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Modern Business 







Modern Business 



Dean, New York University School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance 

Associate Editors: 


Titles Authors 

Business AND THE Man Joseph French Johnson 

Economics OF Business j Joseph French Johnson 

i Frank L. McVey 

Organization and Control Charles W.Gersten berg 

Factory and Office Administration . . Lee Galloway 

Marketing Methods • Ralph Starr Butler 

Advertising Principles ....... Herbert F. De Bower 

Salesmanship and Sales Management . . John G. Jones 

Credit and the Credit Man Peter P. Wahlstad 

Accounting Principles Thomas W. Mitchell 

Cost Finding Dexter S. Kimball 

Corporation Finance William H. Walker 

Business Correspondence Harrison McJohnston 

Advertising Campaigns Mac Martin 

Inland Traffic Simon J. McLean 

Foreign Trade and Shipping Erich W. Zimmermann 

Banking Principles AND Practice . . . E.L. Stewart Patterson 

Domestic and Foreign Exchange . . . E.L. Stewart Patterson 

Insurance AND Real Estate .... • | ^X'^LLne"^'' 

Merchandising John B. Swinney 

The Exchanges and Speculation .... Albert W. Atwood 

Accounting Practice and Auditing . . . John T. Madden 

Financial and Business Statements . . . Leo Greendlinger 

Investment Edward D. Jones 

Commercial Law ........ Walter S. Johnson 



Instructor in Br^iuess English and Salesmanship, 
University of Illinois 








The title and contents of this volume, 
as well as the business arrowing out of 
it, are further protected by laws re- 
lating: to trade marks and unfair trade. 

All rights reserved, including transla- 
tion into Scandinavian. 

Registered trade mark, Reg. U. S. Pat. Off., 
Marca Registrada, M. de F. 

Made in U. S. A. 


Business correspondence is a practical art. As 
such, it is best learned in actual experience. But ex- 
perience may or may not be a good teacher. There- 
fore, the aim of this volume is to supplement 
experience to the extent of helping the reader as much 
as possible, and as rapidly as possible, to improve, 
thru his daily experience as a correspondent, in the 
art of writing effective letters. 

His improvement will depend largely on the kind of 
thinking he puts into his experience. The best kind of 
thinking as a means of improvement in pursuing a 
practical art is always that which reaches the funda- 
mental principles underlying the success of those who 
are expert practitioners in the art. For this reason 
an attempt is made in this Text to point out the more 
fundamental principles involved in the art of writing 
letters that get the results desired by the writer, and 
to show by means of examples how these principles 
are applied. Only such fundamental principles as 
apply to the writing of all types of letters are con- 

In nearly all cases these fundamental ideas are 
principles of good salesmanship. The purely rhetor- 
ical aspects of business correspondence are considered 


only in so far as they have weight in making letters 
effective. Considerable attention is given to direct 
sales correspondence, because nearly all the funda- 
mental principles found in successful selling letters 
apply to letters ordinarily not classed as sales letters. 
The attitude taken here, however, is that all letters 
are selling letters in so far as they attempt to make 
the reader think and act as the writer desires. Sales- 
manship is essential to the accomplishment of this 

The letters used as illustrations are taken from ac- 
tual business practice. The fundamental ideas pre- 
sented are in accordance with the views of business 
executives who are, without doubt, expert in the art 
of writing effective letters. The author is indebted 
especially to the following: Mr. Frank S. Cunning- 
ham, Vice President of Butler Brothers, Chicago; 
Mr. George B. Everett, General Office Manager of 
the National Cloak and Suit Company, New York; 
Mr. L. G. Wright, Managing Editor of Printers' 
Ink, New York; Mr. Nat Olds, Julius Kayser Com- 
pany, New York ; and to Mr. Henry Schott, Public- 
ity Director, Montgomery Ward & Company, Chi- 

Harrison McJohnstox. 

Urbana, Illinois, 




1. Modem Business Correspondence 1 

2. Place of Correspondence in Salesmanship . . S 

3. "Keystone" Principle 3 

4. Necessity of Practical Imagination .... 3 

5. . Application of This Principle 5 

6. Purpose of Business Letters 6 

7. How Business Letters Differ 7 

8. Selling Sense Can Be Developed ..... 8 

9. Knowledge A^ital to Successful Writing ... 9 

10. Specific Information 9 

11. Human Nature and Selling Principles . . .11 

12. Market and Product 12 

13. Writer's Mental Attitude 13 

14. Letters That Are Effective; a Summary . . 14 


1. Getting the Reader's Point of View in Any Occu- 

pation 16 

2. Real Cause of Ineffective Writing .... 17 

3. Reader's Point of View in Practice .... 18 

4. Knowledge of Conditions and of Psychology 19 

5. Another Example 20 

6. Classification of Mailing List 21 

7. Right Combination for Effective Criticism . . 22 





8. A Successful Sales Letter 24 

9. Other Types of Letters 26 

10. Acquiring the Reader's Point of View ... 28 

11. Reading Between the Lines . . , .29 


1. Application of Fundamental Principles ... 32 

2. Interesting the Reader 32 

Si. Selecting the Chief Interest 33 

4. Repetition Dulls Effect "35 

5. Timeliness Gains Interest 36 

6. What Is Said— The Big Factor 38 

7. The Beginning of the Letter 38 

8. Close Logical Connection Sustains Interest . . 39 

9. Credibility, the Mark of a Good Letter . . 40 

10. How to Gain the Reader's Confidence ... 41 

11. Perplexing Ethical Problem 42 

12. Example of a Letter That Commands Belief . 42 

13. The "You" Attitude and the Use of the Word 

"You" 44 

14. Letters That Lack Credibility 44 

16. A Glaring Example 45 

16. Lack of Credibility an Easy Mistake to Make . 46 

17. Definiteness 47 

18. Courtesy 48 

19. "Down to Business" 49 


1. The Thought and Its Presentation .... 51 

2. W^hat Is Effective Presentation? 51 

3. Business and Literary English 52 



4. Characteristics of Business and of Literary Eng- 

lish 5S 

5. Clearness . . . . . . . . ... 53 

6. How to Gain Clearness 54 

7. Simplicity' and Directness 55 

8. Concreteness 56 

9. Analyzing the Successful Letter 59 . 

10. Personality 60 

11. Individuality and Originality 61 

12. Naturalness 64 

13. Economy . . . . 65 

14. Correctness Essential to Effective Presentation . 66 

15. Dictation 66 


1. Lack of Good Salesmanship 68 

2. Meaning of the Word "Plan" 68 

3. Function of a Selling Letter 69 

4. Addressee Wants Facts 70 

5. Avoiding the Obvious 71 

6. Why This Letter Failed 72 

7. When to Talk Price 74 

8. Holding the Reader's Viewpoint in Mind ... 75 

9. Examples of Other Selling Principles .... 77 

10. Know Human Nature 79 

11. Why Adjustment to the Reader Is Often Difficult 79 



1. Value of Knowing Why a Letter Makes Good 82 

2. Conciseness and Good Nature 84 

3. Deference 85 



4. Vivid Expression 87 

5. Liveliness 90 

6. The Thought 92 

7. Special Inducements 93 

8. Example of a Good Plan 94 

9. Merchandise Letters 97 

10. After the Sale 99 

11. Rules of the Art 101 



1. Classification of General Business Correspondence 103 

2. "Routine" Letters 104 

3. Form Paragraphs and Freshness of Thought . .106 

4. How to Retain Freshness of Thought and Expres- 

sion 106 

5. Correspondence in the Order Department . . .108 

6. Case of a Delayed Shipment 110 

7. Right Kind of Letter Ill 

8. Risk in Following Rules 112 

9. Letters of Inquiry, and Answers . . . . .113 

10. Comparison of These Letters 115 

11. To Please Most or to Displease Least . . . .116 

12. Writing Effective Inquiries and Requests . . .117 

13. Miscellaneous Types of Letters 118 



1. Difficult Types of Letters 120 

2. One Solution of This Problem 120 

3. Executive Correspondence 122 

4. Writing Instructions to Employes . . . .123 



5. Interdepartmental and Intercompany Correspond- 

ence . 125 

6. Formal Instructions 127 

7. Buying Letters That Sell 128 

8. Essential Considerations in Buying Letters . . 129 

9. Letters That Follow Up Orders 131 

10. Contract Letters 133 

11. Telegrams, Cablegrams and Wireless Messages . 134< 



1. Adjustment Letters and Salesmanship . . . 138 

2. The Right Attitude 139 

3. It Pays to Welcome All Complaints .... 140 

4. Other Requirements 141 

5. What Constitutes True Courtesy.? . . . .142 

6. Over-Anxiety to Please 144 

7. Should an Adjustment Letter Be 'Long? . . .146 

8. An "Educational" Adjustment Letter . . . .147 

9. Adjustment Should Be Fair to All Concerned . 149 

10. Building the Adjustment Letter 151 

11. Classifications of Adjustment Letters .... 152 

12. Simpler Classes of Adjustment Letters . . . 154 

13. List of Practical Pointers . 156 



1. Highly Specialized Letters 158 

2. General Purpose of Credit and Collection Letters 158 

3. Being Too Diplomatic a Mistake . . . . .160 
4; General Requirements in Writing Effective Credit 

Letters 163 

5. Use of "Educational" Credit Letters . . . .164 



6. A Letter Refusing to Allow Discount .... 165 

7. Collection Letters ; General Requirements . . . 167 

8. Use of Form Letters 169 

9. Collecting Retail Accounts 171 

10. Suggestions for Retail Collections 173 


1. Trained Correspondents in Modern Business . .179 

2. Acquired Qualifications 179 

3. Results to Be Gained from Training .... 180 
4). Personal Note Neccssarj' in Big Business . . . 181 

5. Standardizing Correspondence 182 

6. Right Kind of Timber 183 

7. Supervision of Correspondence 18-l< 

8. Conferences on Correspondence 185 

9. How to Read a Letter 187 

10. Conferences with Individuals 188 

11. Reading Method of Training 189 

12. Educational Principles Involved 190 

13. Manuals of Instruction to Correspondents . . 192 

14. Contents of a Manual for Correspondents . .195 

15. Training in Foreign Correspondence . . . .198 


1. Successful Letters Built on Good Salesmanship . 199 

2. No Fixed Process 199 

3. Fundamental Steps 200 

4. Facts and Other Material 202 

5. What Facts Shall Be Used? .202 

6. Building Routine Letters 203 



7. Have Definite Knowledge of Impressions to Be 

Made 203 

8. A Self-Question Chart 205 

9. Use of this Chart .208 

10. Impressions Desired 209 

11. Beginning of the Letter '. 210 

12. Reader's Questions Determine Arrangement . . 212 

13. Picturing and Proving the Results of Acceptance 218 

14. Focusing the Appeal Directly on the Reader . .215 

1 5. Close of this Letter 216 


1. Parts of a Letter 219 

2. Point of Contact 220 

3. Credibility in the Ojjcning 221 

4). Abrupt Openings Best 222 

5. Indirect Opening 223 

6. Main Problem 225 

7. Body of the Letter 226 

8. Why This Letter Was Successful 227 

9. Belief 229 

10. Authority 230 

11. Convincing Presentation 233 

12. Unity of Purpose 234 

13. Pitfalls in Closing 235 


1. "Quality" of the Lead 237 

2. Over-Eagerness to Get an Order 237 

3. Form Letters That Find Leads 238 

4. Getting a Voluntary Expression of Interest . . 239 

5. When to Ask for the Order . . . . . . 240 



6. Description That Sells Goods .241 

7. Letters Accompan^'ing Sales Literature . . . 242 

8. Why These Letters Were Successful .... 244 

9. Inclosures 246 

10. What Inclosiwes Are Necessary'.'' 246 

11. Arrangement of Inclosures 247 

12. Meeting a Difficult Situation 248 

13. Mail and Personal Sales Cooperation .... 249 

14. Function of Advance Letters 250 

15. Follow-up Letters 251 

16. Letters That Aid in Effecting the Sale . . .254 



1. Handling the Mail 256 

2. Assorting the Mail 258 

3. Form Letters and Form Paragraphs .... 258 

4. When the Use of Form Paragraphs Is Inadvisable 259 

5. When the Use of Form Paragraphs Is Advisable 260 

6. Slip System 261 

7. Knowledge of Mailing List 262 

8. Follow-up Systems 263 

9. Filing Systems 266 


1. Value of Good Form 267 

2. Uniformity of Mechanical Make-Up .... 268 

3. Originality and Custom 268 

4. The Parts of a Letter .270 

5. Letterhead " 270 

6. Heading and Address 272 

7. Titles . . - . 274 

8. Salutations 276 



9. Forms Used in Writing Official Letters . . . 277 

10. Close of the Letter 278 

11. Reader's Point of View . 279 


1. Value of Correct English . . .... 281 

2. Technical and Non-technical Errors .... 282 

3. Words 283 

4. Choosing the Right Word 283 

5. Simplicity in Diction 284 

6. Sentence Structure 286 

7. Unity 288 

8. Coherence 289 

9. Emphasis 292 

10. Paragraph Structure 294 

11. Grammar and Rhetoric Are Specialized Subjects 296 



1. Purpose of the Business Report 298 

2. Gathering Data 299 

3. Preliminary Outline 301 

4. Analyzing the Data 303 

5. Contents of the Report 305 

6. Form and Expression 306 

7. Introduction 307 

8. Body 308 

9. Conclusions and Recommendations .... 309 
10. Specimen Report 312 




1. Modern business correspondence. — The exigen- 
cies of competition in modern business have brought 
the business letter into a new and brighter hght. 
Business correspondence is now, more than ever be- 
fore, an instrument of salesmanship. Progressive 
business concerns are beginning to require that all let- 
ters be written with careful consideration of their pos- 
sible influence on sales. This attitude, which is prac- 
tical and sound, is due in part to a new conception of 
the scope of salesmanship. 

As explained in the Text on "Salesmanship," the 
art of selling has the most varied uses. Whenever one 
man influences another to think and act as he desires, 
salesmanship is practised. Business correspondence 
is written to cause the reader to think and act as the 
writer desires, and in this sense all business letters are 
selling letters. This practical point of view on busi- 
ness correspondence causes the correspondent to give 
utmost consideration to the efect his letter will have 
on the reader. Effectiveness rather than correctness 
is his aim. He is interested in good form, technic 

XII— 2 1 


and rhetorical correctness of expression only in so far 
as they help him to produce the desired effect upon 
the reader. 

The effect desired is always one that will have, either 
directly or indirectly, a favorable influence on sales. 
Effective letters, therefore, are those that tend either 
to promote sales directly or to increase the good-will 
that leads to increased sales. Whether or not this 
influence is direct or indirect makes little difference. 
The point is, that in business everj^ letter has some in- 
fluence on sales. The degree of influence any letter 
has in promoting sales depends on the amount of good 
salesmanship used in writing it. 

2. Place of correspondence in salesmanship. — The 
basic principles involved in writing effective letters, 
therefore, are the principles which govern success- 
ful salesmanship. The correspondent is only one de- 
gree less a salesman than the firm's traveling rep- 
resentative. The following analysis of the scope of 
salesmanship shows the place of correspondence in 
this field. 

I. Oral salesmanship: 

A. When the seller goes to the buyer 

B. When the buyer goes to the seller. 

II. Written salesmanship: 

A. When a piece of copy is written to an 


B. When a piece of copy is written to more 

than one person. 


In this classification all general business correspond- 
ence is included under II. A, while the form letter 
would fall under II. B, in close relation to advertising 
copy. But the point here is that business letters are 
effective because they are written by writers who either 
consciously or unconsciously apply principles of good 
salesmanship in their choice of what is said and how 
it is said. 

3. "Keystone" principle. — Perhaps the first of all 
the selling principles that apply in writing effective 
letters is that everything written should be criticised 
from the standpoint of its effect on the reader. When 
a young man closed a letter of application for a 
position with the statement, "I hope to hear from 
you because I want to connect with a business located 
in your city," he did not take the point of view of the 
prospective employer. He did not foresee the effect 
of indefiniteness, or the advantage of an indication of 
interest in the particular job that was open. If he 
had read over his letter and had applied, as best he 
could, the prospective employer's point of view, he 
might easily have foreseen the ineffectiveness of his 
closing statement. Possessing and using a knowledge 
of the reader's point of view may be termed the "key- 
stone" principle in the art of writing effective letters. 

4. Necessity of practical imagination. — Any letter 
will serve to show the application or the nonapplica- 
tion of the principle of "practical imagination." The 
following illustration happens to be a sales letter, but 
the principle applies in writing all letters. If there is 


a "secret of success" in writing effective letters, it is 
this principle of adopting the reader's point of view. 
Did the writer of the following letter, sent out by an 
automobile supply company, apply it? 

Dear Sir: 

According to our records you are the owner of a Ford 
car. Now j^ou may not need a new inner tube, but just the 
same we are sending one to you, and to 99 other men, because 
we want you to try it out for us. It is going to your address 
by parcel post, prepaid. Maybe it's there now. 

Here's the story. This inner tube is going to be Hsted in 
our new 1916 Automobile Supply Catalog for $2.85. It is 
one of the sensational values Ave show. It is different ; we 
think it is better ; but before we crow about it we want your 

Now this is what we want you to do. Place the Riverside 
Inner Tube on your Ford. Drive about as you please, test 
it fully. If at the end of 30 days you do not think the 
Riverside a real good tube for the money, throw it away and 
tell us on the back of this letter why you did so. If you do 
find it satisfactory, send us $2.00 with this letter, and any 
comment you have to make. 

Now understand, you are to be the only judge and we want 
you to be critical. If the inner tube is not as good as we 
think it is we want to know it. But we hope that it will 
prove itself to be an exceptional value and w'ill serve to ac- 
quaint you with our ability to save you money on automobile 

After thirty days — will you please let us know the result 
, of your test 't 

Thank you. 

Yours very truly, 

Would the owner of a Ford car who received this 
letter and the inner tube in the same mail, be likely to 
do as requested? If one can appreciate accurately 


how such a letter would impress him as a prospective 
buyer, typical of the men to whom this letter was sent, 
he has practical imagination of the sort that is the 
fundamental basis of effective letter writing. 

The letter quoted was not successful, because the 
writer lacked practical foresight concerning the read- 
er's point of view regarding the proposal, or failed to 
exercise it. This principle — to see yourself and your 
concern and your proposition as the reader does and 
to take full advantage of this ability to see thru an- 
other's eyes — is the very essence of good salesmanship. 

5. Application of this principle. — Now consider the 
letter just quoted — from the reader's point of view. 
It is correct in mechanical form and expression. The 
fault lies deeper than appearance, as is nearly always 
the case when letters are not effective. It reads 
smoothfy. Its tone is effective. It looked good to 
the writer. From his point of view it was an excel- 
lent letter, with life and individuality in it. He 
wanted to know why it had failed. Therefore, he 
took time ^o go out and talk to several Ford owners 
about it. 

His inquiries revealed to him that he had been ask- 
ing Ford owners to take a great amount of trouble 
m order to help him find out whether or not his article 
was any good. He then understood why no trials of 
the inner tube had been made except in the case of one 
man who at the time happened to need a new one. 
This man had sent two dollars for it by return mail 
without comment. Many of the hundred tubes were 


returned immediately. A few of them were kept un- 
til the recipients might need them — longer than thirty- 
days in most cases. 

The selhng plan in this letter was ineffective; but 
from the reader's point of view it has faults in addition 
to those involved in its selling plan. For example, 
the first part of the first paragraph is unnecessary, 
while part of it is unfortunate in its effect. Perhaps 
the words "just the same," sound natural and sincere, 
but they cause the reader to feel that the letter at- 
tempts to force him to do something he might not 
want to do. All buyers dislike to be driven. 

When he had learned conditions as they exist, from 
the point of view of Ford owners, the writer of this 
letter concluded that any letter designed to sell inner 
tubes would probably not pay unless he could devise 
a plan which would enable him to send his message at 
the time when the reader was in need of a new inner 
tube. He might write with the purpose of causing 
the reader to remember his product and its attractive 
price when an inner tube was needed. In other words, 
when he put himself in the reader's place, the limited 
results that might reasonably be expected from his 
letter became apparent. The plan of the letter is 
clever — from the writer's point of view only, for it 
merely causes the reader to question the quality of the 
product, if indeed he really reads intently enough to 
understand the message. 

6. Purpose of business letters. — Business letters 
are written not to entertain, or to please, or to ex- 


cite admiration, or to do anything except to gain 
an effect which will promote the business interests of 
the writer. The effective business correspondent 
thinks always in terms of effects. If he anticipates 
accurately the effect of what he says, he will not, for 
instance, attempt to get a practically impossible re- 
sult. He will know the conditions which he must 
guard against or take advantage of. Either he will 
undertake to modify conditions that cause the recipi- 
ent's attitude to be unfavorable toward the proposal 
in his letter, or he will shape his selling plan for meet- 
ing these adverse conditions to the best advantage. 
He knows the vital difference between a letter that is 
effective and a letter that is merely correct. 

