how to write a letter: avoiding impropriety
Much has changed in the world since Emily Post first published her advice on writing longer letters. Not least of which is something along the line of “what is ‘proper’ when it comes to our first opportunity to socialize with people to whom we’ve not been properly introduced. Especially those of the opposite sex”.
And while we like to think of this site as sufficient an invitation and appropriate introduction for everyone involved; we’d like to help clear this up.
Some remember a time when it wasn’t proper for a woman to wear a trouser suit (pantsuit). But that historic bridge was definitely crossed in 1967 when Lady Chichester showed up wearing one to watch her husband be knighted in a public ceremony.
And while there are others who continue to grouse at the unflattering design, trouser suits continue to be confidently worn by members of the Pantsuit Nation with no seeming ill effect. In fact it’s been nearly 25 years since Martha Pope the Sargeant at Arms made her decisive ruling.
So too , the art of writing letters has kept up with the times. Handwritten correspondence, being private and with little public discourse, often seems to remain unchanged. Our knowledge handed down from letters and comments of a different age.
In 2017, people have more freedom to write and mingle un-chaperoned than they did 100 years ago. And this is equally true of correspondence. But because of the private and personal nature of letter-writing, we can clearly understand how many see this as dangerous and uncharted water one dare not venture in.
Nonetheless we assure you that it’s possible to be guided from foundering on hidden shoals. Just as a solid grasp of seamanship has saved many a boat from a watery fate, some straightforward and very particular advice can ensure you a calm and prosperous voyage of pen and post.
And with non other than Emily Post as pilot and guide; you can correspond reliably and with dignity to anyone you choose. We offer the following summation to be read (regardless of gender) to help you safely on your way.
THE LETTER NO WOMAN SHOULD EVER WRITE
..If you are a young girl or woman, and are determined to write letters to an especial—or any other—man, no matter how innocent your intention may be, there are some things you must remember—remember so intensely that no situation in life, no circumstances, no temptation, can ever make you forget. They are a few set rules, not of etiquette, but of the laws of self-respect:
Never send a letter without reading it over and making sure that you have said nothing that can possibly “sound different” from what you intend to say.
Never so long as you live, write a letter to a man—no matter who he is—that you would be ashamed to see in a newspaper above your signature.
Remember that every word of writing is immutable evidence for or against you, and words which are thoughtlessly put on paper may exist a hundred years hence.
Never write anything that can be construed as sentimental.
Never take a man to task about anything; never ask for explanations; to do so implies too great an intimacy.
Never put a single clinging tentacle into writing. Say nothing ever, that can be construed as demanding, asking, or even being eager for, his attentions!
Always keep in mind and never for one instant forget that a third person, and that the very one you would most object to, may find and read the letter.
THE LETTER NO GENTLEMAN EVER WRITES
One of the fundamental rules for the behaviour of any man who has the faintest pretension to being a gentleman, is that never by word or gesture must he compromise a woman; he never, therefore, writes a letter that can be construed, even by a lawyer, as damaging to any woman’s good name.
His letters to an unmarried woman may express all the ardor and devotion that he cares to subscribe to, but there must be no hint of his having received especial favours from her.