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Business And Personal Etiquette:
Habit That Annoy
Personal Appearance
Faring Forth To A Tea
At Dinner
Voice And Conversation

Correspondence And Letter Writing

( Originally Published 1940 )

Correspondence is metely conversation on paper. It reveals personality just as surely as any other act of a person reveals his personality. A letter that is carelessly worded, poorly spelled, and written upon the wrong kind of paper proclaims to the receiver that the writer either does not know the correct procedure or does not care, or both. A person who is uneducated and careless in correspondence is generally uneducated and careless in many other respects. If the person has had the proper training and still insists on ignoring the conventions of letter writing, he is just as likely to ignore the conventions in other matters. In other words, he cannot be trusted, he is not dependable, and the employer can never be quite sure that his instructions will be faithfully carried out.

The Letter Is Really a Personal Call

Letter writing today is more important than it has ever been before. A letter saves time and, if correctly, skillfully, and forcefully written, carries out the purpose of the personal call. Many times a letter is the introduction between two persons. Stilted or flowery language should be avoided in either business or social correspondence. Say exactly what you want to say as though you were talking to the person himself. While you are writing, keep in mind the person who is to receive the letter. Don't write anything that you wouldn't say or use trite expressions that you wouldn't use if you were making a personal call instead of a call by letter.

Note Paper

All paper for social use should be unruled, of good quality, and conservative in color and shape. White paper is always in good taste, but for women a delicate gray, soft-toned pearl or ivory, blue, green, or buff is also correct. The address, name of the house, a crest, a monogram, or initials may be printed or engraved upon the note paper. Note paper that folds once or goes into the envelope without folding is in good taste. Envelopes most nearly square are best for social use. The note paper and envelopes should be of the same color and quality.

The same sized paper may be used for all social correspondence, but some persons prefer a smaller size for notes. If a short note is written on regulation-sized paper, however, wider margins than usual should be left. Correspondence cards-cards cut to the size of the envelope-and folded-over visiting cards, known as "in.formals," may also be used for notes.

A man's note paper is slightly larger than a woman's, and, as a rule, is white, cream, or gray in color. His address, initials, or crest may be printed or engraved upon the paper.

Page Sequence

A strictly formal note should be written entirely on the first page. If the note takes two pages, use the first and third. In friendly letters, the four pages may be used in sequence; or the first and fourth, then the second and third pages written lengthwise.

Formal Notes

The typewriter is correct for friendly letters but not for invitations, regrets, or acceptances; formal social notes should never be typewritten. In social correspondence, the address of the sender should not be put on the face of the envelope.

Formal notes are always worded in the third person, the writer referring to himself and to the receiver of the note by name. Names are written in full; initials are not used. The formal note may be handwritten on note paper or engraved on cards, but the form is exactly the- same in either case. "R.s.v.p." or "R.S.V.P." (for the French, Repondez s'il vous plait, "Answer, if you please") may be added to the formal note. This request is often omitted, for replies are expected to invitations to dinner, bridge, or dancing; it is not necessary to reply to invitations to teas or receptions. Formal invitations are sent two weeks in advance. Answers should be sent within two days after the receipt of the invitations. The hostess may then without embarrassment invite others to take the places of those who were unable to accept.


Mr. and Mrs. John Paul Green request the pleasure o f Miss Mary Graham's company at dinner on Friday, the third o f May at half after seven o'clock

Formal acceptances and regrets must always be handwritten.


Miss Mary Graham accepts with pleasure Mr. and Mrs. John Paul Green's kind invitation to dinner on Friday, the third o f May at half after seven o'clock

Formal regrets may or may not give the reason for being unable to accept, although it is considered more gracious to include a brief explanation. The hour is not repeated on the note of regret.


Miss Mary Graham regrets that a previous engagement prevents her accepting Mr. and Mrs. John Paul Green's kind invitation to dinner on Friday, the third of May


Miss Mary Graham regrets that she is unable to accept Mr. and Mrs. John Paul Green's kind invitation to dinner on Friday, the third of May


Mr. and Mrs. John Paul Green request the pleasure o f Miss Mary Graham's company at a dance on Saturday evening, the eighth o f April at nine o'clock The Oakview Country Club

Visiting Cards

A woman's visiting card is about 2 3/4 inches long and 2 inches high. If the name is unusually long, however, the card may be larger. The usual size for a man's card is from 2 2/3 to 3 1/2 inches long, and from 1 1/2 to 1 1/3 inches high, according to the length of the name. To be entirely correct, the name on a man's or a woman's visiting card should be spelled out in full. For those who live in cities, the address may be engraved in small-sized letters, in the lower right-hand corner of the card.