7. How business letters differ. — Business letters 
might be divided into f om* classes : 

1. Incorrect and Ineffective 

2. Correct and Ineffective 

3. Effective and Incorrect 

4. Effective and Correct. 

Every letter belongs in one of these four divisions. 
A great many business letters would be included in 
the second division; letters that are correct in form 
and expression, but are not so effective in getting 
results as the writer desires. The fault of these letters 
lies in what is said rather than in how it is said, as in 
the case of the letter quoted in Section 4. 

Some letters are mechanically incorrect, but still 
effective. As a rule, however, these letters might 


have been more effective had they been correct in form 
as well as in the more vital matters of salesmanship. 
Correct dress is nearly always an asset in personal 
selling, and to the recipient a letter represents the 
writer as a person. A letter that is unattractive in 
appearance leads the reader to feel instinctively that 
the subject shares this quality. Therefore, correct- 
ness, tho not indispensable, is always desirable. Ex- 
ceptional cases might be found where incorrect form 
would be more effective than correct form. It is well 
to remember that the aim is always an effective letter, 
and that the most important requirement in writing 
effective letters is selling sense, rather than the abil- 
ity to write business English that is grammatically 
and rhetorically correct. 

8. Selling sense can he developed. — While it is com- 
paratively easy to learn to write correctly, it is not so 
easy to learn to write effectively. Yet good selling 
sense, which is the root of effective writing, can be 
developed. It is now a matter of general agreement 
that salesmen are both born and made, chiefly made; 
and especially are they self-made. 

No better opportunity exists for self-development 
in the art of salesmanship than work as a correspond- 
ent — if the correspondent will take a keen interest in 
the effects that his letters accomplish in the mind and 
heart and will of his readers, and will endeavor to 
think out the reason for the success or failure of his 

In many cases the correspondent will find, when his 


letter fails, that he did not consider certain condi- 
tions in the reader's environment, which, had he 
borne in mind, would have caused him to anticipate 
more vividly the effect of what he said. 

9. Knowledge vital to successful writing. — ^How to 
gain ability to write letters that are invariably eif ec- 
tive is the problem. This power, as already stated, 
requires considerable knowledge on the part of the 
writer. He must know the fundamental policies of 
good service on which his house is built, know thoroly 
the products or services which his house sells, know 
competing concerns, know the development of his 
own concern, and know also conditions in the ad- 
dressee's environment which will affect his attitude 
toward the letter. In short, what the correspondent 
ought to know includes all the knowledge that a good 
personal salesman ought to have. 

The first step in acquiring the knowledge necessary 
for effective writing, therefore, is to understand what 
kinds of information are desirable and to appreciate 
their relative value. 

10. Specific information. — The following analysis 
will serve only to suggest the kinds of information 
that are desirable. This information is arranged in 
the order of relative importance. 

A. Knowledge of the market for the products or 
the services of your company: 

1. Knowledge of the attitude of the classes 
of people and of the individuals that compose 


your market, toward your product and your 
house; also toward competing products and 

2. Knowledge of the causes of this atti- 

3. Definite knowledge of what you want the 
attitude to be toward j'^ou, your house and your 
product or service 

4. Broad economic knowledge of your 

a. The territorial extent of the entire 

possible market for your products 
or services 

b. The relative desirability of parts of 

the entire market, both territorially 
and by classes of customers 

B. Knowledge of your products or services from 
the following points of view : 

1. Of the immediate buyer 

2. Of the ultimate consumer 

3. Of your concern 

4. Of the manufacturer 

C. Knowledge of your house : 

1. The policies underlying its development. 

2. Its organization and the personnel of the 

3. The true significance of your place in the 


D. Knowledge of human nature 

1. Of yourself 

2. Of the more general human traits of char- 
acter, instincts, likes, dislikes, desires, ambi- 
tions, emotions, and so on 

E. Knowledge of selling principles. 

This analysis is necessarily incomplete, but is ade- 
quate for the present purpose. 

11. Human natwe and selling principles. — On 
first thought, it may seem strange that knowledge of 
selling principles is placed last, since effective letter- 
writing is primarily a matter of good salesmanship. 
But if the correspondent is well supplied with the 
kinds of information placed above selling principles 
in this analysis, he will be in a position to formulate 
his own principles. 

In nearly all cases, a sound selling principle is 
based upon some trait in human nature. Take, for 
example, the fact that it is wise to make the reader 
realize that you appreciate his point of view. Con- 
fidence is inspired by those who possess sufficiently 
broad and sympathetic intelligence to enable them to 
see and appreciate another's position. Therefore, in 
order to gain the reader's confidence, it is even ad- 
visable now and then to admit derogatory facts. We 
naturally distrust claims of perfection. Thus, selling 
principles must be based on traits of human nature, 
and these are the kind of selling principles referred to 
in the foregoing analysis. 


Many would put knowledge of human nature first 
in this chart; but the sections preceding it constitute 
information of greiater practical value to the corre- 
spondent than a general knowledge of himian na- 
ture, valuable as this is. From one point of view, 
however, the first three divisions are knowledge of 
human nature practically applied. 

12. Market and product. — It will also be ob- 
served that there is no clear line of demarcation be- 
tween sections A and B, knowledge of the market and 
knowledge of the product. One supplements the 
other. Knowledge of the product from the point of 
view of the market is most essential. 

An important point here is that complete technical 
information concerning a product is not sufficient and 
might even be undesirable. Knowing all about a 
product is desirable only in so far as the intensity of 
this knowledge does not lessen knowledge of the prod- 
uct from the reader's point of view. 

But these two kinds of knowledge are not neces- 
sarily antagonistic. It is possible to have the minutest 
technical knowledge of products and processes of 
manufacture and because of this knowledge even more 
thoroly to appreciate the reader's standpoint. Such 
complete knowledge is often necessary to enable the 
writer to supply the reader with such facts concerning 
the product as will cause him to think and act as de- 
sired. Yet there is always the possibility that the 
correspondent may know so much about a product 
that he fails to appreciate how little the reader knows 


about it. Knowledge of the product or service in its 
relation to the market is the most important kind of 
information in salesmanship, and, therefore, in bus- 
iness correspondence. 

13. Writer's mental attitude. — Additional knowl- 
edge that might well be included in an analysis 
of most desirable information is a concrete idea of 
what constitutes the most favorable mental attitude on 
the part of the writer. Many written messages fail 
because the writer's attitude in general, and toward the 
reader in particular, is awry. Often half the effort in- 
volved in writing an effective message is saved by a 
deliberate change from the wi-ong to the right mental 
attitude toward the addressee. At this point the 
value of an attitude of willingness to learn from ex- 
perience is to be emphasized; constant interest in the 
results of all letters written and constant effort to find 
out the "why" of the results achieved. A feeling that 
there is no hmit to the development of one's skill in 
writing effective letters is as important as knowledge 
and practice of the right mental attitude toward in- 
dividual addressees. 

The proper mental attitude is really a matter within 
tlie control of the writer. To attain it, he must some- 
times go thru a complete change in his moral make- 
up as well. If he would impress the reader that he is 
sincere in his statements, he must first be actually sin- 
cere in his own convictions. The easiest method of 
gaining the confidence and good-will of a reader is ac- 
tually to merit this reward. Yet, a coiTespondent 


cannot well rise above the level of sincerity and integ- 
rity as they are practised in the policies of his house by 
men high up in the organization. It is not always the 
fault of the correspondent when his letters lack con- 

14. Letters that are effective; a summary, — An ef- 
fective letter is always written, either consciously or 
unconsciously, with keen appreciation of the reader's 
point of view. It may or may not be correct in form 
or grammar or rhetoric, tho it is usually technically 
correct. It is always an example of good salesman- 

Only men whose selling sense is highly developed 
write invariably effective letters. Such men, as a 
rule, could tell why their letters make good. They 
know the basic principles of successful correspond- 
ence. They constantly add to their fund of the 
kind of information that enables them better to know 
the reader's point of view. They have the necessary 
knowledge and ability to make effective use of what 
they know. 

•With reference to knowledge which underlies abil- 
ity to appreciate the reader's point of view, corre- 
spondents might be divided into these classes: (1) 
those who know less than they should know about their 
addressees; (2) those who know their addressees 
fairly well, but do not take advantage of their knowl- 
edge; and (3) those who both know the addressees' 
point of view and take full advantage of their knowl- 



Explain the modern attitude toward business correspondence, 
and the relation of correspondence to salesmanship. 

What is the basic principle of effective letter-writing? 

Explain the relation of correctness to effectiveness. 

Can selling sense be developed? If so, how? 

What knowledge is most valuable to the correspondent? 

What part does the word "why" play in writing effective 
letters ? 

How does the writer's mental attitude help or hinder effective 

Mention the fundamental requirements in writing effective let- 



1. Getting the readers point of view in any occu- 
pation. — To appreciate the other man's point of view 
is fundamental to success in any occupation. The 
most successful executives are those who best under- 
stand the point of view of the employes under them; 
and the most successful employes are those who are 
able to appreciate the viewpoint of the men higher up. 
The lawyer who best understands the point of view of 
the witness he examines gets the best results. 

This sympathy and understanding is especially im- 
portant in business correspondence. Frequently a 
correspondent fails to get the results he wants be- 
cause he has at best only a hazy idea of the impression 
he wishes to make in his letter; and his idea is hazy 
in nearly every case because he is not sufficiently well 
acquainted with the addressee's point of view. On 
the other hand, if he does see clearly the point of view 
of the reader, he will have a definite idea of the several 
impressions he must make on the reader, and that in 
itself is a decided step toward success. Broad, in- 
telligent, and unselfish interest in the other fellow is 
back of ability to look at a proposition thru another 



man's ej^es. It explains the success of writers who 
base their salesmanship upon service. Policies of 
service which lie behind successful salesmanship can 
be developed only by men who do their thinking from 
the point of view of those they serve. 

2. Real cause of ineffective writing. — The kind of 
thinking that results in effective letter-writing is 
always based on accurate and complete knowledge 
of the facts and conditions in the case, for only 
such knowledge can enable the writer to appeal 
effectively to his reader. The average business cor- 
respondent is too much inclined to take a chance. 
He is constantly tempted merely to "guess" at the 
true condition of affairs that surround the addressee. 
Often a desire to finish his dictation as quickly as 
possible — which, for him, is an arduous task because 
he does not put the right kind of thinking into the 
work — tends to keep him from gathering information 
that would make his work more interesting and 
more effective. 

If the correspondent takes pains to add constantly 
to his stock of information concerning those with 
whom he deals, his letters will improve from day to 
day, and he will come to look upon the task of writing 
effective letters as a real game; and, as in any other 
game, he will find that there is always a chance to 
lower the score of failures. But it is necessary to con- 
centrate on each letter. If the writer thinks con- 
stantly of the effects to be produced, he will gradually 
acquire keener appreciation of the reader's point of 

XII— 3 


view ; and this appreciation, in turn, will produce still 
greater concentration. 

3. Reader's point of view in practice. — About 
twenty years ago two young men of about equal ex- 
perience and education began to work for the same 
company. One of them is now vice-president of the 
company. The other earns only $40 a week, as a 
general correspondent. It was just recently that the 
latter began to write realty effective letters. But 
the man who became vice-president was writing effec- 
tive letters within a year or two after he began to 
work for the firm. Why did the one take almost 
twenty years to become an effective writer, while the 
other attained success in two years? 

The answer to this question involves a comparison 
of the characters of the two men. The first was will- 
ing to learn ; the other was satisfied with what he knew. 
The first man acquired the habit of asking sensible 
questions, and the information he gained soon enabled 
him to reach the top. Here is his own statement of 
the case: 

My company soon gave me the chance to get on the road 
as a salesman. I accepted the chance eagerly because it 
would enable me at first to get hold of a lot of outside facts 
about the business; a knowledge of conditions that would be 
invaluable to me in view of my ambition to find out the possi- 
bilities of developing business by mail. 

I had already formed the habit of reflecting on the cause 
whenever one of my letters was either distinctly effective or 
decidedly a failure. And as a personal salesman, when I 
failed to land an order, I often went out and walked the street 
in an effort to think out the cause before I called on the 


next prospective buyer. Sometimes I went back and frankly 
asked the unyielding buyer about conditions. Almost in- 
variably I found that my failure to sell was due to the lack 
of knowledge of facts concerning competition or conditions 
within the buyer's business. And I frequently asked older 
salesmen in this business and in other lines about conditions 
as they knew them out of their larger experience. The 
result of this aggressive willingness to find out things was 
to give in a short time a big fund of the kind of information 
that serves so well to cut down the percentage of failures in 
the selling game. 

4. Knowledge of conditions and of psychology. — 
Merely a realization of such facts as the following is 
of little practical value : that nearly all of us dislike to 
admit financial inability; that we all like to be ad- 
dressed by name; that we dislike to have our names 
misspelled or mispronounced; that we do not wish 
to be driven; that we do not like faultless people, 
and so on. To insist upon such generalities is danger- 
ous, if it leads the correspondent to neglect the many 
exceptions among the addressees to whom he writes. 

The real solution of the correspondent's problem 
lies in his acquiring a knowledge of the economic con- 
ditions that surround the individual addressee in his 
relation to the correspondent's proposition. This 
knowledge of the conditions that are responsible for 
the addressee's point of view will enable the corre- 
spondent to judge how the average person would re- 
act to those conditions and to make allowances for 
exceptional cases without much effort. Then, if he 
really imagines himself in the addressee's place, he can 


take advantage of the latter's fundamental desires, of 
his likes and dislikes. 

5. Another example. — Suppose you receive the fol- 
lowing letter : 

Dear Sir: 

You know that a big volume of business lowers the cost of 
production ; and the price you pay for tailor-made clothes is 
fixed, first of all, by the cost of producing them. 

Last year our sales were well over $1,000,000. Our shops 
rank with the biggest in the country. What does this mean 
to you.'* It means better clothes for less money. The small 
tailoring shops cannot compete with large-scale production. 

And the fact that we are tailors to a whole nation of people 
makes it imperative that we set and maintain a high standard 
of service ; for idle machinery would mean a correspondingly 
big loss to us. Therefore, you can rest assured that the 
service you will get from us will be satisfactory in every 

In fact, we guarantee unqualified satisfaction. Each gar- 
ment we make is sent out with the following guaranty: 
"This garment, made by the Fisk Tailors, is guaranteed by 
them to give you entire satisfaction. If you do not feel 
entirely satisfied with any garment you get from us, we will 
take any amount of trouble and expense necessary to make 
you entirely satisfied." 

Such an unqualified guaranty assures you of our best 
effort to give you entirely satisfactory service in the first 
place ; for we know how disagreeable it is when a customer 
has to complain in order to get satisfactory service. 

Painstaking service to men like you has built this business 
into a large-scale producer; and large-scale production is 
reflected in our prices. 

Our special representative, Mr. Marshall Zombro, in your 
town will be pleased to show you the latest Fisk models and 
fabrics. Yours very truly, 

Thomas Williamson, 
Pres. Fisk Tailors. 


How would this letter impress you? Would you 
read it thru? Would it cause you to feel that prob- 
ably you ought to see the local representative of this 
tailoring concern about the suit of clothes you desire 
to purchase? Definitely what are the results that 
the writer of this letter wishes to secure? Would the 
letter secure them, or not ? Why, or why not ? From 
the addressee's point of view, what was the effect of 
this letter ? The president of this company considered 
it a sound message of the type that he likes to have go 
out over his own signature. It reads connectedly and 
seems to be sound in logic. Apparently the letter is 
all right; but it failed. Why? 

It was mailed from the Fisk Company to two hun- 
dred "live prospects" whose names were supplied by 
Mr. Marshall Zombro. But Mr. Zombro could not 
trace a single new customer to its influence, and as he 
had paid the postage on the 200 letters he wrote the 
president of the company. The latter was so much in- 
terested that he came down to Mr. Zombro's town to 
find out why the letter had failed. Together he and 
his agent did some effective investigation to find out 
what kind of message would bring business. They in- 
terviewed some of the j^oung men to whom their un- 
successful letter had been sent, but they did not find 
any one who had read it thru. They did get from 
these young men, however, a great deal of informa- 
tion which a little later enabled them to write a very 
successful letter. 

6. Classification of mailing list. — Among the 


fundamental faults of the letter just quoted is the 
failure to apply the principles that underlie mailing- 
list classification. Essential differences in the point 
of view of the various types represented by the two 
hundred young men were not considered. Many of 
the men had never yet indulged in the luxury of 
tailored-to-measure clothes. Others had been patron- 
izing a local tailor with whom they were on friendly 
terms. Some were served by a house similar to the 
risk Company, and were satisfied. Some were office 
men; others were salesmen; others were factory men; 
about half of them were married. Clearly the letter 
did not take into consideration all these important 
facts. Rather, it took for granted that all the men 
would be interested in a distant maker of tailor-made 
clothes because his concern was a large one. 

These two men, the manufacturer and the agent, 
in planning their second letter, thought it would be 
best to send out one good letter to a selected list of 
men who they thought would be really interested, 
those who really needed to dress well, and especially 
those who were in the habit of buying tailored- to-order 
clothes. Together they decided on the type of pros- 
pective customer they should try to reach, and the 
agent agreed to supply a list of names. It was a 
much shorter list than the first one — about sixty 
names — but the mailing was successful. 

7. Right combination for effective criticism. — This 
was an ideal combination for the criticism of the letter 
already quoted: the manufacturer, the agent and 


indirectly the consumer. The manufacturer knew 
that his letter had flatly failed and was eager to find 
out why. He was where he could definitely ascertain 
the addressee's opinion of the letter, and he soon real- 
ized that the appeal was entirely wrong. 

The letter stated the manufacturer's reason why the 
addressee should buy, but did not give the reader's 
reason. Incidentally it may be noted that the manu- 
facturer based his reason on faulty logic, for if his 
service had built up a big business, the desirabihty of 
the service must have been independent of the pres- 
ent size of his business. But this logical inconsistency 
was not a great fault. The young men he interviewed 
did not have logical reasons for patronizing their 
tailor or their clothing merchant, and had not noticed 
the inconsistency. The main fault of the letter lay 
elsewhere. The manufacturer transferred the man 
who wrote that letter to a job which brought him into 
contact with local agents and their customers — in or- 
der that he might obtain and appreciate the buyer's 
point of view. 

When the manufacturer adopted the reader's 
point of view, he saw that the first paragraph failed 
to interest, and lacked anj^ definite appeal to the 
reader's sense of self-interest. He saw clearly that 
the second paragraph appeared to be mere bragging, 
notwithstanding the attempt to connect the subject 
with the reader's welfare. He saw that the last state- 
ment in the same paragraph was not only unneces- 
sary, but that it might arouse sympathy in behalf of 


the local tailors. He saw that there is no connection 
between the size of the manufacturer's business and 
the necessity of giving satisfactory service, and that 
the mention of machinery might suggest machine- 
made clothes. He realized that the guarantee of en- 
tire satisfaction is so common nowadaj'^s that it has lost 
much of its original force, and that the "sj^mpathetic" 
statement, "we know how disagreeable it is when a 
customer has to complain in order to get satisfac- 
tory service," is not only unnecessary but harmful. 
Finally, the manufacturer also noticed how the words, 
"in fact," at the beginning of the fourth paragraph 
might suggest that the writer considered that he was 
doing something exceptional in offering an unqual- 
ified guarantee. Such is the criticism which results 
when the reader's point of view is taken. 

8. A successful sales letter. — Suppose a young 
man living in a small town receives, about four weeks 
before Easter, the following letter: 

Dear Sir: 

What will well-dressed young men wear four weeks from 
next Sunday? 

Two models will be preferred. Each of these is illustrated 
and described in the inclosed folder. Made to your measure, 
either model would be correct for you this spring and summer. 
These are the kind of conservatively up-to-date models which 
may be worn every day as well as on dress occasions. 

If your order for your Easter suit reaches us before the 
end of this week, you may have an extra pair of trousers, 
striped or to match your suit, without extra charge. This 
offer is made in order to avoid part of the rush of orders 


just before Easter, when we follow our six- work-day delivery 
guaranty as usual. 

We know that this announcement will give us an early 
start on our Easter rush, and we want you to be in on it. 
Please take this letter to Mr. Marshall Zoinbro, our agent 
in your town, and he will be glad to give you Fisk Service. 

