, but since all envelopes have mucilage, it would be unreasonable to demand that those who like to use sealing wax have their envelopes made to order.
FORM OF ADDRESS
The most formal beginning of a social letter is “My dear Mrs. Smith.” (The fact that in England “Dear Mrs. Smith” is more formal does not greatly concern us in America.) “Dear Mrs. Smith,” “Dear Sarah,” “Dear Sally,” “Sally dear,” “Dearest Sally,” “Darling Sally,” are increasingly intimate.
| Business letters begin: |
Smith, Johnson & Co.,
| Or if more personal: |
John Smith & Co.,
My Dear Mr. Smith:
THE COMPLIMENTARY CLOSE
The close of a business letter should be “Yours truly,” or “Yours very truly.” “Respectfully” is used only by a tradesman to a customer, an employee to an employer, or by an inferior, never by a person of equal position. No lady should ever sign a letter “respectfully,” not even were she writing to a queen. If an American lady should have occasion to write to a queen, she should conclude her letter “I have the honor to remain, Madam, your most obedient.” (For address and close of letters to persons of title, see table at the end of this chapter.)
CLOSE OF PERSONAL NOTES AND LETTERS
It is too bad that the English language does not permit the charming and graceful closing of all letters in the French manner, those little flowers of compliment that leave such a pleasant fragrance after reading. But ever since the Eighteenth Century the English-speaking have been busy pruning away all ornament of expression; even the last remaining graces, “kindest regards,” “with kindest remembrances,” are fast disappearing, leaving us nothing but an abrupt “Yours truly,” or “Sincerely yours.”
Closing a Formal Note
The best ending to a formal social note is, “Sincerely,” “Sincerely yours,” “Very sincerely,” “Very sincerely yours,” “Yours always sincerely,” or “Always sincerely yours.”
| “I remain, dear madam,” is no longer in use, but “Believe me” is still correct when formality is to be expressed in the close of a note. |
Very sincerely yours,
Believe me, my dear Mrs. Worldly,
Most sincerely yours,
|This last is an English form, but it is used by quite a number of Americans—particularly those who have been much abroad.||29|
Appropriate for a Man
“Faithfully” or “Faithfully yours” is a very good signature for a man in writing to a woman, or in any uncommercial correspondence, such as a letter to the President of the United States, a member of the Cabinet, an Ambassador, a clergyman, etc.
The Intimate Closing
“Affectionately yours,” “Always affectionately,” “Affectionately,” “Devotedly,” “Lovingly,” “Your loving” are in increasing scale of intimacy.
|“Lovingly” is much more intimate than “Affectionately” and so is “Devotedly.”||32|
|“Sincerely” in formal notes and “Affectionately” in intimate notes are the two adverbs most used in the present day, and between these two there is a blank; in English we have no expression to fit sentiment more friendly than the first nor one less intimate than the second.||33|
Not Good Form
“Cordially” was coined no doubt to fill this need, but its self-consciousness puts it in the category with “residence” and “retire,” and all the other offenses of pretentiousness, and in New York, at least, it is not used by people of taste.
|“Warmly yours” is unspeakable.||35|
|“Yours in haste” or “Hastily yours” is not bad form, but is rather carelessly rude.||36|
|“In a tearing hurry” is a termination dear to the boarding school girl; but its truth does not make it any more attractive than the vision of that same young girl rushing into a room with her hat and coat half on, to swoop upon her mother with a peck of a kiss, and with a “——by, mamma!” whirl out again! Turmoil and flurry may be characteristic of the manners of to-day; both are far from the ideal of beautiful manners which should be as assured, as smooth, as controlled as the running of a high-grade automobile. Flea-like motions are no better suited to manners than to motors.||37|
“Gratefully” is used only when a benefit has been received, as to a lawyer who has skilfully handled a case; to a surgeon who has saved a life dear to you; to a friend who has been put to unusual trouble to do you a favor.
|In an ordinary letter of thanks, the signature is “Sincerely,” “Affectionately,” “Devotedly”—as the case may be.||39|
|The phrases that a man might devise to close a letter to his betrothed or his wife are bound only by the limit of his imagination and do not belong in this, or any, book.||40|
Abroad, the higher the rank, the shorter the name. A duke, for instance, signs himself “Marlborough,” nothing else, and a queen her first name “Victoria.” The social world in Europe, therefore, laughs at us for using our whole names, or worse yet, inserting meaningless initials in our signatures. Etiquette in accord with Europe also objects strenuously to initials and demands that names be always engraved, and, if possible, written in full, but only very correct people strictly observe this rule.
