Friday, November 26, 2010

Read the Letter Writing Chapters in Etiquette.

Etiquette by Emily Post should be required reading. I've only read a couple of chapters online, but so far I love it. I also love the idea of etiquette. Probably following all her rules from the 1920s would make you more weird than proper, but a little bit more etiquette in the world couldn't hurt. I, like most young men my age, have zero etiquette and until recently have been just fine with that. Reading the letter writing chapters made me realize that I may have a thing or two to learn about interpersonal communication and relationships. Here are some excerpts that will give you a feel for the book...

THE ART of general letter-writing in the present day is shrinking until the letter threatens to become a telegram, a telephone message, a post-card. Since the events of the day are transmitted in newspapers with far greater accuracy, detail, and dispatch than they could be by the single effort of even Voltaire himself, the circulation of general news, which formed the chief reason for letters of the stage-coach and sailing-vessel days, has no part in the correspondence of to-day.

Back then she was worried about the telegram or post card replacing the letter. What would she have thought of the fate of the letter had she known about email, texting, cell phones, blogs, and Facebook?

The difference though, between letter-writers of the past and of the present, is that in other days they all tried to write, and to express themselves the very best they knew how—to-day people don’t care a bit whether they write well or ill. Mental effort is one thing that the younger generation of the “smart world” seems to consider it unreasonable to ask—and just as it is the fashion to let their spines droop until they suggest nothing so much as Tenniel’s drawing in Alice in Wonderland of the caterpillar sitting on the toad-stool—so do they let their mental faculties relax, slump and atrophy.
Those who use long periods of flowered prolixity and pretentious phrases—who write in complicated form with meaningless flourishes, do not make an impression of elegance and erudition upon their readers, but flaunt instead unmistakable evidence of vainglory and ignorance.

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