This letter does not sound very impressive, but it 
influenced twenty-eight out of the selected sixty 
young men to see Mr. Zombro before it was too late to 
take advantage of the special offer. Why? From 
the addressee's point of view, what is there in this ap- 
peal which secured the desired results? In the first 
place, it is interesting. All the young men to whom 
the letter and the folder were sent were interested in 
the question of correct dress for Easter. Then, in 
the folder were two excellent illustrations. Each 
young man imagined himself in the place of the young 
men in the illustrations — which were realistic, not 
exaggerated. The settings were typical, small-town 
street scenes on a bright Easter morning. 

The letter is eloquent in what it suggests rather 
than in what it says. It does not attempt to persuade 
the addressee by means of words directly. Its 
strongest pereuasion lies in its timeliness and in its 
special offer, made without the usual threat, "unless 
you take advantage of this offer right away, it will be 
too late and you will lose $10 — lose it just the same as 
if you were to burn up a ten-dollar bill." In other 
words, it does not run the risk of insulting the young 
man by branding him as a bargain-hunter. Since 
there is a sufficient reason for the special offer, no urg- 


ing is necessary, and because no pressure is brought 
to bear the reader is inclined to feel that he really 
ought to see Mr. Zombro. At least he will keep the 
letter, for it says, "Take this letter to Mr. Marshall 
Zombro." He therefore keeps it and thinks about it, 
and the more he thinks, the more inclined he is to see 
Mr. Zombro. The success or the failure of any sales 
letter is proved, in the end, by the results it accom- 
plishes, and this letter influenced nearly 47 per cent of 
those who received it, to bu3\ Its excellence cannot 
be fully appreciated until it is studied from the 
reader's point of view. 

9. Other types of letters. — Sales letters were used 
as illustrations in the foregoing sections. But the 
principle of taking the reader's point of view applies 
with equal force to all other kinds of letters. When 
the bookkeeper in a coal office writes the words 
"Thank you" somewhere on a receipted bill, and 
seems to emphasize unduly his gratitude by large 
script, what might be the effect on an addressee who 
happens to be somewhat sensitive, especially if the bill 
was paid somewhat past the date when it was due? 
It is possible that the reader might receive the impres- 
sion that the bookkeeper's thankfulness was due to the 
fact that the payment was a delightful surprise to him. 
And the "Thank you" at the end of letters of request 
takes agreement for granted; it is doubtful what the 
effect will be. 

The following collection letter, which is often 
quoted, is interesting and will bear studying. 


Dear Sir: 

"Huh! Another dunning letter! Those people needn't 
be so nervous. They'll get their money — some time." 

Did you think that, when you opened this letter? — No, 
don't toss it aside for consideration "tomorrow"; just stop 
this time and consider US. 

We don't like to write dunning letters any better than you 
like to get them, but you see you have a little of our money — 
$16.50. That isn't much, and of course you intend to 
pay it. 

But let's square this up NOW; don't read another letter 
until you have wrapped your check in this one and mailed it 
back in the inclosed addressed envelop. 

That will just rescue your name from our "unfair" list, 
and you don't know how much we will appreciate it. 

Yours very truly, 

This letter was successful. It does not seem to 
consider the reader's point of view. But the writer 
completely and accurately expressed the reader's sen- 
timents, except, possibly, in the last sentence of the 
third paragraph. There is a slight implication there 
that the reader intends to pay this bill only because 
it "isn't much." It probably would have been better to 
omit the words, "That isn't much." 

But this letter compels the reader to feel that the 
writer is square. "You have a little of our money — 
$16.50," is original and effective. It shows the reader 
the writer's point of view, and this is very important 
in writing difficult letters — for example, letters in 
which the writer refuses credit and at the same time 
attempts to get cash with an order. But in order that 
the writer may influence the reader to appreciate his 
viewpoint it is necessary that he prove to the reader, 


beyond question, that he has really put himself in the 
reader's place. 

10. Acquiring the reader's point of view. — Be- 
fore a writer can acquire the habit ^ of taking the 
reader's point of view he must reahze the importance 
of putting himself in the other man's place. When a 
correspondent once sees that he cannot write effective 
letters, if he lacks the ability to do this, he will natur- 
ally take pains to gain that knowledge of the other 
man which will produce the necessary sympathy and 

Another important means of acquiring the reader's 
point of view is to cultivate an allowable inquisitive- 
ness in regard to the addressee's circumstances and 
conditions. Practically every correspondent might 
easily know more about each addressee, and take 
greater advantage of what he knows, were he more in- 
quisitive. As a rule, he could know the size, location 
and character of the addressee's town; its rate of 
growth; the chief industries; the kind of business in 
which the addressee is engaged, and its size and finan- 
cial rating; the addressee's place in the business and 
so on. Even such general facts as these might help 
greatly in making a letter effective. The location of 
a town sometimes indicates a great deal about any 
man who is in business in that town, and the corre- 
spondent should try to judge his man as accurately as 
possible by whatever information is available. The 

1 A reading of the chapter on "Habit" in William James' "Principles of 
Psychology" would be of value. 


business man of the South differs, in both the per- 
sonal and the business viewpoint, from the business 
man of the North ; the Westerner is different from the 
Easterner. The correspondent should be alert to 
perceive essential differences in his addressees ; if he is, 
lie will often be able to tell by the general appearance 
and the very "feel" of the letter he is answering what 
kind of person he is writing to. 

11. Reading between the lines. — The expert cor- 
respondent will get back of the man's letter to the 
man himself. He is not limited to a literal interpre- 
tation of the meaning as expressed in the letter, but 
reads between the lines. This is often necessary if he 
would accurately put himself into the reader's place ; 
for few writers of the letters he answers say exactly 
what they mean to say. 

For example, a new customer wrote to a wholesale 
house as follows : "Most of the shipment was in good 
condition. A little of the glassware was broken." 
In this case there had been no previous correspond- 
ence to help the correspondent determine whether or 
not this man was one of those who belittle the 
cause of the complaint. There are many men in busi- 
ness who feel that they ought not to "kick" unless the 
cause of the complaint is serious. Therefore, in this 
instance, the correspondent wished to play safe. Here 
is one paragraph of his reply: "Even if the damage is 
trivial, we want to make it right. Perhaps a few of 
the tumblers were chipped, or some crockery. You 
will do us a favor by telling us exactly what the dam- 


age was." Thus the correspondent did not really en- 
courage complaint, but he did ask for details and em- 
phasized the fact that his company wished to give 
customers complete satisfaction. 

The following letter, written in response to a letter 
from a manufacturer asking a merchant why he had 
not sent in any order lately, is also of the kind that 
will not stand the test of analysis. 

Dear Sir: 

For the last few years the coal business has been in a pre- 
carious condition, of which you are probably aware, and 
we have been placing our business closer at home in order 
that we might help stimulate the soft-coal business a little 
more. Possibly some .time in the future we will be able to 
renew our business acquaintance when conditions will permit. 

Yours very truly, 

The correspondent knew that the writer's account 
had been cut off abruptly; therefore, he realized that 
this letter was merely an excuse. He found that the 
last order from this merchant was for goods concern- 
ing which many complaints had been received. Win- 
ning back this account was, then, a comparatively 
easy matter. 

This ability to analyze, to read between the lines, 

is an important means of gaining the knowledge of 
individual cases which is necessary if the correspond- 
ent is to realize and appreciate the conditions that oc- 
casion the point of view of the man to whom he writes. 



How do you explain the varying degrees of ability possessed by 
different persons, as regards the writing of effective letters ? 

Explain the connection between knowing the reader's point of 
view and knowing the conditions which occasion that point of 

Can you find the basic reason for the success or failure of your 
letters ? 

Why should you classify a mailing list ? 

How can you acquire the habit of being sensitive to the reader's 
point of view? 



1. Application of fundamental • principles. — The 
distinction between effective and ineffective letters has 
been stated and the fundamental point of view of the 
effective correspondent has been insisted upon. It 
is not enough, however, to advise a man to be effective, 
or to show him the standpoint from which his efforts 
must be judged. It is equally important to show 
wherein effectiveness consists. Some of the charac- 
teristics of effective letters are so important that they 
should engage the attention of the reader. It may, 
perhaps, seem that some of the principles stated are 
merely the enunciation of homely ti*uths of universal 
acceptance. Truths may find universal acceptance 
without general application. When well-known 
truths fall into disuse it is imperative that attention 
be forcibly directed to them. It is alwaj^s the con- 
scious application of fundamental principles to par- 
ticular cases which makes for excellence, and it is the 
conscious use of such principles which raises the writ- 
ing of letters in business from a waste in efficiency to 
an effective instiniment in business affairs. 

2. Interesting the reader. — Interest is indispens- 
able. Unless the letter interests the reader he will 



not read it thru and its message is lost. But if the 
letter is only mildly interesting the reader will not 
give it his undivided attention as he reads. To make 
the letter interesting is a difficult requirement. It 
cannot be done unless we know what is interesting! 
and what is not interesting to readers. 

In case an inquiry comes in for a price on a certain 
product, tell him the price before you dwell on quality 
or service, especially if the product is standardized in 
quality. If his chief interest is satisfied first, he may 
read on with interest what is said about service or 
quality. Furthermore, if the price is withheld until 
the end of the letter, the reader is likely to interpret 
what goes before as an apology for a high price. 

These effects do not necessarily follow. It is im- 
possible to lay down hard-and-fast rules. In general, 
when the price is set forth boldly and without addi- 
tional information apparently designed to impress the 
fact that it is a proper price, we are likely to feel that 
the v^nriter believes his price to be low, and we will 
probably take him at his word — unless, of course, we 
are asking for a price on goods highly standardized 
in quality — a market value which is well known to 

3. Selecting the chief interest. — It is always advis- 
able to satisfy the reader's chief interest as soon as 
possible, and in many cases the important thing is to 
determine just what this interest is. A practical il- 
lustration of this point is found in a letter which in- 
formed the addressee that he must keep a set of books 

XII— 4 


and pay for them because they were not returned until 
after the date on which he had agreed to send them 
back in case he should not wish to keep them. The 
concern allowed prospective purchasers a five-day pe- 
riod for inspection. Many purchasers returned the 
books after this period had expired. In preparing a 
letter to meet this situation, the question came up as 
to whether it would be better to tell the addressee 
frankly in the very first paragraph that he would not 
be allowed to violate his contract, and then try to 
resell the books to him; or to try to resell the books, 
and then later in the letter inform him that he must 
abide by his contract. 

It was agreed that he ought first to be persuaded 
to keep the books, and this plan was adopted. But 
the letter was not successful. The policy was too 
much like apologizing to someone for bumping into 
him just before the bump is deliberately given. It 
was found that the other order of statements, used in 
a later letter, was much more effective ; that is, to tell 
the reader first that he would not be allowed to break 
his contract ; and secondly, that he really ought not to 
do it, out of consideration for his own best interests. 

Why was this better? In the first place, the 
reader's interest was held from the start. He 
1 skimmed over the first letter trying to find an answer 
\to his question, "Will they or won't they take back 
the books?" From the tone in the opening part of 
the letter he was led to feel that the dealers might 
take back the books, that he had them on the de- 


fensive. Then he was told that they would not let 
him break his contract — after he expected them to 
agree to do it, if necessary. When the addressee was 
immediately told that he would not be allowed to vio- 
late his contract, he was obliged to take the defensive. 
This is in accordance with an important general prin- 
ciple of salesmanship: "Keep the buyer on the de- 
fensive," or "Dominate the interview," as it is some- 
times stated. 

The arrangement of impressions is an important 
factor in making our letters -interesting to the reader. 
What arrangement gains interest? The letter which i 
answers the questions most likely to arise, as they 
arise, will be the most interesting. This again re-' 
quires the writer to take the reader's point of view. 

Very often the beginning of the letter largely de- 
termines the degree of interest the reader takes in the 
entire letter. If something of interest to the reader 
is said in the very first words, he receives the impres- 
sion that the letter gets right down to business, and 
he will be more likely to read the rest of it. A large 
percentage of unsuccessful letters fail because they do 
not interest the reader at the start. 

4. Repetition dulls effect. — The mail sales manager 
in a certain publishing concern discovered, much to his 
surprise, as a result of a trip thru the West, that 
less than 10 per cent of the letters sent out by his 
concern were read, and that more than 50 per cent 
of them were not even opened. His customers are 
chiefly business men. Many told him that without 


opening them they could "spot" a letter from his 
house every time, even tho it was in a plain envelop ; 
and that they seldom opened the letters because they 
knew from experience that the contents would be of 
no interest to them. 

One man said to this mail-salesman, "You people 
seem to get out letters on the slightest provocation." 
This statement expresses the fundamental reason for 
the failure of many sales letters ; that is, they are sent 
out too frequently and without sufficient reason. 

5. Timeliness gains interest. — The advertising 
manager of a manufacturing company in Pittsburgh, 
which averages about $20,000,000 a year in sales, gave 
the following explanation of his success in using sales 
letters : 

Persistency and frequency in sending out sales letters are 
desirable, but are not, in themselves, reasons for sending a 
letter. To send out a letter to the trade just because it is 
about time when another letter ought to go out is suicide, 
unless you happen to have a real message. We do not circu- 
larize a list of names unless we have a message of considerable 
news value. Seventy-five per cent of the value of a letter is 
in the timeliness of its subject matter. For example, take 
this "Copper-Clad" letter which went to electric light and 
power companies, telephone companies, and so on, at a time 
when copper was high in price: 

Gentlemen : 

1 1 The high price of copper has no doubt caused you to 

' consider seriously how to economize in wire purchases. 

There are doubtless many places in your electrical 

transmission system where larger sizes of hard-drawn 

copper wire are being used than the electrical require- 


ments demand, in order to provide sufficient strength to 
withstand mechanical stresses. The first cost of such 
wires is needlessly high, without reducing in a cor- 
responding degree the maintenance cost. 

If you could purchase a wire for such places that 
would combine the high tensile strength of steel with the 
rust-resisting qualities of copper, and with sufficiently 
high conductivity to answer the electrical requirements, 
it would mean a great saving to you. 

Standard Colonial Copper-Clad Wire is the solution 
of this problem. It will be to your advantage to learn 
more about its characteristics — its high conductivity, 
great tensile strength, low first cost as compared with 
copper, and low maintenance cost as compared with 
iron or steel, etc. 

The inclosed card, properly checked and mailed, will 
bring our new C. C. C. Bulletin with complete informa- 
tion about this wire ; also other bulletins which you may 
desire for your files. 

Yours very truly. 

Now that letter pulled about ten per cent replies. Why.'* 
Not because it is a wonderful letter, but because its subject 
matter was timely. The first paragraph touched the vital 
spot in the buyer — his pocket book — and echoed what was 
in his mind, namely, the high price he had to pay for copper 

Such a message is seldom created by the writer of the letter. 
Its source rests deep down in the organization he represents. 
But it is his job to see an opportunity for a worth-while 
message — and to avoid sending out letters that are not timely. 
This letter, for instance, would not have been read, and might 
have failed, had not nearly all the letters previously sent out 
to this list of names been messages of live news value. The 
general reputation of a concern for writing letters that 
really have something worth while to say has a great deal to 
do with the difficulty the writer has in getting his addressee 
to read his letters. 


6. What is said: the big factor. — It is what we say 
in a letter rather than how we say it that is responsible 
for the letter's interest or lack of interest. It is prac- 
tically impossible to interest a reader thru attractive 
expression alone. On the other hand, it is true that 
the reader's interest in certain facts which ought to 
be naturally interesting under the existing conditions 
might be killed by means of poor expression. But of 
these two factors — content, or what is said, and style, 
or how it is said — the first is the more important. It 
is relatively easy to give adequate expression to facts 
when, in themselves, they are of live interest to the 
reader; but the task of forcing interest by means of 
clever expression is as difficult as it is dangerous. 

7. Beginning of the letter. — Correspondents are 
not all so considerate of the reader as the one who be- 
gan his letter like this : 

This letter is of interest only to the man who is having 
carburetor trouble. I don't want to take up your time for 
nothing. But if you do have trouble of this kind, listen. 

The letter was sent to a long list of automobile own- 
ers. It was read with interest by those whom it was 
meant to reach, and for any others there could be no 
disappointment. It was successful because the ele- 
ments of fairness, honesty and consideration, from 
the reader's point of view, as displayed in this first 
paragraph, characterized the entire letter. This para- 
graph, because it caught the interest of the man it was 
meant for, and at the same time won his respect, con- 


fidence and sympathy, is largely responsible for the 
success of this letter. It aroused sufficient interest to 
cause the reader to want to read on intefttly. This is 
known to be the case, because the same letter had 
failed when the first paragraph read as follows : 

Carburetor trouble — that nightmare of joy-riding! How- 
ever, the dawn of the day of that pleasant dream is here — 
that dream of troubleless days with carburetors. 

This beginning was clever but that was all. Mere 
cleverness in itself seldom arouses much interest; it is 
so seldom spontaneous and natural. 

8. Close logical connection sustains interest. — Un- 
less what is said in the opening paragraph to arouse 
the reader's interest and cause him to want to read on, 
is logically related to what follows, the letter will 
probably not be read with interest. A letter often 
fails when the writer "manufactures" his opening 
paragraph. The following is a good illustration of a 
wrong beginning: 

Dear Sirs: 

Preparedness is the slogan of the twentieth century. We 
are in favor of preparation for war — for war on exorbitant 

Altho the writer of the letter from which this is 
taken makes it a rule to make his first statement one 
with which the reader will agree, he sometimes fails to 
establish a logical connection between his first state- 
ment and what follows. In many cases it would be 
better to reverse this man's rule and say something 


in the first paragraph with which the reader would 
not agree. 

The following letter, which was sent to retail jewel- 
ers by a wholesale jewelry concern, shows one way 
in which the interest of the reader may be aroused at 

Dear Sir: 

We do not agree with the following statement made by the 
President of the Retail Jewelers' Association in his unusual 
address : 

"Stick to the manufacturers who give jewelers the exclu- 
sive sale of first-class merchandise. If you do this it will 
encourage others, and in a short time you will have the* 
much coveted exclusive merchandise that cannot be sold by 
department stores and catalog houses." 

We have been selling first-class merchandise to jewelers 
exclusively ever since we have been in business. But that 
is not a sound business reason why you should stick to us 
— not as sound as this: 

At this point the business reasons why jewelers 
should give this comjpany their business are enumer- 
ated. The letter arouses interest at the beginning by 
slightly antagonizing the reader; and "its point of 
contact" is closely connected with the rest of the letter. 
] 9. Credibility, the mark of a good letter. — Cred- 
jibility is close to interest in importance. But, of 
course, the relative importance of a characteristic de- 
pends on the individual case. Under certain circum- 
stances, gaining the reader's confidence might be more 
important and more difficult than gaining his interest. 
For example, a selling letter written in response to 


an inquiry concerning a certain class of bonds would 
seek chiefly to gain the reader's confidence in what is 
said, as interest in such a case may be assumed. 

Credibility is a necessary quality in every letter. 
If the reader feels that what he reads is probably not 
true, if he is inclined at all to doubt what is said, he f 
will be inclined to resist the writer's effort to interest 1 
him as well as to influence his action, for credibility is 'J 
a factor in gaining interest. 

10. How to gain the reader*s confidence. — One ex- 
ecutive who believes in making a cooperative study of 
the letter-writing of his concern by means of weekly 
conferences with all his correspondents, says that 
there are two simple and fundamental rules to be ob- 
served in writing letters that will command confi- 
dence: (1) Tell the truth. (2) Prove, or omit, all 
statements that might not be believed. The gist of his j 
opinion is given here : 

It is not easy for most of us to tell the truth; but to tell 
the unvarnished truth is the easiest way to get belief in our 
statements. At least, that is the experience of my force 
of sales correspondents. But, of course, telling the truth is 
not enough. To the reader the plain truth would often be 
"stranger than fiction." Convincing expression of the truth 
is as important as the truthfulness of the facts expressed. 
On the other hand, many a plain fact is often killed because 
the writer tries too hard to prove it. His great effort to \ 
convince causes the reader to feel that the effort is necessary. 

Whenever a writer in this organization makes a 
false statement, usually it is found that he thought 
that he was telling the truth. In some cases, however. 


he knew he was not telling the truth. The manage- 
ment considers either offense a serious matter. It has 
discovered that one of the most frequent causes of fail- 
ure among new men is inability to tell what is strictly 
the truth. This trait is soon discovered and the man is 
immediately dismissed. The executive does not feel 
that it would pay to transfer such a man to other 
workj or to try to help him acquire the habit of truth- 
fulness. He tried both in several cases, and failed 
each time. He is convinced that the home is the place, 
and that youth is the time, for this kind of training. 

