Answer That Letter


We are told that the art of letter writing has been lost.

I don’t agree. I think it’s more a case that letter writing has adjusted itself to the changed conditions of present day life.

In business, we no longer write those highly formalized beginnings and long mealy-mouthed endings to letters which, even as we were writing them, we realized they meant nothing at all to anybody. The business letter today tends to be slightly formal still, but concise, with not a word wasted. We do know who is actually writing – or we think we do – so that we can reply to him/her personally. In the past, the only way we had of knowing the identity of the writer was if we were able to decipher the reference code.

And, of course, the e-mail has changed things still further. All sense of formality has, at last, been swept aside. The message is concise to a fault. It is quick, convenient, and a great saver of time. And they keep on coming like driven snow because people so want to do us the honor of sharing their latest thought with us.

But, I’m afraid, with it all has grown an urgency, a casualness, that isn’t always appreciated. Many messages these days, whether they are sent by snail-mail or e-mail, are simply ignored – carelessly consigned to oblivion.

And what is the sender to make of that, particularly if he/she has really tried to be friendly? All too often, the sender is left with the vaguely uncomfortable feeling that he/she has done something wrong, has offended the recipient in some way. And that’s a pity, for the sender will contract behind his/her shell and think twice about writing letters in future. That delightful letter of thanks or expressing pleasure about something or other will no longer be sent. So everyone becomes the loser.

No, the art of writing letters has not been lost. Only the art of answering them!

– Warren Roff-Marsh

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