|In Europe all persons have so many names given them in baptism that they are forced, naturally, to lay most of them aside, selecting one, or at most two, for use. In America, the names bestowed at baptism become inseparably part of each individual, so that if the name is overlong, a string of initials is the inevitable result.||42|
|Since, in America, it is not customary for a man to discard any of his names, and John Hunter Titherington Smith is far too much of a pen-full for the one who signs thousands of letters and documents, it is small wonder that he chooses J. H. T. Smith, instead, or perhaps, at the end of personal letters, John H. T. Smith. Why shouldn’t he? It is, after all, his own name to sign as he chooses, and in addressing him deference to his choice should be shown.||43|
| A married woman should always sign a letter to a stranger, a bank, business firm, etc., with her baptismal name, and add, in parenthesis, her married name. Thus: |
Very truly yours,
Sarah Robinson Smith.
(Mrs. J. H. Titherington Smith.)
| Never under any circumstances sign a letter “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, or “Miss” (except a note written in the third person). If, in the example above, Sarah Robinson Smith were “Miss” she would put “Miss” in parenthesis to the left of her signature: |
(Miss) Sarah Robinson Smith.
Formal invitations are always addressed to Mr. Stanley Smith; all other personal letters may be addressed to Stanley Smith, Esq. The title of Esquire formerly was used to denote the eldest son of a knight or members of a younger branch of a noble house. Later all graduates of universities, professional and literary men, and important landholders were given the right to this title, which even to-day denotes a man of education—a gentleman. John Smith, esquire, is John Smith, gentleman. Mr. John Smith may be a gentleman; or may not be one. And yet, as noted above, all engraved invitations are addressed “Mr.”
|Never under any circumstances address a social letter or note to a married woman, even if she is a widow, as Mrs. Mary Town. A widow is still Mrs. James Town. If her son’s wife should have the same name, she becomes Mrs. James Town, Sr., or simply Mrs. Town.||47|
|A divorced woman, if she was the innocent person, retains the right if she chooses, to call herself Mrs. John Brown Smith, but usually she prefers to take her own surname. Supposing her to have been Mary Simpson, she calls herself Mrs. Simpson Smith. If a lady is the wife or widow of “the head of a family” she may call herself Mrs. Smith, even on visiting cards and invitations.||48|
|The eldest daughter is Miss Smith; her younger sister, Miss Jane Smith.||49|
|Invitations to children are addressed, Miss Katherine Smith and Master Robert Smith.||50|
|Do not write “The Messrs. Brown” in addressing a father and son. “The Messrs. Brown” is correct only for unmarried brothers.||51|
|Although one occasionally sees an envelope addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Jones,” and “Miss Jones” written underneath the names of her parents, it is better form to send a separate invitation addressed to Miss Jones alone. A wedding invitation addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Jones and family is not in good taste. Even if the Jones children are young, the Misses Jones should receive a separate envelope, and so should Master Jones.||52|
ONE LAST REMARK
Write the name and address on the envelope as precisely and as legibly as you can. The post-office has enough to do in deciphering the letters of the illiterate, without being asked to do unnecessary work for you!
Business letters written by a private individual differ very little from those sent out from a business house. A lady never says “Yours of the 6th received and contents noted,” or “Yours to hand,” nor does she address the firm as “Gentlemen,” nor does she ever sign herself “Respectfully.” A business letter should be as brief and explicit as possible. For example:
THE SOCIAL NOTE
There should be no more difficulty in writing a social note than in writing a business letter; each has a specific message for its sole object and the principle of construction is the same:
|The difference in form between a business and a social note is that the full name and address of the person written to is never put in the latter, better quality stationery is used, and the salutation is “My dear ——” or “Dear ——” instead of “Dear Sir:”||56|
| Example: ||57|
THE NOTE OF APOLOGY
Dear Mrs. Neighbor:
LETTERS OF THANKS
In the following examples of letters intimate and from young persons, such profuse expressions as “divine,” “awfully,” “petrified,” “too sweet,” “too wonderful,” are purposely inserted, because to change all of the above enthusiasms into “pleased with,” “very,” “feared,” “most kind,” would be to change the vitality of the “real” letters into smug and self-conscious utterances at variance with anything ever written by young men and women of to-day. Even the letters of older persons, although they are more restrained than those of youth, avoid anything suggesting pedantry and affectation.
|Do not from this suppose that well-bred people write badly! On the contrary, perfect simplicity and freedom from self-consciousness are possible only to those who have acquired at least some degree of cultivation. For flagrant examples of pretentiousness (which is the infallible sign of lack of breeding), see VIII¶9. For simplicity of expression, such as is unattainable to the rest of us, but which we can at least strive to emulate, read first the Bible; then at random one might suggest such authors as Robert Louis Stevenson, E. S. Martin, Agnes Repplier, John Galsworthy and Max Beerbohm. E. V. Lucas has written two novels in letter form—which illustrate the best type of present day letter-writing.||61|
LETTERS OF THANKS FOR WEDDING PRESENTS
Although all wedding presents belong to the bride, she generally words her letters of thanks as though they belonged equally to the groom, especially if they have been sent by particular friends of his.
To Intimate Friends of the Groom
Dear Mrs. Norman:
Dear Mrs. Gilding:
|Sometimes, as in the two examples above, thanks to the husband are definitely expressed in writing to the wife. Usually, however, “you” is understood to mean “you both.”||65|
Dear Mrs. Worldly:
Dear Mrs. Eminent:
To a Friend Who Is in Deep Mourning
Dear Aunt Kate:
Dear Mrs. Neighbor:
|Sometimes pushing people send presents, when they are not asked to the wedding, in the hope of an invitation. Sometimes others send presents, when they are not asked, merely through kindly feeling toward a young couple on the threshold of life. It ought not to be difficult to distinguish between the two.||71|
My Dear Mrs. Upstart:
Dear Mrs. Kindly:
For a Present Sent After the Wedding
Dear Mrs. Chatterton:
THANKS FOR CHRISTMAS OR OTHER PRESENTS
Dear Uncle Arthur:
THANKS FOR PRESENT TO A BABY
Dear Mrs. Kindhart:
Dear Mrs. Norman:
THE BREAD AND BUTTER LETTER
When you have been staying over Sunday, or for longer, in some one’s house, it is absolutely necessary that you write a letter of thanks to your hostess within a few days after the visit.
|“Bread and butter letters,” as they are called, are the stumbling-blocks of visitors. Why they are so difficult for nearly every one is hard to determine, unless it is that they are often written to persons with whom you are on formal terms, and the letter should be somewhat informal in tone. Very likely you have been visiting a friend, and must write to her mother, whom you scarcely know; perhaps you have been included in a large and rather formal house party and the hostess is an acquaintance rather than a friend; or perhaps you are a bride and have been on a first visit to relatives or old friends of your husband’s, but strangers, until now, to you.||81|
|As an example of the first, where you have been visiting a girl friend and must write a letter to her mother, you begin “Dear Mrs. Town” at the top of a page, and nothing in the forbidding memory of Mrs. Town encourages you to go further. It would be easy enough to write to Pauline, the daughter. Very well, write to Pauline then—on an odd piece of paper, in pencil, what a good time you had, how nice it was to be with her. Then copy your note composed to Pauline off on the page beginning “Dear Mrs. Town.” You have only to add, “love to Pauline, and thanking you again for asking me,” sign it “Very sincerely,” and there you are!||82|
|Don’t be afraid that your note is too informal; older people are always pleased with any expressions from the young that seem friendly and spontaneous. Never think, because you can not easily write a letter, that it is better not to write at all. The most awkward note that can be imagined is better than none—for to write none is the depth of rudeness, whereas the awkward note merely fails to delight.||83|
From a Young Woman to a Formal Hostess After a House Party
Dear Mrs. Norman:
To a Formal Hostess After an Especially Amusing Week-End
Dear Mrs. Worldly:
Dear Mrs. Worldly:
From a Young Couple
Dear Mrs. Town:
From a Bride to Her New Relatives-in-Law
A letter that was written by a bride after paying a first visit to her husband’s aunt and uncle won for her at a stroke the love of the whole family.
| This is the letter: |
Dear “Aunt Annie”:
|The above type of letter would not serve perhaps if Dick’s aunt had been a forbidding and austere type of woman; but even such a one would be far more apt to take a new niece to her heart if the new niece herself gave evidence of having one.||90|
After Visiting a Friend
From a Man Who Has Been Ill and Convalescing at a Friend’s House
From a Woman Who Has Been Visiting a Very Old Friend
I loved my visit with you, dear Mary; it was more than good to be with you and have a chance for long talks at your fireside. Don’t forget your promise to come here in May! I told Sam and Hettie you were coming, and now the whole town is ringing with the news, and every one is planning a party for you.