11. Perplexing ethical problem. — The question in- 
volves a perplexing ethical consideration. Many feel 
that good salesmanship requires a certain amount of 
exaggeration. But this seems to be true only in so far 
as exaggeration of facts is necessary in order to give 
the prospective buyer an impression of the true value 
that the facts possess for him. Apart from the neces- 
sity of doing this, exaggeration or misstatement of any 
kind is not good salesmanship; because "good sales- 
manship" always means permanent satisfaction for 
both buyer and seller. 

12. Example of a letter that commands belief. — 
The following letter is a good example of the kind 
that wins the reader's confidence and commands be- 

Dear Sir: 

Your inquiry is in our hands. Thank you. The circular 
and the booklet you asked for are inclosed. They describe 
a variety of sound 6 per cent serial bonds, secured by the 


best class of newly improved, income-earning, well-located 
real estate in Chicago and other prosperous cities. 
You doubtless are considering a problem like this : 

I have money to invest. Where is a safe, sound, 
secure investment that will be convenient in every way — 
pay me a good rate of interest, around 6 per cent, regu- 
larly and punctually — and free me from worry, care 
and supervision.'' 

If this is a fair statement of the investment problem you 
are now working out, it will be worth your while to check up 
carefully and see how completely the bonds we offer meet each 
and every one of your requirements. 

The rest of this letter talks with the reader about 
the way in which the bonds offered by this house meet 
all 'the requirements ; and the arguments are convinc- 
ing. The letter is one of a series that succeeded in 
the very difficult task of selling bonds by mail. 

The following comments on this letter were made 
bj' a man who writes effective letters almost invari- 
ably, and who knows why his letters are effective. 

"Your inquiry is in our hands — in our hands," mind you ; ^ 
an expression which suggests safety and caution and care- 1 
fulness on the part of this concern. I would prefer to buy ', 
bonds from that kind of concern. Just compare "in our 
hands" with "your inquiry is received," which would be a 
colorless statement, entirely unnecessary because the reader 
would know his inquiry must have been received. "In our 
hands," therefore is a case of convincing expression of an 
obvious fact, and not less convincing because the fact is 
obvious. It is a natural, and therefore a sincere, and there- 
fore a convincing expression. Combine the naturalness of 
stating the obvious fact at the beginning of the letter with 
the subtle suggestion of "in our hands," and you have a good 
beginning, from the standpoint of getting confidence. ] 


13. The "you" attitude and the use of the word, 
"you." — Several men who were asked to criticise this 
letter thought it would have been better to begin with, 
"You are considering a problem like this: 'I have 
money to invest,' " etc. Perhaps they were express- 
ing their idea of the "you" attitude. But one should 
not be misled to think that the use of the word, you, 
is necessarily evidence that the writer has adopted the 

I "you" attitude. "I" may be more effective than 
\ "you." The correspondent should be especially care- 
' ful not to begin with you a sentence which tells the 
reader something he knows as well as the writer, or 
perhaps better. A letter which began, "You can't 
defy nature's laws of health and expect to live long 
and work efficiently," was not successful, chiefly be- 
cause it overused the word you. The reader re- 
sented the slight implication that he might not know 
that obedience to nature's laws is necessary if he 
would have good health. 

The writer's failure to discern properly what is the 
"you" attitude often explains why his letters do not 
produce the desired results. But what has been said 
must not be taken to mean that it is not advisable to 
, make frequent use of this valuable word. It simply 
[means that the "you" attitude involves much more 
than merely the use of that pronoun. 

14. Letters that lack credibility. — "In looking 
thru our files we find your name among those 
who . . ." Such a beginning manifestly does not tell 
the truth ; or at least it does not seem to do so, espe- 


cially to readers who are at all sophisticated. An- 
other example of a poor introduction is that of the 
collection letter which begins, "In running thru our 
accounts today we find that you have overlooked our 
statement of August first." This, from the reader's 
point of view, is amusing. The use of the expression, 
"In running thru our accounts," is a weak attempt to 
appear to be unconcerned about a matter which it 
would be natural for any good business man to be 
concerned about. 

Is the letter credible? That question ought to be 
kept constantly in mind. When a correspondent 
really watches for statements that are not entirely 
true, he is generally surprised to find how many there 
are. Very often they are of the general kind. Some 
one has well said: "All general statements are true 
only in part — including this one." The presence of 
general statements is very often the cause — altho the 
wi'iter does not always realize it — of the lack of cred- 
ibility in a letter. 

15. A glaring example. — Few cases of the lack of 
credibility are as easily apparent as in letters like that 
which is given below. This letter was sent in response 
to a letter of inquiry that was businesslike neither in 
appearance nor in composition: 

Dear Sir: 

By the clear-cut and businesslike character of your letter 
of inquiry we feel certain that you would be most successful 
in the sale of our patented, etc. ... 


There may be people who might feel flattered upon 
reading a letter like this. But would they be the kind 
of people that could sell even something of proved 
merit? Whatever the article was, it could not have 
been attractive to successful agents if a form letter 
of this type were necessary to get results. It is a 
strange truth, however, that the poorest salesmen 
try to sell the things that are hardest to sell ; and often 
it is the poorest writers who attempt to make their 
letters perform miracles. 

The recent tendency toward greater accuracy in 
letter-writing is perhaps part of the general move- 
ment toward stricter veracity in advertising, for ad- 
vertising copy and letters are parts of the same field 
— written salesmanship. There is, in fact, little dif- 
ference between the fundamental characteristics of 
advertising copy and those of sales letters. 

16. Lack of credibility an easy mistake to make. — 
Lack of veracity or of sincerity in a letter is clearly 
evident to readers; usually this lack is more quickly 
discerned by the reader than by the writer. The fol- 
lowing letter is an example : 

Dear Sir: 

Donating the low-priced watch business to outsiders — are 
Boonville merchants doing this.^^ 

Outsiders want this business. What does it amount to? 

This: Two years ago Mr. R. H. Jackson, of Belleville 

in your state, put a display card of watches in his 

window. People were quick to notice it. The inclosed letter 
from Mr. Jackson gives the record of his sales and profits 
for the two years. 


An exceptional case ? No. Our records show hundreds of 
cases as good or better. And the surprising part of the 
experience is that sales of higher priced watches increase at 
the same time. These higher priced watches are often sold 
to purchasers of our watches. The quality of our watch 
gains the buyer's confidence. 

Like buyers of automobiles, the young men who start out 
with low-priced watches soon come to desire a better watch. 
If the low-priced watch he bought was satisfactory, he has 
a good opinion of the jeweler who sold it to liim. 

We guarantee the quality. Volume of business accounts 
for the prices quoted in the catalog inclosed. 

The $12.50 assortment is your opportunity to quit donat- 
ing the low-priced watch business to mail-order houses and 
department stores. 

Yours very truly, 

When the second paragraph of this letter states 
that the mere displaying of the watches on a card in 
the window developed a good business, it makes an 
unreasonable assertion. Jewelers know from experi- 
ence that it takes more than mere display of an ad- 
vertising card to do this. The next paragraph tends 
to make the reader think that Mr. Jackson's case was 
exceptional, despite the denial, for no definite proof 
is offered that it is not. Other parts of this letter lack 
credibility to the reader. It is an easy mistake to 

17. Definiteness. — Another characteristic of effec- 
tive letters is definiteness. It is often a means of 
gaining credibility and it is closely related to clear- 
ness. This quality is equally important in all kinds of 
letters. Often a lack of definiteness arises from the 
omission of necessary facts. Writers are inclined to 


feel that readers know more than they do concerning 
the facts in the case, or that they have available the 
information that is omitted. 

But even if certain information omitted is readily 
available, it is always advisable, as a matter of cour- 
tesy, for the writer to present his message to the 
reader in such a form that the latter can easily and 
quickly appreciate it. For example, two subscribers 
to a weekly magazine sent in notice of change of ad- 
dress for the summer. One failed to give his former 
address, altho he was an advertising man and should 
have remembered that probably the publisher's mail- 
ing list was classified by states and towns and not by 
names. He missed one copy of the magazine and 
wasted the time and expense necessary to write an- 
other postal card — and, worse, he wasted another's 
time. The other man, also an advertising man, not 
only gave all necessary facts, but also stated when he 
wanted the magazine again sent to his permanent ad- 
dress; and he jotted down a memorandum in his diary 
one week before that date. 

It is significant in this case that the man who was 
definite gets more than three times the salary that the 
other man gets. The habit of being definite is valu- 
able. If the cost of all the little cases of indefinite- 
ness in any business were accurately calculated, the re- 
sult would command serious consideration. 

18. Courtesy. — One prominent executive has said 
that "tact is nine out of ten parts made up of true 
.courtesy." He rightly believes the truest tact to be 


the spirit of genuine courtesy : a truly sympathetic in- 
terest in safeguarding the feelings of others. What 
some fancy to be tact but which is not thus inspired, 
is likely to fall flat. Conscious attempts to flatter 
usually fail. Few salesmen and fewer letter-writers 
really succeed thru flattery. Sometimes they will tell 
a customer honestly that they respect his judgment, or 
something of that kind, but that is not flattery. Even 
in such a case most people are inclined to suspect flat- 
tery. On the whole, the purpose of written salesman- 
ship is better served if statements that flatter or seem 
to flatter are omitted. 

Yet numerous sales letters begin with a touch of 
flattery; for example, the letter from a paper house to 
printers, which begins, "You know quality about as 
well as we do, so we will talk price." Omit the word 
"about" from this statement and it might not be quite 
as effective, for it would not be so obviously a true 
statement. The reader would be less inclined to think 
that the writer really believes what he says. 

19. "Down to business/' — Correspondents are 
coming more and more to realize that a business letter 
must get "down to business" right at the beginning. 
This means that the writer must state facts clearly 
and concisely. The day of the "ginger" letter has 
passed ; that is, the letter that employs high sounding 
phrases designed to arouse the reader's emotions to a 
high pitch of excitement. 

But the necessity of being businesslike does not re- 
quire that the style of expression be excessively for- 

XII— 5 


mal. The conversational type of letter — the letter 
that sounds natural and sincere— is, in fact, the most 
businesslike kind of letter. On the other hand, the 
old idea that there must be dynamite in every word of 
a successful sales letter and that it must begin with 
a bang and a crash, or a screeching admonition that 
you ought to stop throwing money away, and then 
continue with a reel of exclamation points and dashes 
— a theory which had a prominent place when the art 
of writing sales letters was in swaddling clothes — has 
given way to appeals which have a more definite busi- 
ness basis. Consumers and business men are antag- 
onized by the letter that yells and sputters at them; 
as a matter of fact they seldom read it. 


Wliy is interest an essential characteristic ? How can you find 
out whether or not your letters will be read with interest ? 

Why is what you say more important than how you say it, 
with respect to the reader's interest ? 

What are the fundamental means of gaining belief in what we 

Does good salesmanship require exaggeration? Explain. 

What is the connection between credibility and naturalness? 

Explain the difference between the "you" attitude and use of 
the word "you." 

Explain the connection between truth in advertising and truth 
in letter^writing. 

Why is it easy to make the mistake of writing letters that are 
not credible? 



1. The thought and its presentation. — It is more 
desirable, if a choice should be necessary, that a letter 
contain thoughts which are of value but which are 
expressed poorly, than that it contain mediocre 
thought well expressed. No excellence of expres- 
sion can atone for a lack of effective thinking. 

Yet presentation is important; sometimes it is the 
deciding factor. In the case of two personal sales- 
men selling the same goods, when neither salesman 
has any marked advantage in price, quality or service 
to offer the prospective buyer, personality is often the 
deciding factor in winning the sale ; so, in the case of 
the correspondent who has no special advantage to 
offer the customer, a good presentation may influence 
the prospective buyer to decide in his favor. In the 
case of refusals of all kinds, and especially in certain 
adjustment correspondence, the expression of the 
thought sometimes makes a big difference in results. 

2. What is effective presentation? — Effective pre- 
sentation is the art of transplanting thoughts or ideas 
so that the expression as such supplements, or at least 

^does not interfere with, the effectiveness of the thought 

in the reader's mind. The ideal goal of the letter- 


writer is to gain the utmost effectiveness in both 
thought and presentation. 

Many letters are successful in spite of adverse con- 
ditions, because their presentation adequately supple- 
ments their thought contents ; and many more letters 
are successful in spite of inadequate presentation, be- 
cause either the thought in the letter or the circum- 
stances of the recipient, or both, are favorable. 
Whenever conditions in the case are such as to make 
effective contents impossible, then the tide might be 
turned by means of effective presentation. Such 
cases are exceptional, however, because the success of 
any letter is primarily dependent upon what is said. 
It is well to keep this steadfastly in mind: effective 
business writing is a matter of effective business think- 
ing; and this is coming more and more to be recog- 
nized in practice. 

3. Business and literary English. — The foregoing 
sections may lean to the abstract, but no writer should 
forget that language is a vehicle of thought, a means 
of transplanting ideas from one mind to another, and 
is not in itself an influence to action. The study of 
grammar and rhetoric as presented in good textbooks 
is to be recommended, for there is no essential differ- 
ence between business and hterary English. The 
writer of literature wants to transplant ideas and im- 
pressions of a more subtle and emotional nature than 
does the business correspondent; and this requires 
greater skill in expression; hence, practice in writing 
on what are called literary subjects should develop 


the business correspondent's skill in expressing his 
thoughts accurately and completely. 

To some business men, especially to those who have 
learned by experience alone how to write an effective 
letter, this may sound far fetched. There is some 
ground for believing that literary and business Eng- 
lish are distant rather than close relatives. Literary 
men rarely write good business letters, and certainly 
business correspondents could not be relied upon to 
produce literature. This is due to no essential differ- 
ence of skill in expression, but rather to different hab- 
its of thinking. 

4. Characteristics of business and of literary Eng- 
lish. — In both business apd literary English, the writer 
strives for clearness and correctness; for simplicity 
and directness — for that kind of expression which re- 
quires of the reader as little time and effort as possible. 
In both cases the writer attempts to adapt himself to 
the reader. But the business writer is more subservi- 
ent than the hterary man. He is more willing for the 
sake of profitable results to hold his own personality 
as revealed in his letter in check for the sake of 
greater effectiveness. The business man is more spar- 
ing in his use of words, and is somewhat less inclined 
to adhere to technical correctness when such adherence 
would interfere with effectiveness. 

5. Clearness, — Perhaps the most important char- 
acteristic of effective presentation is clearness. Clear 
writing is usually the result of clear thinking; but it 
does not therefore follow that the expression will be 



clear because the thought is clear. The ability to ex- 
press oneself clearly preeminently requires the ability 
to take the reader's point of view in regard to what is 
written. Often a statement that is perfectly clear to 
the writer is not at all clear to the one to whom it is 
addressed, because the writer has failed to take the 
I proper point of view — the reader's. On the other 
hand, inaccuracies in expression may convey the 
meaning which the writer desires the reader to 
understand. But inaccuracies involve risk. 

Vagueness, ambiguity, faulty reference, and all the 
other violations of clearness result from failure to 
anticipate the thought the statements made will stir 
up in the reader's mind. 

There are, of course, many other desirable rhetor- 
ical qualities in language; but this one — clearness — 
is of first importance in business correspondence. 
"Have I made my meaning clear to the reader?" — 
that is the first question for a correspondent to ask 
after he has written a letter. To be sure, what is 
said may be clear, yet not effective. Clearness alone 
>/ is not enough, by far. That is often the fault with 
school compositions. 

6. How to gain clearness. — A clear impression in 
\ the writer's own mind of the facts to he presented is 
the first means of clear expression; the second is the 
'^ knowledge of how the reader will be likely to interpret 
the language used; and the third, knowledge of gram- 
3 mar and rhetoric as one means of more accurately an- 
ticipating this interpretation. 


There are other things to be considered, such as 
^Arrangement which causes the reader to progress from 
ideas that are easily grasped by him to those which 
would not be so clear were it not for the preceding in- 
formation. Sometimes this progress is from simple to 
complex ideas ; again it may be from the complex to 
the simple; or it may be from concrete to general, or 
vice versa — according to the subject matter, and es- 
pecially, according to the reader's knowliedge of, and 
attitude toward, the facts presented. Few rules of ar- 
rangement, as it affects clearness, can be laid down. 
An orderly arrangement is an important means of 
gaining clearness. But the clearest arrangement for 
one may not be the best for another. 

7. Simplicity and directness. — Another important 
characteristic of effective presentation is the use of 
sentence structure which is as simple as possible, while 
expressing the thought adequately. Sometimes the 
desire for extreme simplicity leads *a correspondent to 
say less than he meant to say. This fault is rare, how- 
ever, for most business messages deal with plain facts. 
Lack of simplicity may be due to a tendency to use J 
long words. For example, here is the beginning of a 
letter written by the president of a publishing con- 

Dear Sir: 

Knowing that you are desirous of finding out about ex- 
ceptional profit opportunities, I have requested our sales 
manager to send you a copy of our much-talked-about publi- 
cation, "Better Business." 


That beginning sounds somewhat cumbersome and 
is not as simple and direct — and therefore not as ef- 
fective — as this : 

Dear Sir: 

"Better Business" is what we call a new book which tells 
how five men in your line of business made money as the re- 
sult of a new buying system. 

This introduction reads more easily because it is 
more clear-cut and direct. It combines sunplicity 
and directness. The words used are comparatively 
short. Such expression is in accord with the modern 
tendency of business letters to get down to facts. 
A good business man will expect simplicity and direct- 
ness in business letters. 

8. Concreteness. — Concrete expression is a charac- 
teristic of successful letters. Concreteness of thought 
and expression helps make the letter interesting. It 
also makes the letter clear and easy to read. It is 
what is usually meant by "getting down to brass 
tacks." It aims at the particular and specific rather 
than the general and abstract. An actual case is cited 
and enough details are given to impress the reader 
with the reality of what is said. If concreteness is to 
be gained by using quotations, the quoted matter 
should be direct rather than indirect. Here is a letter 
which lacks concreteness: 

Dear Sir: 

It is probably bad form to talk about our own merits. 
But we would rather do it directly and whole-heartedly, if 
we do it at all. Therefore, this message. 


Now, all agree, and their agreement is based on common 
experience, that the House of Hammer has bargain-giving 
ability of great power. This is due not to great size so 
much as to knowledge of markets — a cause of size. This 
knowledge comes from long experience. It's age, not size, 
that makes this house reliable. 

Conservatism does not help the world very much. Long 
experience may be without good results — if conservatism 
holds sway. Striking out along new lines is the way 
to learn fast. That is why we have set a fast pace down 
thru the years ; and our varied experience has added much 
from year to year to our knowledge of markets. This spe- 
cial knowledge is at your service. What it means to you is 
most eloquently set forth in the inclosed list of bargains. 
Such bargains are possible only when buying power is great. 

This is the introduction of a two-page letter which 
runs along to the end in that labored kind of style. 
It is not to be denied that it is solid, logical, and well 
expressed, and has features that are to be commended. 
But the letter is too general and is, therefore, hard to 
read. Compare it in effect with this : 

Dear Sir: 

Each one of the eleven offerings listed on the sheets in- 
closed is a BARGAIN — good enough to warrant the use of 
capital letters. Take those berry bowls, for instance. They 
sell regularly at 50 cents each. You could sell them at 
"Your choice, 25 cents," or even at 19 cents, and still make 
11 cents or 5 cents gross profits on each sale. 

Mr. Horace Johnson, of Shelbyville, your state, used two 
gross of these berry bowls to sell as a leader. He filled his 
window with them, not full, but enough to give the "wide- 
choice" impression, and yet few enough to show up their 
white, cut-glass quality. His background was black cheese- 
cloth. It was a rich-looking window. In the center a neat 
sign read: 


These perfect berry bowls sell regularly at 50 cents 
each. A fortunate purchase enables us to offer them at 
19 cents each — one to a customer. 

The "19 cents" was displayed boldly. Mr. Johnson also 
used one 10-inch ad in his local paper. A copy of this is 
inclosed. Within less than a week he sold 288 of these bowls 
at a gross profit of $14.40. They would sell almost as fast, 
maybe faster, at 29 or 39 cents. But Mr. Johnson wanted 
them to be sure to be big silent advertisements to each woman 
who bought one. 

Or take those aluminum coffee pots. The price we put 
on them is a silent testimonial to our buying power. This 
power is not due to our great size so much as to knowledge 
of markets. That knowledge comes from 38 years' concen- 
tration on the problem of getting the goods so that we can 
offer the merchants we serve such values as these coffee pots. 

Yes, we make a fair profit on each one of thtse eleven items. 
You can buy as many as you want. And please remember 
that it's age and experience, not merely size, that makes this 
house what it is — the small- town merchant's servant — one 
price whether you buy a dozen or a gross — and that a price 
you can depend upon. 

Your order for what you want of the special offerings in- 
closed will be filled and shipped the day it is received. You 
have our complete catalog. The prices on other seasonable 
merchandise quoted in it will tell you that these special 
offerings are not so special after all. 

Yours very truly. 

From the point of view of a merchant in a small 
town whose account with this house has been classified 
as "lazy" or "dormant," which of the two foregoing 
letters would best serve to make him feel that prob- 
ably he had been losing out by not giving this house 
more of his business; which would be more likely to 
secure an order? The second letter just quoted is a 


good example of what is meant by concreteness. 
Each hundred letters brought 21 orders. The first 
letter, written and sent to one hundred merchants, 
merely as a test of the type of letter that talks general- 
ities, brought only two inquiries and one order. 

9. Analyzing the successful letter. — Other impor- 
tant principles are illustrated in this letter. It antici- 
pates resistances; for example, knowing that the 
reader might object to the capitalization of the word, 
bargain, on the ground that it is trite, the writer fore- 
stalls the objection with the expression, "good enoughs 
to warrant the use of capital letters." Moreover, the 
letter seems to have just the proper degree of original- 
ity. Then, too, the ideas are naturally expressed. 
"Take those berry bowls," for instance, sounds more 
natural and human than it would to begin "those 
berry bowls," — or, worse still, something like this: 
"The berry bowls described on the second sheet, for 
instance, sell regularly," etc. This letter is much 
more natural in expression than the other. 

An important resistance which is well met in this 
successful letter is the feeling the reader would un- 
doubtedly have, that these specials represent a sac- 
rifice for an ulterior purpose. "Yes, we make a fair 
profit on each one of these eleven items. You can 
buy as many as you want." This frank, direct state- 
ment that the concern naturally expects to make a 
profit, serves to create a favorable impression. Suc- 
cessful letters anticipate resistances that are sure to 


But this letter was successful principally because 
of the use of the concrete. And this concreteness, 
besides impressing the reader with the truth of the 
general statement made in the last part of the next to 
the? last paragraph, also makes this general statement 
an effective explanation of how a profit can be made 
even tho the selling price is very low. In other words, 
it is made clear that the age and experience of the 
concern enables it to offer advantages in low prices. 
Thus it is not so much the price, but the reason for the 
price which sells the goods. 

Perhaps in this letter the best example of taking 
the reader's viewpoint is in emphasizing the inex- 
pensiveness of window-space as a means of advertis- 
ing as compared with space in a local newspaper. 
"To the average merchant, window-space does not 
represent an expense," is the way in which a whole- 
saler explained it. His statement was general and 
hard to understand because it admits of several inter- 
pretations. But he explained it concretely as follows : 

If a man is inclined to be economical and he pays 10 cents 
cash for each cigar he smokes, he will be likely to smoke 
fewer cigars than would be the case were he to purchase a box 
of 50 cigars for $5, even tho the cigar store were as con- 
venient as are the cigars from this box. Why ? Principally 
because there is a difference in the directness of his feeling 
of expense. Nearly always direct expense and expenses that 
show an indirect return are resisted in proportion to the 
degree of directness. 

10. Personality. — The word, personality, implies 
several important characteristics of effective presenta- 


tion. But personality is a misunderstood word in 
salesmanship. "Well, I suppose it's my personal- 
ity" is often the traveling salesman's explanation of 
his success. In written salesmanship, also, the corre- 
spondent very often, when asked to explain why his 
letters make their appeal, can only say "they have a 
personal tone ; therefore they get under the skin of the 
reader." He does not really know what constitutes 
personality, nor does he understand why his letters 
have the personal tone. He has not thought about 
personality. What is it? How can one acquire it? 
He could not definitely answer such questions. 

The deepest principles of salesmanship are in this 
word, "personality," but a general analysis of letters 
that have an effective personal tone must be made if 
the full significance of the term is to be understood. 
Of course the kind and degree of personal tone in 
letters varies with each house and with each letter, for 
adaptation of the expression to the reader is primarily 
a matter of the proper tone. A. more or less complete 
analysis of "tone" might run as follows: 

The right tone involves the proper degree of cour- 
tesy, dignity, confidence, good nature, frankness, re- 
spect, sympathy, optimism, famiharity, cleverness, in- 
dividuality and originality. 

The practical value of such an analysis is that it 
helps the writer tell definitely why his letter sounds 
right or does not sound right to him when he puts him- 
self in the reader's place. 

11. Individuality and originality. — Individuality 


and originality are marked characteristics of modern 
letters that get desired results. Individuality of ex- 
pression causes the reader to feel that the writer of 
the letter is a definite and distinct individual — a hu- 
man being like himself. In general, there should be 
enough originality so that the reader v^^ill not receive 
the impression that the letter has been dictated me- 
chanically. On the other hand, the letter should not 
be original to the extent of being odd and eccentric, 
for in such a case the reader's attention is distracted 
from the thought and centered on the form. A con- 
j scious striving after originality and cleverness is in 
poor taste and is liable to produce unsatisfactory re- 
sults. The reader resents it. Yet it is a common 
fault today. 

The following letter lacks the proper kind and de- 
gree of originality and individuality. It was not suc- 


Your favor of the 10th inst. at hand, and in reply we beg 
to state that your offer to take 3,000 lbs. of sheet-brass at 
the old rate is not agreeable. As stated in our previous 
letter, that rate is out of the question owing to causes beyond 
our control. Consequently our increase of one-half cent a 
pound must stand, as per the new price-lists. We are very 
sorry to make this raise in price, but owing to the increased 
rate to us from the mills, we cannot now see our way clear to 
accept the offer of business on your terms. We hope, how- 
ever, that you may see your way clear to accept the new rate, 
and assuring you again of our regret in the matter, we beg 
to remain, 

Yours very truly, 


A second writer restated the case of his firm as fol- 


As I was the correspondent to answer your inquiry regard- 
ing our new prices on sheet-brass, I feel personally obliged to 
answer the letter sent from your office on the 10th of the 
month. I am sorry not to have explained more clearly why 
we have been compelled to issue new price-lists. 

For six months we have known that we could not keep to 
our old prices on sheet-brass. Nearly four months ago the 
mills raised their price per pound on some grades, and this 
month they are revising upward their entire price list. 

It has been our hope that prices might fall so that we 
could avoid asking more from our customers. For several 
weeks we have lost our profit on some grades while waiting 
for better quotations from the mills. Now, however, with 
still higher prices in sight, we can delay no longer. To do so 
would, in the end, mean going out of business. 

You, of course, will now be obliged to get more for your 
finished product because of the increased cost of sheet-brass. 
Undoubtedly your customers will object, at first, to what 
seems an unreasonable demand. But they know about the 
small margin of profit in your line, and I am sure that an ex- 
planation from you will satisfy them that increases are im- 
perative. If not, I am sure that we can help you. A letter 
from us for your use with unsatisfied customers will be the 
final proof that materials are costing you more money. I 
shall be glad at any time to write such a letter, or you vc\a,y 
use the one now before you. 

I need not add that we are ready to do whatever is possi- 
ble in order to keep your business. 

Yours faithfully, 

This letter is effectively individual and original. 
The letter first quoted is an exaggerated example of 
the old time "favor-at-hand-beg-to-remain" type of 


letter that is a fast-fading relic of the days when 
every letter was more or less a legal document. 

12. Naturalness. — ^A marked characteristic of ef- 
fective letters is naturalness of expression; that is, 
employing virtually the same words and sentences 
which the writer would use in a face-to-face interview. 

The style of a letter must not be too informal, how- 
ever, for the result would often be a tone too colloquial 
and familiar. Written speech is necessarily some- 
what more formal than spoken ; yet the expression of 
a letter, naturally written, closely resembles conversa- 
tion. The correspondent will find that it will help 
him in taking the other man's point of view as tho he 
were speaking to the addressee. 

Compare these two opening paragraphs. 

1. In accordance with your request, we are sending you, 
under separate cover, a booklet which explains our plan of 

2. As you request, we are sending you by this mail a book- 
let which tells all about our plan of advertising. 

• The second seems more natural, because it is more 
like what a person would say. It is more simple and 
direct. It makes use of shorter words. There is a 
close relationship between naturalness and simplicity 
and directness; likewise between naturalness and in- 
dividuality and originality. All these characteristics 
of expression, when they appear in proper degree, 
help cause the reader to feel that the writer is genu- 
inely sincere in what he says. Suppose, however, that 
the writer of the above opening paragraph had said : 


I'll mail you right away a booklet on our advertising plan. 
This will tell you just what you want to know. 

The tone is too familiar, unless the writer happens 
to be well acquainted with the reader. Written 
speech is nearly always somewhat more dignified than 

13. Economy. — The natural tendency in business 
correspondence is toward economy: saving words 
and sentences as well as the reader's time and effort. 
True economy requires the use of enough words to 
make the right impression as well as the omission of 
more words than are necessary for an adequate expres- 
sion of the thought. As in the case of originality, too 
many writers, in trying to avoid one extreme, swing 
to the other. The following letter illustrates this 
tendency : 

Dear Sir: 

We have yours of the 18th. As requested are sending cir- 
culars describing the ; also are inclosing photo. 

Yours very truly, 

This letter gives the reader an unfavorable impres- 
sion of the writer and of the concern he represents. 
It suggests that the business in hand is so unimportant 
that it ought to be transacted as quickly, and with as 
little effort, as possible. It causes the reader to feel 
that the writer is a gruff man and possibly too con- 
scious of his own importance. In this case, true econ- 
omy would require the use of more words. For in- 
stance : 

XII— 6 


We are glad to send you the inclosed description of the 
• . Please let us know if we can be of further service. 

This letter uses more words, but it gives the reader 
a better impression of the personality of the writer. 
"We have yours of the 18th" and "as requested" are 
unnecessary words in this ease. The letter is a good 
example of false economy. The revision of it, just 
quoted, is more like natural oral expression. 

14. Correctness essential to effective presentation. 
— As set forth in Chapter I, a letter may be effective 
and yet be incorrect as regards form, grammar and 
presentation. Nevertheless, such letters are nearly 
always handicapped by their incorrectness. Many 
men are greatly influenced in judgment by what 
others deem small things. They have formed the 
habit of making nice discriminations which turn on 
apparently slight differences, and they judge letters 

15. Dictation. — The ability to dictate a good letter 
comes with experience. But, like ability in writing a 
correct letter, facility in dictation is not sufficient. 
What is of first importance is definite knowledge of 
the purpose of a letter, and of the impression to be 
made upon the reader that will accomplish this pur- 
pose, and knowledge of the facts that will best serve 
to make each of the necessary impressions. In other 
words, a definite plan of action is necessary. Many 
letters are dictated without sufficient preparation. 
Altho the writer is not as clear in his own mind as he 
would like to be concerning what he wants to say, he 


often feels that he must keep on talking. The result, 
as a rule, is a letter of the incoherent type and usually 
one of greater length than necessary. It is easier to 
keep right on talking and yet to make each word 
count if the talker first knows definitely what impres-|^ 
sions he wants to make. This is the fundamental! 
basis of good dictation. 

To talk to the addressee, not/ to the stenographer 
or out of the window, but to sei the addressee — that, 
too, is a fundamental requirement in good dictation. 
It is also essential to concentrate on one letter at a 
time. But the most important thing is for the writer 
to be sure that all necessary information is at hand be- 
fore beginning to dictate, and for him to be certain 
that he has the reader's point of view. - Poor dicta- 
tion is generally due to a lack of information. Good 
dictation is not the result of fluency and accuracy of 
expression alone. It involves, first of all, effective i 
business thinking, which, in turn, is based on adequatej 
knowledge, as suggested in preceding chapters. 


Compare the value of the thought and of its presentation. 

What is effective presentation? 

Will knowledge of "literary English" help or hinder a business 

Explain the merits of concrete expression as compared to gen- 
eral or abstract expression. 

Mention the chief evidences of personality in effective letters, 
• Why is expression in modern business correspondence becom- 
ing inore natural ? 

What is meant by an economic use of words ? 

What are the chief essentials in good dictation? 



1. Lack of good salesmanship. — When sales letters 
fail to sell it is generally for the reason that they lack 
good salesmanship. In case the letter is designed to 
serve merely as one step in the selling process the 
most frequent evidence of poor salesmanship is the 
failure to consider certain circumstances or conditions 
which are the cause of the buyer's disinclination to 
make the purchase, or to do something else that the 
writer wants him to do. 

These neglected circumstances or conditions af- 
fecting the addressee, in most cases, either are known 
to the sales correspondent or can be ascertained. For 
example, the writer of a sales letter often forgets that 
his addressee receives numerous other letters besides 
his, many of which hold little interest for him, and 
that therefore he seldom reads thru any selling letter 
unless it does interest him from the beginning. 

2. Meaning of the word "plan'' — Another com- 
mon cause of failure is lack, of good salesmanship in 
the "plan" of the letter. The plan is the outline of 
the letter ; it should consist of all the important/points 
to be included in the letter itself. It naturally fol- 



lows, then, that in the plan special emphasis should be 
placed upon those phases of the offer which mak^ it as 
easy as possible for the addressee to respon(yfav.or- 
ably, and as difficult as possible for him to respond un- 
favorably. The plab of sale or the plan of payment 
should also be given prominence. 

In the case of form letters, it is especially important 
that the addressees be selected carefully, in order that 
the letter may be sent where it will have the best possi- 
ble opportunity to make good. This chgice of ad- 
dressees is really a part of the plan. When letters 
are sent to persons who cannot or will not respond 
favorably, no matter how excellent the letter may be, 
the plan of the letter is fundamentally wrong. Such 
practice is directly contrary to the "service" idea in 
modern salesmanship. 

3. Function of a selling letter. — This selling prin- 
ciple of offering a genuine service at the right time is 
of particular significance in the art of writing success- 
ful selling letters. It is part of the plan behind the 
letter. The initiative that is responsible for its be- 
ing put into practice often originates in the factory, 
as in this case, where the inventor of the Copper Clad 
wire was the real creator of the plan behind the letter 
quoted in Chapter Dl, Section 5. The correspond- 
ent wisely took advantage of a good opportunity to 
bring together supply and demand. This is the main 
function of a sales correspondent. He often creates 
his opportunity, but usually it is his duty to be able to 
recognize real opportunities created by conditions of 


demand, and to realise the relation of that demand to 
what he has to supply. 

4. Addressee wants facts. — The day of cautious 
buying is here. In a majority of industries ^upply 
has caught up with demand, and oompetjtion is 
keen among sellers. Therefore buyers are encour- 
aged to compare the offers of various sellers. In 
other words, they are less easily satisfied than form- 
erly. They are also more cautious in their buying 
for another reason which has important bearing on 
sales correspondence. In the earlier stages of the 
present situation, when rapidly increasing supply in 
many lines was just beginning to cause strong com- 
petitive effort among sellers, the salesmen, in their ef- 
forts to make sales, were inclined to make extravagant 
claims. Exaggeration was characteristic of sales- 
manship. Strong-arm methods were the rule rather 
than the exception. Sales letters as well as sales talks 
were full of emotional appeal designed to rush the 
buyer into a purchase. But now there is a tendency 
in the opposite direction, which is revealed in sales 
correspondence, as well as in other methods of sell- 
ing, chiefly in the increasing use of facts. A bet- 
ter business basis is being established for sales let- 

"Give him facts. Give him the facts that will com- 
pel him to conclude for himself that it is best for him 
to accept your offer. Don't argue with him. Let 
him persuade himself in the light of the facts in the 
case." That is the substance of all the advice that 


one well-known manufacturer gives his sales corre- 
spondents. It embodies a principle of good sales- 
manship that is based on a knowledge of human na- 
ture, for it is a familiar fact that nearly all people 
are more cautious in acting upon conclusions of other 
people than they are in acting upon conclusions of 
their own. 

5. Avoiding the obvious. — When a ^vriter of sales 
letters deliberately avoids general conclusions and 
general statements of his own opinons, he makes it 
just so much easier to fill his letter with "punch"; 
in other words, with facts, clearly and interestingly 
presented, which will influence his addressee to reach 
the desired conclusion. When he states conclusions 
as well as facts he usually makes the mistake of telling 
the reader something which the latter already knows. 
The effect is seldom good. The reader usually makes, 
one or both of two reactions. Either he shghtly re-^ 
sents the implication that he does not know the con- 
clusions stated, or he considers it lightly, as something 
already known to him. Yet this mistake is often 
made. Here is an example: 

Dear Sir: 

While traveling on railroad trains thru Southern Indiana 
and Illinois last summer, I often heard the remark made by 
a farmer as he looked out over the burning, sizzling corn 

"My, I wish I had a silo. I could save enough of my 
crop to winter my stock at least; and the way it is, I will 
have to sell a good part of them. But it's too late now to 
get one up." 


You see, that man had to lose the price of a silo before 
he could be brought to see the value of it. Last summer's 
hot winds made many a farmer resolve to have a silo before 
another crop season. 

Then arose the question of what kind to buy. There is, 
of course, the matter of cost to be considered. We do not 
claim that the Perfecto silo is as cheap as a stave silo made 
of tamarac or pine, but we DO claim that it is as cheap as a 
silo made of redwood, which is the ONLY wood that does 
not decay rapidly. 

The Perfecto silo costs no more at our prices than any 
other permanent form of silo, even if you build it yourself. 
We have known men to build block or brick silos for them- 
selves which cost as much as our regular price and still would 
not keep silage. You see our experience is worth something 
to you. Our profits are simply the savings which come from 
quantity buying and building and from our experience in 
constructing many silos. 

Then there is the primarily important question of which 
silo will keep silage in the best condition. Now we do not 
say that we have the only silo which will keep silage. We 
have, however, the only silo which will KEEP ALL THE 
SILAGE, clear out to the walls, in all kinds of weather. 

When may we come and tell you how we do it.'' 
Yours very truly. 

6. Why this letter failed. — The first part of the 
foregoing letter is interesting to farmers because it is 
concrete, but it somewhat lacks credibihty for the very 
reason that it is concrete. The quotation, at the be- 
ginning, is not entirely convincing, altho the aver- 
age farmer could not tell just why he distrusts it. 
Instead of "I often heard the remark made by a 
farmer," it would be better to sav, "I heard several 


farmers, as they looked out over the burning, sizzling 
cornfields, make remarks somewhat like this." That 
would be a statement nearer the truth, if less definite. 
In a selling letter, credibility is more important than 

But the third paragraph of this letter furnishes 
the main ground -of criticism. The lesson taught by 
the experience of negligent farmers is obvious enough 
at the end of the second paragraph. The farmer is 
inclined to object to the conclusion *'You see, that 
man had to lose," and so on. Note also the incon- 
sistency in saying, "that man," in view of the previous 
statement that the remark was often heard. The 
word "often" in the first paragraph is not consistent 
with the principle of credibility; and because of this 
lack of credibility and of the conclusion drawn in 
the third paragraph, the farmer is inclined not to 
make the decision that the writer desires. His pride 
gets in the way. He would be more inclined to make 
a favorable decision if the writer did not try to argue 
him into it. Pride, however, is the main obstacle, as 
it often is when obvious conclusions are drawn for the * 

The rest of the letter contains some good salesman- 
ship, altho the fourth paragraph tends to keep the 
farmer thinking about other farmers rather than about 
his own need for his contemplated silo. If the first 
sentence of the fourth paragraph and the first sen- 
tence in the third paragraph were omitted, the letter 
would be improved. 



{ "We do not claim," and so on, in the fourth para- 
graph illustrates an important selling principle. 
Sometimes it is expressed like this : Be willing to ad- 
mit limitations to a certain extent. The man who 
is big enough to do this gives the impression of fair- 
ness, broad-mindedness and honesty. 

7. When to talk price. — This letter also happens to 
lack good salesmanship in the way it mentions 
price. Even tho price may sometimes be the decid- 
ing factor in the making of a sale, it is not best, as a 
rule, when this kind of product is offered, to make the 
low price the chief selling argument. The question, 
"What kind to buy?" is not satisfactorily answered 
in this letter by the comparison of the cost of the 
Perfecto silo with that of other types of silos. 

The questions in which the farmer is interested — 
in order of importance — would probably be these: 
"Do I need a silo?" Then, "What type of silo is 
best for my purpose?" "What will it cost me?" 
"Could I get another kind of silo that would give me 
almost as good service but would cost me much less 
— enough less so that the saving would more than 
make up for the difference in quality?" "If not, 
where and how can I get, at the least cost, the silo 
which is best for me?" 

