Thursday, July 24, 2008

You've got mail!

Written correspondence is a vast topic that I cannot cover in one post (just as "communication" as a topic will be brought up over and over as it is a large category). We've talked about notes of thanks, and today we're going to talk about the "more difficult" correspondence.

I'm going to sidestep the proper form of letter writing today, we can come back to that. Here are some basics for general letter writing:
1. Use phrases typical of your speech. If you have favorite phrases, you may use them. Trying to write differently than you speak will result in your letter sounding nothing like you.
2. Occasionally insert the name of the person to whom you are writing. This makes the letter more familiar and affectionate.
3. Punctuation makes a letter exciting. Underlining a word or using an exclamation point at the end of a sentence can give your letter emphasis where it's needed. Don't overdo; a few of each of the punctuation marks will get your point across without inundating the letter.
4. Don't stop and think too long about how to say something. Go over it in your mind and then write it down, that way it will seem as though you are talking to your friend.
5. Shorter is always better than rambling on. Make your points quickly and then close your letter.

Never start a letter with something negative. I like the rule that if you must say or write something negative, it should be countered by five positives. I'm not good at this in my everyday life, but I strive to be. Emily Post talks about an English professor who said, "Begin at the beginning of what you have to say, go on until you have finished, and then stop". What a brilliant piece of advice; oh how I find myself rambling.

Emily Post says the best letters do the following:
  1. Share news and information. Mix good news with bad.
  2. Respond to the questions asked by the recipient in his or her letter.
  3. Ask about the recipient and or comment on news he or she has shared.
  4. Include only information you would be happy to have others see, or see yourself again in fifteen years. This means no idle gossip, no defamatory or unattractive remarks about others. Nothing that would prove embarrassing to you or someone else-letters have a way of resurfacing and/or reaching the hands of others.
How to close:
  1. In personal letters it is not necessary to close with "Sincerely". You may use "Love", "All my love", "Love Always", "Thinking of you", or "Fondly" depending on your relationship.
Letters that shouldn't be written:
  1. Letters of gloomy apprehension- No purpose is served by needlessly writing about misfortune or unhappiness- even to close family members. This is worrisome and upsetting to those who receive it.
  2. Letter where if they were to fall into the wrong hands, you would die of embarrassment.
  3. Angry letters- "Angry in a letter carries with it the effect of solidified fury"-Emily Post. Spoken words may fade way once the cause is forgiven, but the written word lasts forever. If you have feelings of anger to express that cannot happen in a personal setting, write them down on scratch paper and promptly destroy it. My mom always says that if you're not sure about a letter's content, keep it overnight, read it again in the morning, and then decide if you really want to send it (this would be even more true with emails since that send button is very final).
Other kinds of letters:
  1. Letters of apology- again, being brief is better than going on and on. Be sincere-think carefully before writing your letter.
  2. Thank you letters- we've gone over these.
  3. Letters of congratulations- acknowledge the person's accomplishment and close-that's all that is required.
  4. Letters of condolence- these are too personal to follow a form. The one and only rule for a condolence letter is to say what you truly feel. Say that and nothing else. Sit down as soon as you hear about the death and let your thoughts be with the person you are writing to.
  5. Greeting and Get well cards & letters- These would include Birthdays, Anniversaries, etc. They should always include a hand written message when possible-no matter how fantastic the printed card is.
Phew! That was just personal letters...and I wasn't complete in covering that either, but hopefully this gives you a good point from which to start. I feel these things are most important:
  1. When in doubt, hold the letter for 24 hours and re-read it again before sending it (true with emails as well).
  2. Say what you feel. Often times we get caught up in other emotions that are not our "true" emotions- but remember, if this is something that has made you angry, save that "primary emotion" and talk with that person face to face if at all possible.
  3. To write or not to write- if in doubt, since our correspondence should be positive- Absolutely! Always take that risk and think of yourself on the receiving end of that positive email, card, or letter.
I don't have a question for you today, it's too early! Have a lovely day (and holiday for those of you that celebrate the 24th of July).

No comments: