Thursday, September 10, 2009

1. From the President in his cabinet to the laborer in the street; from the lady in her parlor to the servant in her kitchen; from the millionaire to the beggar; from the emigrant to the settler; from every country and under every combination of circumstances, letter writing in all its forms and varieties is most important to the advancement, welfare and happiness of the human family.

2. Education.—The art of conveying thought through the medium of written language is so valuable and so necessary, a thorough knowledge of the practice must be desirable to every one. For merely to write a good letter requires the exercise of much of the education and talent of any writer.

3. A Good Letter.—A good letter must be correct in every mechanical detail, finished in style, interesting in substance, and intelligible in construction. Few there are who do not need write them; yet a letter perfect in detail is rarer than any other specimen of composition.

4. Penmanship.—It is folly to suppose that the faculty for writing a good hand is confined to any particular persons. There is no one who can write at all, but what can write well, if only the necessary pains are practiced. Practice makes perfect. Secure a few copy books and write an hour each day. You will soon write a good hand.

5. Write Plainly.—Every word of even the most trifling document should be written in such clear characters that it would be impossible to mistake it for another word, or the writer may find himself in the position of the Eastern merchant who, writing to the Indies for five thousand mangoes, received by the next vessel five hundred monkies, with a promise of more in the next cargo.

6. Haste.—Hurry is no excuse for bad writing, because any one of sense knows that everything hurried is liable to be ruined. Dispatch may be acquired, but hurry will ruin everything. If, however, you must write slowly to write well, then be careful not to hurry at all, for the few moments you will gain by rapid writing will never compensate you for the disgrace of sending an ill-written letter.

7. Neatness.—Neatness is also of great importance. A fair white sheet with handsomely written words will be more welcome to any reader than a blotted, bedaubed page covered with erasures and dirt, even if the matter in each be of equal value and interest. Erasures, blots, interlineations always spoil the beauty of any letter.

8. Bad Spelling.—When those who from faulty education, or forgetfulness are doubtful about the correct spelling of any word, it is best to keep a dictionary at hand, and refer to it upon such occasions. It is far better to spend a few moments in seeking for a doubtful word, than to dispatch an ill-spelled letter, and the search will probably impress the spelling upon the mind for a future occasion.

9. Carelessness.—Incorrect spelling will expose the most important or interesting letter to the severest sarcasm and ridicule. However perfect in all other respects, no epistle that is badly spelled will be regarded as the work of an educated gentleman or lady. Carelessness will never be considered, and to be ignorant of spelling is to expose an imperfect education at once.

10. An Excellent Practice.—After writing a letter, read it over carefully, correct all the errors and re-write it. If you desire to become a good letter writer, improve your penmanship, improve your language and grammar, re-writing once or twice every letter that you have occasion to write, whether on social or business subjects.

11. Punctuation.—A good rule for punctuation is to punctuate where the sense requires it, after writing a letter and reading it over carefully you will see where the punctuation marks are required, you can readily determine where the sense requires it, so that your letter will convey the desired meaning.

12. Correspondence.—There is no better school or better source for self-improvement than a pleasant correspondence between friends. It is not at all difficult to secure a good list of correspondents if desired. The young people who take advantage of such opportunities for self-improvement will be much more popular in the community and in society. Letter writing cultivates the habit of study; it cultivates the mind, the heart, and stimulates self-improvement in general.

13. Folding.—Another bad practice with those unaccustomed to corresponding is to fold the sheet of writing in such a fantastic manner as to cause the receiver much annoyance in opening it. To the sender it may appear a very ingenious performance, but to the receiver it is only a source of vexation and annoyance, and may prevent the communication receiving the attention it would otherwise merit.

14. Simple Style.—The style of letter writing should be simple and unaffected, not raised on stilts and indulging in pedantic displays which are mostly regarded as cloaks of ignorance. Repeated literary quotations, involved sentences, long-sounding words and scraps of Latin, French and other languages are, generally speaking, out of place, and should not be indulged in.

15. The Result.—A well written letter has opened the way to prosperity for many a one, has led to many a happy marriage and constant friendship, and has secured many a good service in time of need; for it is in some measure a photograph of the writer, and may inspire love or hatred, regard or aversion in the reader, just as the glimpse of a portrait often determine us, in our estimate, of the worth of the person represented. Therefore, one of the roads to fortune runs through the ink bottle, and if we want to attain a certain end in love, friendship or business, we must trace out the route correctly with the pen in our hand.