(As a rule, it is best to talk price after a strong feel- 
ing of need for the product has been aroused. Then 
it is usually best to make the talk about the price short 
and forceful. In the letter quoted in Section 5 the 


discussion of cost in the middle of the letter makes 
comparatively more difficult the task of arousing the 
feeling of need for any silo. In the fourth para- 
graph, the statement, "Then arose the question of 
what kind to buy," is an unfortunate expression of 
the problem. It would have been much better to say, 
"Then arose the question of what silo would be best to 
have"; for then the reader's attention would have 
been directed to the usefulness of the article instead of 
to the cost. The writer's attitude is wrong. Again 
he apparently feels that the cost is all-important to the 
addressee and therefore talks low cost in the heart 
of the letter. A vision of the cost often tends to kill 
interest. Anticipation of the pleasure and the profit 
to be gained from the use of the product or the service, 
creates^nterest. A correspondent's lack of consid- 
eration of this selling principle is a frequent cause of 

8. Holding the reader's viewpoint in mind, — Even 
a slight appreciation of the reader's point of view 
would prevent any one from writing a letter like the 

Dear Sir: 

If a man should come along the road some day while you 
were plowing com and say to you: 

"If you will pay me $400, I will take 10 acres of your 
corn before it matures and make 20 out of it for you and 
do that every year for the rest of your lifetime." 

Would YOU consider that a good business proposi- 
tion ? 


The farmers up in my part of the state think so, for there 
you can see a silo on every farm, and that's a good grain 
country, too. They don't need to raise stock to make their 
farms pay a profit. 

Why do they doit.? 

Because they see the scfircity of meat; they know that 
with the old methods of feeding they could not raise cattle 
at a profit; they could not keep one head of stock to every 
acre of ground without the silo : they could not build up their 
land without keeping more stock. 

If you contemplate building a silo, it will be money in your 
pocket to read the catalog sent you, and to study carefully 
the advantages of our method of construction. Good con- 
struction is essential to a production of the greatest percent- 
age of good silage and at the least cost per ton. 

Would you be interested if you knew that we could show 
you how to make this silo earn its cost before you pay us 
for it.? 

Shall we come and talk this over with you? Name the 
time and we will be there or send our local agent. 

Yours very truly, 

Paragraph 4 in this letter clearly implies that the 
farmers in the correspondent's part of the state are 
more wide-awake than those in the addressee's terri- 
tory , and the next two paragraphs serve only further 
to impress the idea that the writer considers the farm- 
ers in his part of the state "wise-acres." 

From the reader's point of view, this letter is weak 
from beginning to end, and its faults are easily dis- 
cernible. For instance, the first three paragraphs 
would arouse the suspicion of the average farmer and 
make him bristle with caution. 

This "point of contact" method would have been 


effective if it had been properly used, for by means of 
it a writer can present his subject concretely and can 
make a definite appeal to the reader's self-interest. 
But this letter suggests that the writer is interested 
primarily in getting the best possible price from the 
farmer. The statement of the benefit is too strong. 
We have here another illustration of the wro^^ appli- 
cation of a good principle. 

9. Examples of other selling principles. — Other 
selling rules which are usually lacking in letters that 
fail are the following: 

"Lead the reader to do voluntarily what you want ^j 
him to do." According to this rule, the writer must 
make his ^p^eal in the body of the letter, and this is 
where it really should be made. If the correspond- 
ent does this, he will not find it necessary to make 
strained attempts at the end of the letter to get action. 
Any straining for effect is always apparent to the 
reader and causes antagonism. "Do it today. Don't 
delay another minute." Such exhortations and all 
their variations are seldom so effective as something 
like this: "These are the facts in the case. Now it 
is up to you. Your machine will be shipped the day 
your order reaches us." 

That was the ending of a successful letter to the 
prospective purchaser of a typewriter. The letter 
consisted almost solely of a clear statement of facts, 
and each fact explained a distinctive feature of the ma- 
chine. The addressee in this case wanted a machine, 
but was undecided as to which make he would buy. 


He was interested in facts only. These facts led him 
to want this machine, and without being urged he sent 
in his order voluntarily. 

y "Be a good listener" is another important selling 
principle that is just as applicable in sales corre- 
spondence as it is in personal salesmanship. It in- 
volves anticipation of exactly what the reader would 
say if the writer were talking to him instead of writ- 
ing a letter. The great advantage of oral salesman- 
ship as compared with sales correspondence is that the 
salesman can answer directly every question as soon 
as the prospect asks it. But the sales correspondent 
can and must be a good "listener" in imagination. 
Many letters fail because the writer has not realized 
the importance of this requirement. 

"Respect the addressee." More than one letter is 
unsuccessful because it contains a tone of disrespect. 
The "big" man in business is inclined to talk down to 
men with smaller business interests, altho in many 
cases the big man is really the servant of the many 

' "httle" men on whom he depends for business. Lack 
of appreciation of the true business relationship that 
exists between writer and reader often causes a letter 
to fail. 

Keep the reader in the letter; cause him to get a 
realistic picture of the good his acceptance of your 
offer will bring to him. Thus principles of salesman- 
ship which form the basis of successful correspond- 
ence might be multiplied. A knowledge of these 
principles is essential in good salesmanship, and a lack 


of this knowledge is nearly always characteristic of 
the unsuccessful correspondent. 

loJ Know human nature. — The practice of the 
principles that have been discussed is merely a ques- 
tion of taking advantage of past experience. The 
principles are of especial value in stimulating an in- 
vestigation into the causes of success and failure. Since 
they are based on a knowledge of the traits of human 
nature, this knowledge of human nature is really the 
fundamektal requirement. If, for instance, the cor- 
respondent realizes the fact that people are most eager 
to supply the need that is most pressiig at the time, he 
will be less likely to make such mistakes as that of 
talking price too soon in his letters. Or if he knows 
that all men like to feel that they are acting on 
their own initia^ve, the writer will be more likely to 
avoid stating baldly his own opinions. The corre- 
spondent must possess knowledge of human nature, 
especially the "human nature" of the individual ad- 
dressee, before he can successfully adjust himself to 
the reader's point of view. 

11. Why adjustment to the reader is often difficult. 
— The extent of the difference between the writer's 
own environment and experience and those of the 
reader determines the degree of difficulty that this 
adjustment will involve. Therefore, the greater this 
difference the greater should be the correspondent's 
effort to visualize completely and accurately, from all 
the facts available, the environment that causes the 
reader's point of view to be what it is. 


The most successful sales correspondent in an east- 
ern wholesale house that sells principally to general 
merchants, was himself at one time in the same busi- 
ness as the merchants to whom he writes. He there- 

• fore finds it easy to take the point of view of his 
readers. Cases like this are by no means rare. But 
it is comparatively difficult for a sales correspondent 
who earns perhaps thirty or forty dollars a week, to 
appreciate the point of view of the man whose income 
is several times as large. Here is a case that will il- 
lustrate this point: 

A sales correspondent for a phonograph company, 
whose salary is forty-five dollars a week, failed to sell 
a prospect who was later easily sold by a letter from 
the general manager. The main difference between 
the methods of these two men was the fact that the 
forty-five-dollar man was trying to sell a $100 ma- 
chine, while the general manager talked about a $200 
machine. But this general manager knew from ex- 
perience that he could not do as well as his corre- 
spondent in handling the average customer with an 
income of about $150 a month. 

The best way to be able to understand the "human 
nature" of others is to know their environment by ac- 

>^ual experience. If this is not possible, strong and 
sympathetic imagination is the best substitute for ex- 
perience. When one realizes that not all correspond- 
ents have the advantage possessed by the general 
merchant just mentioned, he will appreciate the spe- 


cial importance of good imagination in written sales- 


What is the fundamental cause of failure in the writing of sales 
letters ? 

Why are facts more effective than argument? 

Why should the correspo'hdent avoid making statements that 
tell obvious facts? 

Why should he anticipate the questions that will arise in the 
reader's mind? 

What is the best use of selling principles ? Mention some sound 
selling principles. 

When is adjustment to the reader's point of view most difficult? 

XII— 7 



1. Value of knowing why a letter makes good. — 
A sales correspondent in a wholesale house noticed 
an improvement in the results of his letters just after 
he had returned from a trip south among the mer- 
chants with whom he had been corresponding. He 
was curious concerning the cause of this improvement 
and in an attempt to find an explanation he com- 
pared carbons of letters written before his trip with 
those of letters written after his return. There was 
a noticeable increase in warmth and cordiality in his 
more recent letters. This tone indeed was so ap- 
parent that he feared he had been overdoing it. Yet, 
since his very cordial letters had brought better re- 
turns than the others, he decided that they must have 
produced the right effect upon his readers — that the 
readers had not considered the cordiality overdone. 
He reflected upon the impressions he had received 
frQm letters sent to him, and concluded that what 
might seem to the writer an excessively cordial tone 
would not, in most cases, impress the reader as such. 
He experimented upon a number of similar cases, 
writing letters of various degrees of cordiality and was 
surprised at the marked difference in returns, with re- 



suits in favor of the more cordial letters, especially 
those in which the cor^Jiality was very marked in the 
oj^ening sentences. 

Two letters identical except as to the opening para- 
graphs illustrate this point. The two different open- 
ings follow. 

In response to your welcome inquiry of the tenth, it gives 
us a great deal of pleasure to report big sales and numerous 
repeat orders on our Honor Brand overalls, in all parts of 
the country. This brand is made up especially for us and 
according to our own specifications — your specifications, I 
ought to say, because we have built into this brand sugges- 
tions from many merchants who were kind enough to tell us 
exactly what their trade wanted. Briefly, Mr. Eppinger, 
here are the specifications : 


Your inquiry of the tenth is about a brand of overalls 
which enjoys big sales and numerous repeat orders in all 
parts of the country. This brand is made up especially for 
us according to specifications which were suggested by mer- 
chants who told us exactly what their trade wanted. Briefly, 
here are the specifications: 

The letter with the first opening brought twice as 
good results as that with the second, tho the latter 
appears perhaps more businesslike in tone. Mer- 
chants like to have letters get right down to business, 
but this quality need not rule out the cordial tone. It 
is quite consistent to write a letter that is both concise 
and cordial, as will be shown in the following section. 

The point here involved is that this correspondent 


let the little word "why" reveal the means of making 
his letters uniformly more successful. Whether a 
letter was a success or a failure, he would ask him- 
self. Why? and then build future letters on the 
information that the answer to that question re- 

2. Conciseness and good nature. — Letters that 
make good are often concise and good-natured. 
Many "concise" letters, however, are brief in a me- 
chanical fashion. They suggest brusqueness. They 
often give the reader a distinct impression that the 
writer "feels his oats," and considers his time too valu- 
able to waste much of it in writing his letters. "Yours 
of the 10th received. Goods shipped by express on 
the 8th," and so on. That is the brusque tone. Com- 
pare it with this : 

Dear Sir: — From Aa Al to L4 — from less than $500 to 
$1,000,000 and over. 

In iNIaine — in California — Minnesota — Mississippi — and 
in the states between — you will find adding machines of one 
style or another. 

It serves the Standard Oil Company (Aa Al) and it serves 
the Little Fellow (L4) and thousands of concerns not so 
large or so small. 

For some it adds and handles 10,000 items per day, where 
less than 800 were handled before. For others it subtracts 
and makes an equal saving of time. 

Again we find it on multiplication, with its exclusive 
printed proof, doing 350 to 400 invoices (correctly) where 
only 225 to 260 came thru before. ^ 

Division — as in pro-rating, analysis, etc. — ^keeps it busy 
with some of our friends. 

All these features wrapped up in a Portable (22 lb.) 


Machine with an unusual capacity (9 billion) and a low 

What will you do about it? Just arrange to look at this 
machine by filling in the inclosed card. Absolutely no obli- 
gation to purchase. 

Very truly yours, 

General Sales Manager. 

This letter made good. It combines true concise- 
ness of thought and expression with the subtle good 
nature that seems to be the result of the writer's con- 
fidence in his product. The punctuation is not in 
entire accordance with orthodox rules, but the sen- 
tences are free from elisions of the mechanical sort. 
This letter is human and personal notwithstanding 
its conciseness. To say much in a small space as 
this writer does and yet make the expression easy 
to read, and not labored or mechanical in tone, is 
characteristic of the art of the most expert writers of 
effective business English. 

Abraham Lincoln was master of the suggestive and 
natural conciseness that is the sincere style of expres- 
sion in the letters of the best writers among present- 
day executives. A study of Liricoln's letters would 
be helpful to any one who wants to develop this style 
of expression, a style that is characteristic of men 
whose judgment is mature and whose knowledge of 
human nature and the subject matter of their letters 
is comprehensive. Of most fundamental importance, 
however, is the comprehensive knowledge of human 
nature and of conditions. 

3. Deference. — Many letters make good because 


the writer shows sincere deference to the reader, some- 
what as a good host shows deference to his guest. 
Consider, for example, the two following paragraphs 
from the letter of an executive to his salesmen. 

We all agree, I feel sure, that buyers of paper are busy 
men with many other important duties clamoring for their 
attention. Therefore I have secured many good customers 
by suggesting — after I had got pretty well acquainted with 
them — that they let me act as their buyer and take over all 
their responsibility for purchasing paper that best fills their 

1 Now, if you are not already doing this in certain cases, I 
/believe the suggestion is a good one. We know that buyers 
of paper waste — and know that they waste — much time in 
seeing many salesmen in an uneconomical attempt to save 
money. They could save this time for other duties — if a 
salesman of paper of standard quality, a salesman big enough 
to be trusted to guard the interests of his client, were avail- 

Altho the writer was the president of a big paper 
concern, nothing in the letter would suggest anything 
but that the writer is one salesman who is talking to 
another. The kind of respect for employes evident 
in this letter is genuine in executives who accomplish 
most in training their men. 

As a rule, when one gets a letter from a big cor- 
poration which seems to talk down at him rather than 
up with him, he will find it was written by some young 
man in the organization who has yet to learn the value 
of deference toward his addressee under all conditions. 
It is not necessarily egotism in the young correspond- 
ent that causes him to reveal in his letters his feeling 


of importance, but generally it is a false notion that 
the bigness and power of the business concern with 
which he is connected needs to be impressed on each 
addressee. The right degree of humility — ^without 
any suggestion of servility, of course — is often the 
principal cause of a letter's making good. Consider 
the following letter, which pulled largely because it 
shows a frank recognition of the addressee's knowl- 
edge of his own business. 

May we suggest the use of hotel locks in the new 

Inman Hotel. No doubt you are considering the use of our 
series of locks with functions and master-key combinations 
designed for modern hotels. They find favor wherever used. 
The indicating attachments, by which a chambermaid can 
tell whether a room is occupied without trying the door, and 
other special features are proving a great source of satis- 

Our authorized agents, the Hardware Company, will 

be pleased to show you samples and quote you prices, and we 
trust you will call on them. 

This letter went to a contractor whose duty it was 
to know about all kinds of locks. It shows good sales- 
manship in its restraint. 

4. Vivid expression. — It is often necessary, how- 
ever, to make use of less subtle principles of salesman- 
ship, such as concrete and vivid expression. For in- 
stance, here is a letter to merchants from a whole- 
sale house whose sales correspondents take advantage 
of up-to-date information concerning the needs of 
their addressees, furnished by the traveling salesmen 
of the firm. If a merchant happens to be weak on 


show-window salesmanship, for example, he might get 
a letter which starts out like this : 

A good tip ought to be passed along. Therefore I want 
to tell you how Jones, who has a store like yours in Smith- 
ville, in your State, worked up a big business in stock pat- 
terns of high-grade dinner china. 

We know that few people can afford to buy a complete set 
of good dinner ware all at one time ; yet there's not a woman 
in town but wants to own a fine set, and Jones makes ^t pos- 
sible for them to buy one piece at a time and yet take ad- 
vantage of his free offer to replace broken pieces, as may be 
necessary, to the extent of five dollars' worth. 

One day each week Jones uses both his windows for a big 
display of these stock patterns. Each piece bears a separate 
price ticket. The entire set of 100 pieces amounts to 
$55.40. A large placard announces that five dollars' worth 
will be given free when an entire set is purchased — and that 
a set can be purchased piece by piece, or as many pieces can 
be bought at one time as may be desired. He gives a small 
red purchase ticket with each sale, with the amount of the 
sale stamped upon it. As soon as the customer has these 
checks amounting to $55,40, she can redeem them all by an 
additional free selection of the dinner ware amounting alto- 
gether to five dollars. / 

Jones is having big success with this plan. Of course, 
occasionally, when a customer wants to pay cash for an en- 
tire set, he lets the set go at $50.40. But that is the only 
advantage that those who purchase an entire set at one time 
get over the women who purchase their sets piece by piece. 
One gets five dollars ; the other five dollars' worth of dishes 

This letter runs two full pages, single space. It 
tells why the plan it mentions is good, and gives defi- 
nite figures on the number of sets Jones sold in a cer- 
tain period of time, his profits, and so on. It is a good 


example of a concrete appeal that stimulates both 
wholesale and retail sales at one stroke. It is differ- 
ent from the type of vivid expression that is made 
mechanically vivid for the obvious purpose of coercing 
the reader's attention, as for example, letters that be- 
gin somewhat like this : 

That watch in your pocket — what kind is it? "A good 
one," you say. All right, I believe you. Oh, "no good"? 
All right, I believe you. It is your watch; you ought to 

Mr. Hobson is a big man in advertising in your city. He 
is advertising manager of one of your biggest department 

stores. No doubt you know him. Well, he says the 

machine cut his printing expense in half last year. 

Now, why should you not believe him just as you expect 
to be believed when you tell me what kind of a watch you 
own ? 

In order to realize the lack in a letter like this, im- 
agine a salesman walking briskly up to a prospective 
customer and saying, "What kind of a watch is that 
in your pocket? Is it any good?" "Yes?" "All 
right. I believe you," and so on. 

Illustrations are occasionally good, however, when 
they are closely and logically connected with the main 
purpose of the letter. For example, the following 
letter to "dead accounts" on the records of a retail 
mail-order house was successful. 

Dear Customer: 

When Lincoln was running for President he met an old- 
time friend, a former neighbor. The man said : 

"Abe, I'd like mighty well to vote for you, but I can't. 


You voted wrong on the Mexican War question when 
you were in Congress." 

Lincoln said, "John, if your old rifle flashed in the 
pan once you wouldn't throw it away, would you?" 

"No," was the answer. 

"Well, suppose I did vote wrong on that question, 
you're not going to turn against me because I made one 
mistake, are you.'"' 

"I never thought about it that way, Abe. I'm with 

It's possible that we have "flashed in the pan" on one of 
your orders. 

If you think we have fallen short of our ideal — if, in your 
estimation, you have not always received a square deal — will 
you write me personally all about it.'* I feel sure that I can 
make it right. 

I am sending you a copy of our special bargain list, 
"THRIFT." Its name well describes its purpose. It will 
show you better than a lot of words the money-saving oppor- 
tunities your old house off^ers you. 

To insure your letter reaching me, kindly use the envelop 
inside this catalog. 

Our large new catalog. No. 85, is now ready for distribu- 
tion — it is better than ever. Your name and address on the 
inclosed card will bring it. It will make money for you. 

5. Liveliness. — Among a large assortment of letters 
that are known to have made good, nearly all of them 
read rapidly. Short and crisp sentences predominate. • 
While long sentences are not necessarily lethargic in 
their effect, yet they are seldom as good as short sen- 
tences. Notice, for instance, the deadening effect 
of the following long paragraphs : 

I am having inclosed with this letter some illustrations of 

the new , Demi-Limousine Top, with which we are now 

supplying our dealers, listed to sell at $195. 


The introduction of this desirable feature into our already 
comprehensive line should lend added force to the arguments 
I have been presenting you recently in mj effort to interest 
you in the idea of taking the agency for your territory. 

Your own experience will confirm the fact that since the 
automobile has become a daily necessity in the lives of most 
motor-car owners, rather than just a vehicle for pleasure, it 
is more and more being used in all kinds of weather, and not 
just on sunshiny days when the going is good. 

Therefore, having an all-weather, all-purpose car is not 
only desirable, but with most people it is necessary. This 
fact is responsible for a very pronounced and widespread 
demand for better protection against inclement weather than 
is afforded by even the best sort of quick-acting curtains. 

This demand is satisfactorily met by the Detachable Top 
of Limousine type, because such a top offers all the comforts 
and conveniences, as well as the luxurious appearance, of a 
regular Limousine body, and enables those who cannot afford 
to keep both a touring car and a limousine to have the prac- 
tical advantages of both. 

The rest of the letter is written in the same sleepy 
style. Compare it with the following : 

The new Demi-Limousine Top (see the illustration 

inclosed) is listed to sell at $195. 

This addition to our big line is another reason why you 
had better take the agency. 

Since the automobile is now a daily necessity with many 
owners, adequate protection in bad weather is demanded. 
The Detachable Top of Limousine type fills this demand. 
Comfortable, convenient, luxurious, it is both a touring car 
and a Limousine to those who cannot afford both. 

Thus a two-page letter may be livened up merely 
by condensation. The letter in which long sentences 
predominate, like the letter quoted above, no matter 


how perfect the construction, seems longer than it 
really is ; and it is nearly always longer than it ought 
to be. 