A young girl's card is smaller than a woman's card, and usually does not have "Miss" before the name if she is under fourteen years of age. A young man does not have "Mr." before his name until he has finished high school, and many young men omit "Mr." from their cards until they leave college.

When a visiting card is enclosed with a gift to an intimate friend, or a card has a message written on it, the title is crossed off. It is not correct for a man to use his business card for social purposes.

Visiting-Card Invitations

Invitations for bridge, informal dances, and teas are often written on visiting cards. If there is to be a guest of honor, her name is handwritten above the engraved name of the hostess. Other information is written below the name. The answer to such an invitation may be written in the third person on note paper or on a visiting card.

Two or more hostesses often entertain together. If the invitation has two or more names on it, the receiver sends an acceptance or a regret to the one at whose house the party is given. If the party is at a hotel or club, however, all the names are put on the envelope in the order in which they appear on the invitation. The acceptance or regret is sent to the one whose name appears first on the envelope.

Business Letters

The business letter represents a firm and should make the desired impression. It must be written on highquality paper, preferably white. The firm's name, address, and usually something to indicate the firm's business are printed or engraved at the top of the sheet. This is called the "letterhead." The standard business letter sheet is M' inches wide and 11 inches long. Some firms, however, are now using sheets 71$ inches wide and 10M inches long. Half sheets are not in favor because they may become lost in the files, which are made to accommodate sheets of standard size.


If letterhead paper is not used, the heading should consist of the street address on the first line, the city and state on the second line, and the date on the third line. It is better not to use abbreviations in the heading, unless doing so increases the artistic or practical values. When the heading is placed to the right of the center of the page, the longest line should not extend beyond the right margin. The last line of the heading of a medium-length, one-page letter looks well if placed about four lines above the inside address.



416 Seventh Street 310 Main Street, Omaha, Nebraska Ames, Iowa, November 23, 19- July 15, 19-.

Do not repeat the address if letterhead paper is used. The only line to be written, in the heading, then, is the date line. This line should be written wherever it will balance best with the letterhead. It may be centered under the letterhead, written so it will end flush with the right margin, or arranged in some other attractive manner. No matter how unimportant the letter may seem, be sure to date it.

Inside Address

The blocked style is now preferred to the indented style because it saves the stenographer's time. The tabulator stops have to be changed for every change of margin when the indented style is used. The names of the city and state should be written in full, separated by a comma. A business title may be written either at the end of the first line or at the beginning of the second, whichever gives the better balance:

Mr. James S. Madison Mr. John &H. Ray, Manager Manager, Oak Oil Company Brown Furniture Company Kansas City, Missouri Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The form is exactly the same for the indented inside address except that each line after the first is indented five spaces beyond the beginning of the line above it.

Correct Titles

Be sure to use the correct title with a personal name. A personal title, such as Professor, Dr., or Mr., precedes a personal name; a business title, such as Treasurer, Manager, or Superintendent, follows a personal name. Two titles meaning the same thing, as Dr. and Ph.D., should not be used together.

"Attention" Line

When the letter is addressed to a company, there may be an "Attention" line. The position of this information on letters varies. The words may be even with the left margin, centered two lines below the inside address, or on the line with the salutation, for example.

The Green Oil Company 2922 Market Street Kansas City, Missouri

Attention of Mr. John Green



The Green Oil Company 2922 Market Street Kansas City, Missouri

Attention: Mr. John Green



The Green Oil Company 2922 Market Street Kansas City, Missouri

Gentlemen: Attention of Mr. John Green


The salutation of a letter is written even with the left margin, two lines below the inside address or the "Attention" line. The salutation for a man is "Dear Sir," "Dear Mr. Brown," or "My dear Mr. Brown"; for a woman, "Dear Madam," "Dear Mrs. Rhoades," or "My dear Mrs. Rhoades"; for a firm consisting of men, "Gentlemen," never "Dear Sirs"; and for a firm consisting of women, "Mesdames," or "Ladies." A letter bearing an "Attention" line, and directed to a firm, must still have the salutation, "Gentlemen." The salutation in a business letter is followed by a colon; in a friendly letter, by a comma.

"Subject" Line

If the word "Subject" is not printed or engraved on the letterhead and a "Subject" line is needed, the line may be centered in the space between the last line of the inside address and the salutation, or two lines below the salutation. If there is an "Attention" line, the "Subject" line should be centered two lines below the salutation.

Body of Letter

The body of the letter commences on the second line below the salutation. If the blocked style is used, each line in a paragraph begins at the left margin and is single spaced, a double space being used between paragraphs. If the indented, single-spaced style is used, indent each paragraph five spaces with a double space between paragraphs. A double-spaced letter never should be blocked; each paragraph should be indented. Also, no extra line should be left between paragraphs in a double-spaced letter.

Complimentary Close

The complimentary close is typed on the second line below the body of the letter. It should commence near the center of the line or a few spaces to the right of the center, and should not extend beyond the right margin. The complimentary closes "Yours truly," "Very truly yours," and "Yours very truly," are somewhat more formal than "Yours sincerely," "Sincerely yours," or "Cordially yours:" "Respectfully yours," or "Yours respectfully," may be used when the letter is written to a superior in a business organization. Only the first word of the complimentary close should be capitalized. The complimentary close should be followed by a comma.

Company Signature

The company name is usually written in capitals two lines below the complimentary close. If the letter is blocked, the company name is blocked with the complimentary close. The name of the person signing the letter is sometimes typed four or five lines below the typed name of the firm. His official position may be typed on the same line or on the following one. The pen-written signature then appears under the firm name and above the typed name.

Very truly yours, SAME OIL COMPANY (Pen-written signature) J. A. Green, President

If the writer, and not the company, is to be regarded as responsible for the contents of the letter, any reference to the company and the signer's official position should be omitted.

Very truly yours, (Pen-written signature) J. A. Green

Business Signature

A person's business signature should always be written in the same way. No titles except "Miss" or "Mrs." in parentheses should precede a signature. An unmarried woman should put "Miss" in parentheses before her name if she thinks it is necessary, as "(Miss) Ray Morris"; otherwise, it is assumed that the writer is unmarried. A married woman should sign her own name, as "Mary R. Morris"; but her name may be preceded by "Mrs." in parentheses or by her married name written in parentheses below the signature:

(Mrs.) Mary R. Morris or Mary R. Morris (Mrs. Ira C. Morris)


The dictator's initials followed by the stenographer's initials are usually placed even with the left margin on the same line with, or one or two lines below, the typed signature. The dictator's initials are written first; then the stenographer's. The colon often is used between the dictator's and the stenographer's initials, as "AR: CB." If there is an enclosure, it is indicated by the abbreviation "Enc. " or the word "Enclosure," typed even with the left margin, one or two lines below the dictator's and stenographer's initials. If there are two or more enclosures, the proper figure or a descriptive word or two should appear after the word or abbreviation.

Second Page

The second page of a business letter should be written on a plain sheet without a letterhead. The firm name is sometimes printed at the top of this sheet. The second page must be of the same size and quality as the letterhead sheet. The heading for the second page should begin approximately on the sixth line and should contain the name or the initials of the addressee, the date, and the number of the page:

Mr: Robert Green 2 May 5, 19--:

OR: Manning & Lee; Inc: Page 2 July 30, 19-


Mr: RG 2, May 5, 19--

The letter is continued three lines below this heading.

Folding the Letter

1. Place the letter face up on the table.

2. Fold the bottom of the sheet to within 1/2 inch of the top of the sheet.

3. Fold the sheet from the right to the left, one-third of its width.

4. Fold the left edge to within 1/2 inch from the fold made in Step 3.

Inserting in Envelope

Take the letter in the right hand; without turning it, place it in the envelope, which is held in the left hand. The last crease made in the letter will be at the bottom of the envelope.


The ordinary business envelope is 3B inches wide and 6:2 inches long. The first line of the address should be just below the center of the envelope, and should be typed so as to be approximately centered in the horizontal measure of the envelope or a little to the right of this center. The return address should be placed in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope.

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