how to write a letter: the letter that everyone loves to receive

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As mentioned in the previous post, the information below concerning longer letters has been taken from chapter 28 of Emily Post’s 1922 book on Etiquette. It contains pertinent advice to any letter writer direct from the golden age of handwritten personal mail.

THE LETTER THAT EVERYONE LOVES TO RECEIVE

The letter we all love to receive is one that carries so much of the writer’s personality that she seems to be sitting beside us, looking at us directly and talking just as she really would, could she have come on a magic carpet, instead of sending her proxy in ink-made characters on mere paper.

Let us suppose we have received one of those perfect letters from Mary, one of those letters that seem almost to have written themselves, so easily do the words flow, so bubbling and effortless is their spontaneity. There is a great deal in the letter about Mary, not only about what she has been doing, but what she has been thinking, or perhaps, feeling. And there is a lot about us in the letter—nice things, that make us feel rather pleased about something that we have done, or are likely to do, or that some one has said about us. We know that all things of concern to us are of equal concern to Mary, and though there will be nothing of it in actual words, we are made to feel that we are just as secure in our corner of Mary’s heart as ever we were. And we finish the letter with a very vivid remembrance of Mary’s sympathy, and a sense of loss in her absence, and a longing for the time when Mary herself may again be sitting on the sofa beside us and telling us all the details her letter can not but leave out.

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