6. The thought. — While the expression of nearly 
all letters that get action possesses liveliness, that char- 
acteristic is not a fundamental cause of their suc- 
cess. Many letters that are lively in expression fail, 
and often letters that seem to be somewhat sleepy in 
expression somehow turn the trick. The big differ- 
ence between letters, like the big difference between 
salesmen, is in the kind of thought they employ; and 
the thought that is not actually expressed in the letter 
is as important as the thought that finds definite ex- 
pression in its pages. 

A letter that begins, "We beg to invite your at- 
tention to the fares and the excellent train service of 

the Railroad from New York when you 

arrange your return journey," succeeds because the 
man who planned the letter is wide awake to an op- 
portunity. This letter is sent to incoming guests who 
register at hotels, with special reference to the guests 
who indicate to the hotel clerk any interest in train 

A letter might violate all the technical rules of the 
game and yet succeed on account of its timeliness. To 
send the letter where and when the service it offers is 
most welcome, is the foundation of the thought that 
causes letters to make good. In a summary of the 
more fundamental characteristics of successful sell- 


ing letters, this kind of thought occupies a prominent 

The successful selling letter is not the result of 
the ability to write with original word twists that com- 
mand admiration rather than profits, but rather of 
creative planning in the light of all the facts in the 
case, a knowledge of the sales significance of the facts, 
and the ability to build a sinc^^re message of genuine 
service based on these facts. In other words, it takes 
hard work to plan really successful letters ; that is the 
main reason why they are scarce. Unless the writer 
possesses enough intelligence and experience to be 
able to plan his own letters, it is not likely that he will 
be able to write one that is planned by somebody else, 
for there is a vital connection between the thotight 
behind the letter and the thought in it. 

7. Special inducements. — In a selling letter the spe- 
cial inducements that* are offered are often important 
causes of success — such as the premium offer in the 
letter (page 231) which sells paint "from paint- 
maker to farmer." These inducements serve as a sub- 
stitute for the personal salesman's advantage in bring- 
ing to bear upon the buyer a strong personal influence 
that gets inmiediate action. Many letters persuade a 
reader that he ought to buy, but still he may not buy 
simply because he lays the letter aside and lets other 
matters crowd it out of his mind. If the plan includes 
the offer of a premium on immediate response, this 
difficulty is often solved. 


The principal necessity, however, is to induce desire 
for what is offered by talking up its use. The ideal 
letter is the one that gets the order without asking for 
it directly. As a rule, a special inducement is effec- 
tive — after desire for what is offered has been aroused. 
Even an attractive offer of discount, or a time limit 
on a special offer, or any one of the many other 
schemes to get immediate response, will seldom suc- 
ceed alone. Just because a writer has developed a 
good plan whereby to get response, he is not entitled 
to feel that his task of whetting desire may be neg- 
lected. Also, it is well to make it plain to the reader 
that any special induc^ent has a reason for its exist- 
ence other than simply to get him to respond. 

8. Example of a good plan. — A manufacturer of 
farm machinery got good returns on a very long let- 
ter, the first five pages of which were devoted to arous- 
ing the farmer's desire for a cream-separator. Re- 
sponse was secured by means of several selling plans 
that were presented in the last part of the letter. The 
final three pages are a good illustration of what is 
meant by special inducements. They read as fol- 
lows : 

Now, next, I want to talk to you about my plan of sell- 
ing. Turn right over to page 42 in the catalog and read 
these plans over. 

I don't know how to get out any more liberal plans than 
these. I've a great deal of faith in American farmers, and I 
am not afraid to offer them any kind of plan they want. 
That is why I offer these three different plans. Just pick 
out the one you want. 


Of course, the cash plan, No. 1, is the cheapest and best 
because we make a lower price, and you have just as good 
protection on this plan as on any of them. Nine out of 
every ten orders we get are on this plan because we have put 
up a bond of $25,000 with the National Bank of this city, so 
that in case you buy for cash and are not pleased, thru this 
bond you can get your money at the end of the approved test. 

We also have a bank deposit plan and a note-settlement 
plan, as explained on page 42. Pick out whichever one you 

On the note-settlement plan, you will notice, we have 
charged a little more for the separator. We have to do this 
on account of making allowance for bad accounts, collections, 
and so on, so that really if you want to buy on the note- 
settlement plan you will find it is cheaper to go right to your 
banker and borrow the money, pay cash and get a low price, 
and you are not helping to pay for somebody else's bad debts. 

Now then, my proposition is this : 

In order to get these separators started in your locality, 
I will agree that, if you sit down and carefully select from 
your neighborhood names of from fifteen to twenty-five good 
farmers that you think might be interested in buying a cream 
separator, and send these names in to me with your order 
for a separator, I will do this : 

I will write each of them a personal letter, telling them 
all about my separator, and that they can see it at work over 
at your place. I, of course, will not write to them until 
after you have tried the separator for yourself and are tho- 
roly satisfied it is the separator for you, so that if any of 
them should call you up, or call and see you, you can con- 
scientiously tell them your honest opinion about the machine. 

I am sure, from the experience I have had with this very 
same proposition on manure-spreaders and gasoline engines, 
that when they see that separator of ours work, if they are 
in the market for a separator at all, it simply means that 
they will buy one, because it is without doubt or question the 
greatest value in cream-separators ever offered for the money 
by any manufacturer in the United States, no matter who. 


Now, here's what I will do which will interest you ! 

For every sale I make from that list within one year from 
the date you purchase, I will give you five dollars for your 
cooperation, and yet I don't require you to do any work ex- 
cept to tell these people in your own way what you think 
about the machine. 

I can afford to do this in order to get in touch with 
farmers who ought to have cream-separators, because just as 
soon as these farmers get my letter and go to your place and 
see the machine, some of them 'are going to order one. 

This is a chance for us to make a few sales within the next 
year, and we can do it without very much work either. 

Others have done it and you can do it. 

I am not going to make this proposition all the time ; I am 
just making it to get this wonderful new cream-separator 

I am anxious to get a cream-separator into every square 
mile of the United States that I possibly can during the next 
twelve months, because I know just as sure as I am writing 
this letter that if you buy one of these separators and your 
neighbors see it, within the next year there is going to be a 
number of them. want separators like it. 

f Now, I have been perfectly frank with you and have come 
right out and made you my proposition in as frank a way 
as I know how, and there are no conditions nor strings to it. 

And I want you to be perfectly frank with me and tell me 
I whether or not you can accept it. 

I am going to make this proposition good for 15 days from 
this date, and I would like to hear from you within that time 
with your order and a nice list of farmers' names. 

Well, I guess you will think this is a long letter, but we are 
about at the end of it. Just think over what I have said. 
Read it over again, if necessary, to get it thoroly in mind, 
and remember this: 

That, first, I have a separator that is up to date, built on 
the right principle, and right absolutely. 

Then, second, the price to you is right down to the chalk 


mark, and below what some manufacturers who make only a 
few separators can make them for at actual shop cost. 

And, third, I give you a 90-days' unconditional approval 
test, you to be the judge. 

And fourth, this is a special proposition which is a good 
one; it has paid others big money and ought to pay you if 
you accept it. 

Can you afford to pass up this opportunity ? 

Will you let me send you one of these separators on trial ? 
I know that after you try it you will keep it ; then I can add 
you to my already long list of friends who have bought in 
this very same way. 

I am glad you wrote me, and it is a pleasure for me to \ 
answer your inquiry. I want to hear from you by return 
mail, and have you tell me how you stand on this proposition j 
so I will know what to figure on in your locality. 

Yours very truly, 

9. Merchandise letters. — In an effort to command 
interest, irrespective of a sound economic cause of in- 
terest, many writers of sales letters have been led to 
overdo the so-called "human interest" appeal. In 
selling baby buggies, for instance, there is the tend- 
ency to talk about the baby and the baby's health 
rather than about the fine points of the baby buggy 

This idea of the "merchandise letter" is well illus- 
trated in a long letter — usually nine or ten pages — 
sent out each season by a mail-order retailer of ladies' 
ready-to-wear clothing. All but one of these nine or 
ten pages are devoted to news about merchandise, 
classified so that the reader may readily find what is 
said about the kind of merchandise she is most in- 

XII— 8 


terested in at the time she gets the letter. The letter 
is sent out over the signature of a young woman, who 
explains her connection in the first part of the letter as 
follows : 

You will see by this letterhead that the employs me 

to give all orders from customers in your territory personal 
attention. There is no charge whatever for my services. 
Please write me as freely and as often as you wish. I am 
employed to make your dealings with this house as pleasant 
and as satisfactory as possible by giving all your requests 
personal and individual attention. 

Thus the personal element is introduced at the be- 
ginning of the letter, all the rest of which is devoted 
to giving the addressee information about merchan- 
dise. The wi'iter takes full advantage of the interest 
that women have in current styles, as follows : 


Silk Taffeta Dresses are very fashionable this season, and 
No. 10,629, on page 9, is one of our most attractive models. 
It is a dress of unusual beauty and becomingness. Another 
4ress I am sure you will like is No. 10,701, on page 26, a 
beautiful model of lustrous Silk Charmeuse. The fashion- 
able bolero style fronts are becoming to any type of figure. 

Two very attractive dresses, made of splendid quality All- 
Wool Worsted Serge, are No. 10,636, on page 10, illustrated 
in color on page 11, and No. 10,642, on page 13, illustrated 
in color on page 12. 

If you admire the fashionable jacket effect as much as I 
o, you will like No. 10,613, on page 5. I consider it one of 
the prettiest models in our line, and the lustrous Silk-and- 
Cotton Poplin used in making it is one of the newest and best 
liked dress materials. 




Probably the one most attractive Suit in the "National" 
line is No. 24,708, pictured in color and described on page 
144 of your Style Book. This suit is made of a splendid 
quality All-Wool Worsted Poplin. It embodies the newest 
style features, including the semi-fitted belted coat and the 
new flare skirt. 

Suit No. 24,711, on the same page, is also a favorite model. 
It is a very fashionable suit made of one of the most becom- 
ing of the new Fall fabrics and has an attractive fur-trimmed 
collar. Be sure to look at the picture of this suit. 

A clothing manufacturer, by taking advantage of 
the same interest makes effective an otherwise com- 
monplace letter designed to help the firm's dealers 
sell overcoats : 

Dear Sir: — 

You will see three types of overcoats on the street this 
fall. Many young men will wear Varsity Six Hundred, a 
close-fitting, single or double breasted coat with wide velvet 
collar. It is a rather short coat. 

Older men will stick to the Chesterfield; some young men 
prefer it. This is a knee-length, conservative coat. 

Other men will wear a loose box-back coat. They like the 
ease and comfort of it. 

All of these coats are on sale in our store. They are made 
by . Many are silk-lined. 

The prices are $18 to $35. 

We'll be glad to show you the coat you prefer. 

Yours truly, 

10. After the sale. — A letter that is designed to 
cause the utmost satisfaction in a purchase that has 
been made, and thus to be an indirect influence in 
bringing about repeat orders, is used by a furniture 


manufacturer with good results. Part of this letter 
follows : 

Dear Sir: 

The ^1104 desk on your order :^ 9,647 was shipped yes- 
terday, and will reach you soon. 

And upon receipt of it I want you to do me a favor. I 
want you to examine it — see if you have been getting any 
such values for the money from any one else. 

That panel bottom in the pedestal below the center drawer 
is set in a groove, is a three-ply panel, and makes the 
pedestal absolutely dust-proof. 

All drawer bottoms are three-ply, built-up stock, set in a 
groove framed in all around. And look at the fit of the 
drawers — the dovetailing at the back and at the front. 
Notice the width of the drawer rails and the way they are 
built into the legs. 

Those sockets at the bottom of the legs are not spun brass. 
They are cast brass, made to last a lifetime. 

Thus the letter points out the qualities of good con- 
struction in a desk, and at the same time shows that 
this desk possesses them. It ends with a guarantee of 
all these good qualities and asks that the customer look 
for them when he opens up a desk. The method and 
plan of this letter reflect the modern spirit of sales- 
manship as embodied in all progressive houses, which 
is to take as much interest in satisfying the customer 
after the sale as in making promises and forecasts of 
satisfaction before the sale is consummated. This is 
somewhat the same spirit as that of the retail clothing 
merchant who started a successful letter with this 
paragraph : 


The head of this concern, in case of emergency, is per- 
fectly willing to deliver your suit in person. That's our 
idea of "service" — to give every man what he wants exactly 
when he wants it. 

11. Rules of the art. — The writing of effective let- 
ters is an art, but not a science in the sense that it 
is founded upon certain definitely fixed principles. 
As mentioned several times in other chapters few, if 
any, "rules" of this art apply in all cases. There is a 
tendency to misapply and to overdo the application of 
selling principles. The mistake of blindly following 
rules — for instance, even such a sound admonition as 
that which bids us talk effects rather than ends — is 
more prevalent in written than in oral salesmanship. 
In written salesmanship there is less immediate knowl- 
edge of the conditions that nullify the good effect of 
the rule than there is in personal salesmanship. Con- 
sequently, there is less opportunity for adaptation to 
the individual buyer. 

Even the "rule" that the correspondent should 
possess a knowledge of the individual addressee's point 
of view on the proposition, and of the economic con- 
ditions which cause that point of view to be what 
it is, and that the writer should use this knowledge 
in deciding what to say and how to say it — even 
thi-s does not seem to be sufficiently fundamental to 
warrant its application in all cases. And yet it states 
the most important of all requirements. Other con- 
siderations of more or less universal importance have 


' been emphasized in preceding chapters, but as far as 

practical and universal usefulness are concerned, they 

5 are inferior in import to a keen appreciation of the 

1 reader's point of view — the alpha and omega of the 

art of writing effective letters. 



Why is it important to know why letters fail or succeed? 

Explain the value of conciseness. Of deference. 

Explain the value and the risk of "special inducements." 

Contrast the value of "merchandise" and "human interest" 

What kind of letter may follow the sale, and what is its value ? 

To what extent should "rules" guide the business corre- 
spondent .'' 



1. Classification of general business correspondence. 
— The term, general business correspondence, desig- 
nates all kinds of letters that are not direct sales let- 
ters. Sales letters are designed to influence directly 
the sale of a product or service. As pointed out in 
Chapter I, all types of letters have some influence 
on sales. They differ in the degi'ee of influence. 
This fact furnishes a good basis of classification. The 
letters that have the least direct influence on sales 
would represent one extreme, while those designed 
to effect an immediate sale of a particular product or 
service would represent the other. Between these ex- 
tremes we find various types of letters, each more or 
less directly related to sales, and all of them directly 
related to the development of good-will toward the 

The usual main divisions of a classification of cor- 
respondence are: order, traffic, adjustment, credit and 
collection, buying, and selling. In addition to these 
there are: letters with remittances, letters concerning 
separate enclosures, letters of introduction, recom- 
mendation or indorsement, letters of instruction, in- 



terdepartmental and interhouse letters, letters of 
contract, letters asking, giving, and refusing informa- 
tion, and so on. 

It would be difficult to work out a logical arrange- 
ment of all the various types of letters which would 
apply in all kinds of business. As a rule, incoming 
piail is assorted according to the official or the depart- 
ment that ought to handle it. It is important to have 
a definite imderstanding as to which official or which 
department shall handle each of the various types of 
letters received. Often the wrong man in an organ- 
ization handles a letter because there has been a failure 
to classify the incoming mail according to types and 
to assign each kind of letter to the official or the de- 
partment that can best handle it. The exercise of 
care and judgment in classifying and assigning types 
of letters in any organization is highly desirable. 

2. '^'Routine'' letters. — Because many executives 
look upon letter-writing as a necessary evil and an 
arduous task, they are strongly tempted to apply 
the "let-George-do-it" principle. Consequently, very 
often they fail to realize the true importance of cer- 
tain types of letters, and intrust incompetent persons 
with important correspondence. Their wrong atti- 
tude influences them also to make inefficient use of 
mechanical aids in writing letters, such as form letters 
and paragraphs. 

It is true, of course, that many letters are "routine" 
in nature, and comparatively simple and easy to 
write, and that cases in which the details are funda- 


mentally similar are frequently so numerous as to 
make it advisable not to dictate a different letter for 
each case. And yet many business houses make the 
mistake of cutting down the immediate expense of 
correspondence by the use of form letters and form 
paragraphs in "routine" letters. 

Should any letter be considered "routine"? The 
idea that some letters are "routine" can hardly be 
reconciled with the belief that every letter is a selling 
letter. The correspondent who holds the first theory 
will not attach the true importance to every letter that 
is written. 

The fact that a letter seems to be only remotely or 
indirectly related to sales is not evidence that it does 
not influence sales. One might just as well say that 
a bookkeeper, because he is not a salesman, exerts no 
influence upon the salesman's work. This, of course, 
is not true; a bookkeeper's failure to credit the right 
account with a payment might easily lead to the loss 
of that account. The same principle holds in both 
cases: the great influence of indirect causes on sales. 
"Every letter a selling letter" involves a point of view 
very similar to that of the motto, "Every office man 
a salesman." From this standpoint, the "routine" 
letter does not exist. This does not mean, however, 
that the use of form letters and form paragraphs 
should be done away with, as is later explained. But 
it does mean that every letter ought to be written with 
a full realization of its importance, that the "rou- 
tine" letter requires as much keen selling sense on 


the part of the writer as the direct sales letter — often 

3. Form paragraphs and freshness of thought. — It 
is perhaps unwise either to condemn or to advocate, 
unreservedly, the use of form letters and form 
paragraphs. For instance, there is hardly justifica- 
tion for feeling, as many do, that the principle in- 
volved in the use of form paragraphs is fundamen- 
tally wrong.x As a matter of fact, it would be easier 
to demonstrate that the principle itself is fundamen- 

i tally right, for the idea is to use the one best para- 
graph for making a particular impression on a cer- 
tain reader under definitely known conditions. That 
is the ideal, and repeated use of the paragraph is 
right or wron^ according to whether repetition does 
or does not interfere with the attainment of this ideal. 
Perhaps the greatest advantage of form letters and 
paragi'aphs in the case of correspondents who have a 
great many similar letters to write is not so much the 
saving in time as the increased effectiveness of the 
letter. When a correspondent dictates virtually the 
same letter many times, he is likely to be affected by 
the monotony of the process, and his thought will lose 
its freshness and become mechanical. This feeling is 
somehow conveyed to the reader, who is sensitive to 
the lack of enthusiasm in the writer. An appropriate 
use of form paragraphs is helpful in such a case, since 
they will show the thought and effort that was origi- 
nally expended upon them. 
J 4. How to retain freshness of thought and expres- 


sion. — The question of how to retain freshness of 
thought and expression is an important problem for 
all business correspondents, especially for those who 
deal with many similar cases. The man who handles 
complaints usually has many similar cases to man- 
age, as do the credit and collection men, as well as 
the man who handles the less highly specialized types 
of letters, which are classified as "routine" correspond- 
ence. In fact, failure to retain fresh interest in each 
case and to keep letters free from a dead, mechanical 
tone seems to be a common failing among nearly 
all writers of business letters, and not alone among 
those who do nothing but write letters day in and 
day out. 

No correspondent should call himself expert if he 
allows himself to fall into a rut because he is obliged 
to dictate many letters of the same general type. As 
far as he is concerned, there ought to be no such thing 
as similar letters. If he forms the habit of dictating . , 
each letter to a living individual — if he vividly sees V 
the person to whom he is writing, he will not fall into 
the error of thinking that the letters are alike. 

How can the correspondent acquire the habit of 
sensing and noting small but important differences 
that are characteristic of various addressees? First, 
he should accept the fact that each addressee is differ- 
ent from all the others. Next, he should be on the 
alert to find, thru experience, that the task of getting 
at the points of difference in each case will increase 
interest in dictating each letter so that it will best fit 


the case in hand. If he is successful th\is far, he will 
learn that this interest calls for concentration of atten- 
tion on each case as it is handled, and it is this in- 
terested concentration that both makes a letter fresh 
in thought and expression, and renders the writing 
of it agreeable to the correspondent. 

5. Correspondence in the order department. — 
Considerable attention has been given to the problem 
of freshness of thought and expression, not only be- 
cause nearly all correspondents are inclined to write 
lifeless letters when they have to deal with many 
similar cases, but also because there is an inclination 
to consider certain kinds of letters of much less im- 
portance than other kinds. This is particularly true 
in connection with the correspondence in the order 
department, which includes letters acknowledging the 
receipt of orders, and notifications of shipments and 
delayed shipments as well as of inability to fill the 
order, substitutions and so on. All of these letters 
may be and ought to be made the means of developing 
good-will, even in cases where it is necessary to write 
something that will be displeasing to the customer, 
such as a notification of temporary "outs," or of mis- 
takes which the customer has made in filling out his 

All such "routine" letters should possess the chief 
characteristics of effective letters, given in Chapter 
III. If the writer will bear in mind the essentials of 
a good letter, it is not likety, in acknowledging a rush 
order, that he will write a letter like this : 


Dear Sir: — ^ 

We beg to acknowledge herewith the receipt of your order 
of September 10th. Thank you. 