To an Acquaintance
After a visit to a formal acquaintance or when some one has shown you especial hospitality in a city where you are a stranger:
My dear Mrs. Duluth:
AN ENGRAVED CARD OF THANKS
An engraved card of thanks is proper only when sent by a public official to acknowledge the overwhelming number of congratulatory messages he must inevitably receive from strangers, when he has carried an election or otherwise been honored with the confidence of his State or country. A recent and excellent example follows:
| An engraved form of thanks for sympathy, also from one in public life, is presented in the following example: ||96|
|But remember: an engraved card sent by a private individual to a personal friend, is not “stylish” or smart, but rude. (See also engraved acknowledgment of sympathy, XXIV¶87.)||97|
THE LETTER OF INTRODUCTION
A letter of business introduction can be much more freely given than a letter of social introduction. For the former it is necessary merely that the persons introduced have business interests in common—which are much more easily determined than social compatibility, which is the requisite necessary for the latter. It is, of course, proper to give your personal representative a letter of introduction to whomever you send him.
|On the subject of letters of social introduction there is one chief rule:||99|
|Never ask for letters of introduction, and be very sparing in your offers to write or accept them.||100|
|Seemingly few persons realize that a letter of social introduction is actually a draft for payment on demand. The form might as well be: “The bearer of this has (because of it) the right to demand your interest, your time, your hospitality—liberally and at once, no matter what your inclination may be.”||101|
|Therefore, it is far better to refuse in the beginning, than to hedge and end by committing the greater error of unwarrantedly inconveniencing a valued friend or acquaintance.||102|
|When you have a friend who is going to a city where you have other friends, and you believe that it will be a mutual pleasure for them to meet, a letter of introduction is proper and very easy to write, but sent to a casual acquaintance—no matter how attractive or distinguished the person to be introduced—it is a gross presumption.||103|
THE MORE FORMAL NOTE OF INTRODUCTION
Dear Mrs. Marks:
| If Mr. Norman were introducing one man to another he would give his card to the former, inscribed as follows: ||105|
| Also Mr. Norman would send a private letter by mail, telling his friend that Mr. Gibbs is coming, as follows: |
INFORMAL LETTER OF INTRODUCTION
| At the same time a second and private letter of information is written and sent by mail: |
| Another example: |
| The private letter by mail to accompany the foregoing: |
|Directions for procedure upon being given (or receiving) a letter of introduction will be found at II¶71.||111|
THE THIRD PERSON
In other days when even verbal messages began with the “presenting of compliments,” a social note, no matter what its length or purport, would have been considered rude, unless written in the third person. But as in a communication of any length the difficulty of this form is almost insurmountable (to say nothing of the pedantic effect of its accomplishment), it is no longer chosen—aside from the formal invitation, acceptance and regret—except for notes to stores or subordinates. For example:
Will B. Stern & Co. please send (and charge) to Mrs. John H. Smith, 2 Madison Avenue,
| To a servant: |
Mrs. Eminent wishes Patrick to meet her at the station on Tuesday the eighth at 11.03. She also wishes him to have the shutters opened and the house aired on that day, and a fire lighted in the northwest room. No provisions will be necessary as Mrs. Eminent is returning to town on the 5.16.
| Letters in the third person are no longer signed unless the sender’s signature is necessary for identification, or for some action on the part of the receiver, such as |
Will Mr. Cash please give the bearer six yards of material to match the sample enclosed, and oblige,
THE LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION
A letter of recommendation for membership to a club is addressed to the secretary and should be somewhat in this form:
To the Secretary of the Town Club.
RECOMMENDATION OF EMPLOYEES
Although the written recommendation that is given to the employee carries very little weight, compared to the slip from the employment agencies where either “yes” or “no” has to be answered to a list of specific and important questions, one is nevertheless put in a trying position when reporting on an unsatisfactory servant.
|Either a poor reference must be given—possibly preventing a servant from earning her living—or one has to write what is not true. Consequently it has become the custom to say what one truthfully can of good, and leave out the qualifications that are bad (except in the case of a careless nurse, where evasion would border on the criminal).||117|
|That solves the poor recommendation problem pretty well; but unless one is very careful this consideration for the “poor” one, is paid for by the “good.” In writing for a very worthy servant therefore, it is of the utmost importance in fairness to her (or him) to put in every merit that you can think of, remembering that omission implies demerit in each trait of character not mentioned. All good references should include honesty, sobriety, capability, and a reason, other than their unsatisfactoriness, for their leaving. The recommendation for a nurse can not be too conscientiously written.||118|
|A lady does not begin a recommendation: “To whom it may concern,” nor “This is to certify,” although housekeepers and head servants writing recommendations use both of these forms, and “third person” letters, are frequently written by secretaries.||119|
| A lady in giving a good reference should write: ||120|
| The form of all recommendations is the same: |
.... has lived with me .... months/years as .... I have found him/her .... He/She is leaving because ....
LETTERS OF CONGRATULATION
LETTER OF CONGRATULATION ON ENGAGEMENT
Just a line, dear Jim, to tell you how glad we all are to hear of your happiness. Mary is everything that is lovely and, of course, from our point of view, we don’t think her exactly unfortunate either! Every good wish that imagination can think of goes to you from your old friends.
I can’t tell you, dearest Mary, of all the wishes I send for your happiness. Give Jim my love and tell him how lucky I think he is, and how much I hope all good fortune will come to you both.
CONGRATULATION ON SOME ESPECIAL SUCCESS
My dear Mrs. Brown:
| Or: |
Dear Mrs. Brown:
CONGRATULATING A FRIEND APPOINTED TO HIGH OFFICE
| Another example: |
THE LETTER OF CONDOLENCE
Intimate letters of condolence are like love letters, in that they are too sacred to follow a set form. One rule, and one only, should guide you in writing such letters. Say what you truly feel. Say that and nothing else. Sit down at your desk, let your thoughts dwell on the person you are writing to.
|Don’t dwell on the details of illness or the manner of death; don’t quote endlessly from the poets and Scriptures. Remember that eyes filmed with tears and an aching heart can not follow rhetorical lengths of writing. The more nearly a note can express a hand-clasp, a thought of sympathy, above all, a genuine love or appreciation of the one who has gone, the greater comfort it brings.||130|
|Write as simply as possible and let your heart speak as truly and as briefly as you can. Forget, if you can, that you are using written words, think merely how you feel—then put your feelings on paper—that is all.||131|
|Supposing it is a young mother who has died. You think how young and sweet she was—and of her little children, and, literally, your heart aches for them and her husband and her own family. Into your thoughts must come some expression of what she was, and what their loss must be!||132|
|Or maybe it is the death of a man who has left a place in the whole community that will be difficult, if not impossible, to fill, and you think of all he stood for that was fine and helpful to others, and how much and sorely he will be missed. Or suppose that you are a returned soldier, and it is a pal who has died. All you can think of is “Poor old Steve—what a peach he was! I don’t think anything will ever be the same again without him.” Say just that! Ask if there is anything you can do at any time to be of service to his people. There is nothing more to be said. A line, into which you have unconsciously put a little of the genuine feeling that you had for Steve, is worth pages of eloquence.||133|
|A letter of condolence may be abrupt, badly constructed, ungrammatical—never mind. Grace of expression counts for nothing; sincerity alone is of value. It is the expression, however clumsily put, of a personal something which was loved, and will ever be missed, that alone brings solace to those who are left. Your message may speak merely of a small incident—something so trifling that in the seriousness of the present, seems not worth recording, but your letter and that of many others, each bringing a single sprig, may plant a whole memory-garden in the hearts of the bereaved.||134|
EXAMPLES OF NOTES AND TELEGRAMS
As has been said above, a letter of condolence must above everything express a genuine sentiment. The few examples are inserted merely as suggestive guides for those at a loss to construct a short but appropriate note or telegram.
Conventional Note to an Acquaintance
I know how little the words of an outsider mean to you just now—but I must tell you how deeply I sympathize with you in your great loss.
Note or Telegram to a Friend
All my sympathy and all my thoughts are with you in your great sorrow. If I can be of any service to you, you know how grateful I shall be.
Telegram to a Very Near Relative or Friend
Words are so empty! If only I knew how to fill them with love and send them to you.
| Or: |
If love and thoughts could only help you, Margaret dear, you should have all the strength of both that I can give.
Letter Where Death Was Release
The letter to one whose loss is “for the best” is difficult in that you want to express sympathy but can not feel sad that one who has long suffered has found release. The expression of sympathy in this case should not be for the present death, but for the illness, or whatever it was that fell long ago. The grief for a paralysed mother is for the stroke which cut her down many years before, and your sympathy, though you may not have realized it, is for that. You might write:
Your sorrow during all these years—and now—is in my heart; and all my thoughts and sympathy are with you.
HOW TO ADDRESS IMPORTANT PERSONAGES