In accordance with your instructions, we will fill this order 
immediately and will ship it at the earliest possible moment. 
We feel sure it will reach you in first-class shape and prove 
satisfactory in every way. 

Again thanking you for this order, and trusting that we 
may be allowed to serve you again, we are 

Yours very truly, 

From the reader's point of view, this letter lacks 
freshness of thought and expression. It has a sing- 
song tone. In a similar case another correspondent 
wrote as follows: 

Dear Sir: — 

Your order, dated September 10th, is being carefully and 
quickly filled, and ought to be on its way to Peoria by 
American Express this evening. 

We thank you for this order and are looking forward to 
the pleasure of serving you again soon. 

Very truly yours, 

This letter has the right tone. It is definite and 
illustrates the economic use of words. It shows bet- 
ter salesmanship. 

The first letter, altho it does not say as much, uses 
about twice as many words. It fails to give that im- 
pression of action which is so essential if the customer 
is to be convinced that he is being served effi- 

The conclusion of the second letter, "We thank you 
for this order and are looking forward to the pleasure 


of serving you again soon," suggests that the corre- 
spondent knows that his house has done its work satis- 

The mention of the addressee's town gives this let- 
ter a definite touch of individuality. With the ex- 
ception of the name of his own concern and his own 
name, a successful business man likes best to hear the 
name of his own town. This letter, tho economical 
of words, is natural in expression. Thus, nearly all 
the chief characteristics of an effective letter might be 
found in this "routine" letter. 

6. Case of a delayed shipment.- — The following let- 
ter is another example of the mistake of overdoing an 
impression. It was sent to a business man who wrote 
about his order for a book that did not arrive within 
three days after he had received a letter acknowl- 
edging his order and informing him that the book had 
been sent. 

Dear Sir: 

We are indeed deeply sorry to learn from your letter of 
the 18th that you, up to that time, had not received the copy 
of Rider's "Freedom" which we sent you. 

The book was temporarily out of stock, however, and was 
not shipped until two or three days after our letter of the 
8th was mailed to you. The book was forwarded as soon 
as a new supply was received from the binders, and should 
have reached you by this time. 

If it has not come to hand, let us know, and we will be glad 
to send you a duplicate copy. 

Regretting the inconvenience that you have undoubtedly 
been caused, we are 

Very truly yours, 


The addressee gained a distinctly unfavorable im- 
pression of this publishing house from the letter, 
which somewhat overdoes its attempt to impress the 
reader with the depth of sorrow the house feels for 
the inconvenience he has "undoubtedly been caused." 
When one considers that this letter was about three 
times as long as necessary and had a weeping tone, 
and that the addressee must read it carefully in order 
to find out when his book will arrive, or whether it 
will arrive at all, it is a safe forecast that any adver- 
tising literature sent from that publishing house to 
this man — in the near future, at least — ^will be bur- 
dened with a handicap hard to overcome. 

7. Right kind of letter, — From the addressee's 
point of view the following letter would have been 
more effective for, judging by his letter, the customer 
was obviously a good business man: 

Dear Sir: 

Your copy of Rider's "Freedom" ought to reach you in 
a day or so. The fact that this book was temporarily out of 
stock caused the delay, which we regret. Your orders will 
always receive prompt attention. 

We hope this delay has not caused you much incon- 

Yours very truly, 

This letter tells first what the reader most wants to 
know, and then explains- the cause of the delay. It 
gives the impression, in a straightforward way, that 
the writer genuinely regrets any inconvenience which 
the delay may have caused. This letter, moreover, in- 


eludes one sentence that shows exceptionally good 
salesmanship, without any suggestion of apology: 
"Your orders will always receive prompt attention." 
That is the correspondent's way of telling the reader 
that his order was filled as promptly as possible, and 
at the same time it carries assurance that future or- 
ders will have prompt attention. 

8. Risk in following rules. — Why did the writer 
of the longer letter quoted in the preceding section 
mention his former letter notwithstanding the fact 
that its mention would only serve to cause the reader 
to remember that it had given him a false impression 
of the time when the book would arrive? Also, why 
did he mention the date of the letters to which his 
letter is a reply? He was under the impression that 
it is always necessary to refer to the date of all let- 
ters directly connected with the subject matter of 
any letter that is written. He read that rule some- 
where. Therefore it was his custom always to men- 
tion at the beginning of a letter the dates or num- 
bers of any preceding letters. But in this case it was 
not necessary to remind the addressee that he had 
been put to the trouble of writing a follow-up on his 

Thus, it may be not only unnecessary but also un- 
wise to mention the date of the letter to which a reply 
is being written. But the main point here is that rules 
in writing letters nearly alwaj'^s have many exceptions. 
If the writer carefully considers the effect that his 


letter might have on the reader, he is able to judge 
readily enough whether or not it is best to mention 
the date of previous correspondence. About the only 
iron-clad rule is that the correspondent should always 
strive to appreciate fully the reader's point of view. 

9. Letters of inquiry, and answers. — Every con- 
cern receives a great many inquiries and requests 
which have no direct connection with sales. Neverthe- 
less it pays, as a rule, to answer this kind of mail with 
the same careful attention that is given to inquiries 
for catalogs and price quotations. Often letters of 
inquiry are incomplete, so that it is impossible to give 
the information wanted before a number of letters 
have been exchanged. Under such circumstances the 
correspondent is sometimes tempted to allow his feel- 
ing of annoyance to become evident in his letters. 
This is not good salesmanship, as the case given below 

A country merchant wrote the following letter to 
two general wholesale houses with which he was doing 
business : 


I want a good file for my letters and catalogs. Please 
tell me what would be the best kind and where I can get it. 

Hoping to hear from you soon, and thanking you for the 
information, I am 

Yours truly, 

From one wholesale house he received the follow- 
ing reply: 

XII— 9 


Dear Sir: 

We have your letter of January 30th in which you ask 
what kind of file for letters would be best for your purpose 
and where you can get it. 

You probably did not notice that we sell a letter-file, which 
is described on page 260 in our general catalog. If this 
does not happen to be the kind you want, however, please 
tell us more definitely just what you want and we shall be 
glad to advise you where you can find it. 

One advantage of the small file we sell is that your cor- 
respondence is easily classified and arranged, and you can 
add to its capacity as needed. We always recommend this 
unit system. Its cost is nominal as compared to the big 
wooden or steel vertical, files. 

It will be a pleasure to supply you with any quantity of 
these files which your needs require. 

Yours very truly, 

From the other wholesale house he received this 
letter : 
Dear Sir: — 

In response to your request of January 30th, we take 
pleasure in sending you the inclosed literature, which gives 
full details concerning what we believe to be the best of 
modern filing cabinets for letters, catalogs, booklets, and so 
on, for a store as big as yours. 

Mr. Brady tells us that he knows several merchants who 
find these big vertical files satisfactory. Some are made of 
wood, others of steel, offering protection against fire. Sev- 
eral other companies make a similar file, but Mr. Cowans, 
who buys all our own office furniture, tells me he can do best 
with this company. 

In case you should want a smaller file, we would supply it. 
The inclosed clipping from our catalog describes the file we 

I hope this information is what you want. If not, let us 
know and we*ll be glad to be of further service. 

Yours very truly, 


10. Comparison of these letters. — Both of the 
writers of the above letters had an equally good op- 
portunity to write an effective letter. Both letters are 
mechanically faultless. But it is obvious that one of 
them — the one last quoted — is far ahead of the other 
in point of effectiveness. The merchant gained a dis- 
tinctly favorable impression of the house that sent him 
this letter, and an unfavorable impression of the other 
house, partly because he was able to see the contrast 
between them, since he received the two letters on the 
same day. 

The writer of the first letter made the mistake of 
failing to anticipate the fact that this merchant might 
have written elsewhere for the same information at 
the same time, and that consequently his letter would 
have to compete with other letters for the merchant's 
patronage and good-will. 

The writer of the first letter above quoted was really 
glad that the merchant's letter was indefinite. It 
gave him the chance to boost sales by recommending 
the file sold by his own house. At first thought on 
reading the letter of inquiry, he probably said to him- 
self, "Another Podunk merchant who thinks the big 
house in the big city is a mind-reader." He was about 
to dictate a polite letter requesting more definite in- 
formation when he got the "selling idea," which he 
embodied in his letter. Therefore, he thought, it was 
better not to cause the merchant to think too definitely 
concerning the kind of file he wanted. He would 
write a selling letter, the kind of letter that the big 


men in the front office would write. He congratu- 
lated himself on his ability to see a lead for a sale. 
He hoped that the sales manager would happen to 
read the letter. He ought to be in the sales depart- 
ment, anyway. 

What was the trouble mth this correspondent? 
Fundamentally he lacked sound selling sense — he was 
not keenly alive to all the indirect as well as the direct 
influence on sales. He did not at all put himself in 
the place of the merchant to whom he was writing, or 
he would have foreseen the unsatisfactory effect of 
his letter. He was blindly following the theory, as 
he understood it, that every letter is a sales letter. 
The trouble was not with the theory, but with his con- 
ception of what constitutes a sales letter. He was 
too eager to sell something, and not sufficiently eager 
to render a service of the sort that leads to sales in the 
future. This correspondent showed lack of foresight 
as well as insight in his application of the fundamental 
selling principle involved in the word "service." 

11. To please most or to displease least. — The an- 
swer to inquiries and requests can generally be 
summed up by either "yes" or "no." As a rule, the 
writer either can or cannot give the service requested. 
A practical idea for improving letters of this type is 
that of trying to please the reader as much as possible 
when the answer is "yes," and to displease him as 
little as possible when the answer is "no." The last 
letter quoted in Section 9 shows an attempt to please 
the reader as much as possible. 


The writer of that letter might have referred his 
addressee to the concern which sells the kind of filing 
cabinet he recommended; or he might have given the 
names of several concerns which sell filing cabinets; 
but in either case he would have made a mistake, with 
good intentions, in trying to be of as great service as 
possible. He might not have mentioned the fact that 
other merchants find the cabinet which he recom- 
mended satisfactory; in short, he might not have 
risked a definite recommendation of a definite cabinet. 
But had he not done all of these things his "yes" 
would not have pleased the addressee as much as it 
did. His definite recommendation and his reasons 
for making it saved time and trouble for his addressee, 
as did the inclosed literature which this concern's buyer 
happened to have in his files. 

It is often difficult not to displease when it is neces- 
sary to say "no." For instance, whenever it is im- 
possible to furnish the information that a customer 
asks for, it is often wise to tell him about whatever 
effort was made to get the information. Instead of 
simply saying, "We regret to report our inability to 
find out where you can get what you want," and let 
it go at that, it might be better to say, "We searched 
our files and got in touch with a couple of other con- 
cerns by telephone, but could not find out what you 
want to know." 

12. Writing effective inquiries and requests. — 
What kind of inquiry secures the best attention? It 
\s frequently the inquirer's fault when he gets an un- 


satisfactory reply to his inquiry. His letter may be 
incomplete or inaccurate or indefinite, or it may have 
the wrong tone, or in some other way show lack of 
consideration for the reader's point of view. Just as 
much good salesmanship can be shown in a letter of 
inquiry as in a letter that answers an inquiry. This 
is true of inquiries concerning prices, goods or serv- 
ices which the writer desires to purchase, as well as of 
those that have no connection with strictly business 
matters. Sometimes the buyer has the upper hand 
because he is able to choose between a number of 
sellers, and hence he is inclined to write a letter that 
will show neither courtesy nor diplomacy. But to do 
this would be poor salesmanship. It is decidedly im- 
portant to develop the good-will of the seller. In 
so far as this is true, buying letters are selling letters. 
Letters of this kind are further treated in the next 

13. Miscellaneous types of letters. — There are 
many other types of routine letters, which cannot be 
considered here for lack of space, but the same funda- 
mental principles of effectiveness apply to all types. 
When a letter is sent with a remittance, for instance, it 
may be written with the idea of giving the recipient a 
great deal of pleasure in getting the payment, and of 
influencing him to feel very well disposed toward the 
writer and his house; or if the writer does not definitely 
try to do this, the letter may be such that the addressee 
will be positively displeased and will harbor a feel- 
ing of ill-will toward the writer and his house. 


No matter how little direct influence on sales a let- 
ter may have — whether it be a letter in answer to a 
casual inquiry from a correspondent with whom, in all 
probability, no business dealings will ever be carried 
on, or even a request that a railroad trace some ship- 
ment — it offers opportunity to exercise good selling 
sense in its composition, and to create good-will to- 
ward the writer and his firm. The writer should al- 
ways aim to create a maximum quantity of good-will; 
to please as much as possible if he is sending a "y^s" 
message; to displease as little as possible if he is 
obhged to say "no." Few, if any, letters are so 
"routine" in nature that they cannot be handled in 
such a way as to make them positive builders of good- 
will. The habit of writing individual letters satu- 
rated with good salesmanship keeps the writer's 
thought and expression fresh, makes his work inter- 
esting, and is the cause of his writing eiFective letters. 


What is the most practical basis for the classification of in- 
coming mail? 

What is meant by the statement, "There really are no 'routine' 
letters" ? 

Why does the acquirement of freshness of thought and expres- 
sion present a real problem? How can one best solve this 

What is the connection between order correspondence and sales ? 

Mention important considerations to be borne in mind in 
answering letters of inquiry. 

Why is it always good policy to please as much as possible or 
to displease as little as possible, as the case may be? 

What are the requirements in writing an effective inquiry ? 



1. Difficult types of letters. — Letters might also be 
classified according to the degree of skill required to 
make them effective. Much executive and official 
correspondence must be skilfully handled. A great 
deal of credit and collection correspondence is difficult. 
There are many cases in each one of the various types 
of correspondence that are difficult to handle. It 
would be incorrect to say that certain types of letters 
are difficult while other types are easy, except in a gen- 
eral way. But there are types of letters, such as those 
considered in this chapter, which require, on the aver- 
age, greater selling skill and good judgment than 
other types — for example, letters concerning delayed 

2. One solution of this problem. — In 1914, the gen- 
eral manager of a large Western wholesale house came 
to the conclusion that too many of the "ticklish" cases 
were not well handled by his correspondents. He 
found that many letters which it would not be easy 
even for him to answer satisfactorily were placed in the 
hands of young correspondents whose services were 
worth about $25 a week. He had a choice of two pos- 
sible methods to improve matters: One was to train 



Goirespondents to handle the more difficult letters as 
well as those easy to handle; the other was to de- 
vise some plan whereby it would be possible to give 
all difficult cases only to competent correspondents. 

He frankly asked each correspondent in the house 
for his opinion of the best solution of the problem. 
It was evident from the suggestions that came to 
him that the men believed that the plan of having 
high-priced specialists for difficult cases would not be 
as effective as to train all correspondents so that, if 
possible, each would acquire the ability to handle dif- 
ficult cases. It was agreed that those correspond- 
ents who could not develop this ability should be trans- 
ferred to other work, or allowed to go elsewhere if 
they insisted on continuing in that kind of work. 
The adoption of this plan resulted naturally in the de- 
velopment of a thoro system of training which solved 
the problem. 

If a correspondent is unable to handle difficult 
cases, he will not recognize them when they arise ; and 
what is more important, if he is unskilled in handling 
"ticklish" cases, he cannot handle efficiently cases that 
are "easj'-." The task of making the simple letters 
effective from a selling standpoint is often difficult. 
In fact, the simpler the letter and the smaller the direct 
influence it exerts on sales, the more difficult it is, as a 
rule, to write effectively from the standpoint of good 
salesmanship. Therefore, the plan of having only ex- 
pert correspondents in an organization would seem to 
be good policy. 


3. Executive correspondence. — Of all difficult let- 
ters the most difficult is the executive's letter which 
adversely criticises the work of a subordinate or re- 
fuses a request, and yet does not cause the subordinate 
to entertain ill-will toward the executive. The appli- 
cation of the most subtle principles of good salesman- 
ship is usually required in this kind of correspond- 

A good illustration of this kind of letter is the fol- 
lowing, written by Abraham Lincoln to General 
McClellan, whose plans for conducting his campaign 
in the Civil War did not accord with Lincoln's ideas. 
The example makes it clear that the fundamental prin- 
ciples of effective business correspondence are the 
same, whether the writer is President of the United 
States or General Manager of the Standard Steel 
Works of Pittsburgh. Lincoln wrote as follows from 
Washington to General McClellan February 3, 

My dear Sir: 

You and I have distinct and different plans for a movement 
of the Army of the Potomac — yours to be. down the Chesa- 
peake, up the Rappahannock to Urbana and across land to 
the terminus of the railroad on the York River ; mine to 
move directly to a point on the railroad southwest of 

If you will give me satisfactory answers to the following 
questions, I shall gladly yield my plan to yours. 

First. Does not your plan involve a greatly larger ex- 
penditure of time and money than mine? 

Second. Wherein is a victory more certain by your plan 
than mine? 


Third. Wherein is a victory more valuable by your plan 
than mine? 

Fourth. In fact, would it not be less valuable in this, 
that it would break no great line of the enemy's communica- 
tions, while mine would? 

Fifth. In case of disaster, would not a retreat be more 
difficult by your plan than mine? 

Sixth. Are you strong enough — are you strong enough, 
even with my help — to set your foot upon the necks of 
Sumner, Heintzelman and Keyes, all at once? This is a 
practical and very serious question for you. 

This letter carries valuable suggestions as to how 
the modern sales manager of salesmen should write 
when he finds that the plans of one of his men are not 
in accord with his own. The admirable directness of 
the first clear and terse statement of fact; the ex- 
tremely fair and reasonable spirit in the second para- 
graph ; then those point-blank questions which put the 
reader on the defensive and prevented him from dodg- 
ing — after he had been persuaded to give considera- 
tion to the greater feasibility of the writer's plans — 
such a letter merits the envy of any modem manager 
of men. 

4. Writing instructions to employes. — An impor- 
tant part of executive correspondence is the prepara- 
tion of instructions to employes. The executive must 
sell his employes on the idea that they ought to carry 
out his instructions with enthusiastic willingness and 
carefulness. From the standpoint of effectiveness, 
compare the following two communications : 


Dear Sir: — ^Your vacation period has been fixed for the 
two weeks ending September 9. Please arrange work ac- 

(Signed) . 


Dear Mr. Bigler: 

It gives me pleasure to assign for your annual vacation 
the two weeks beginning August 27th. Please shape up 
your work so that we won't miss you any more than neces- 
sary, and so that you can entirely forget us while you are 

Kindly take this letter to Mr. Jamison on August 26th, 
and he will give you two weeks' pay in advance. 

Two distinctly different tones are discernible in 
these letters. To decide on the relative effectiveness 
of the two, then, would probably involve a comparison 
of the relative merits of two types of management. 
Apart from this consideration, the second seems to be 
by far the better. These letters were used by the pres- 
ident of a big corporation — a man who believes as 
much in training his $5,000 men as in training his 
$2,000 men — as illustrations of a poor notification and 
a good one, respectively. He said that the first was 
incomplete and ineffective because it was written from 
the wrong point of view. His opinion is given in the 
following quotation: 

If you are giving some one something, make the most of 
it. That short note is little more than a snarl. Growl at an 
employe and he growls back in spirit, if not actually. This 
business has been built on sound principles of salesmanship. 


We get good work, from contented employes, by according 
them the same kind of treatment that we give our customers. 
We put as much good salesmanship, therefore, into writing 
a simple instruction to our fellow employes, as we put into 
our sales letters. 

He followed this statement by pointing out def- 
initely the difference between these two messages. 
He dwelt a long time on the good tone of the second, 
and emphasized the fact that the writer's attitude to- 
ward his reader must be correct, that words alone do 
not make an announcement or message of instruction 
effective. He called attention to the impression upon ■ 
the reader, and showed that it differs according to 
whether particular mention is made of the beginning 
or of the ending of the vacation period. If the firm 
emphasizes the latter, it will appear selfish. He 
pointed out how the second letter would cause the 
reader to be as much pleased as possible, and how 
necessary it is to say something which shall cause him 
to prepare as well as possible to lessen the inconveni- 
ence of his absence — "for his own sake" as well as for 
that of the management. 

The same essential principles apply in the writing 
of all kinds of instructions. Naturalness is the char- 
acteristic which is most often lacking. Instructions, 
too often, are so concise, abrupt and imperative that 
they invite a resistance which would be avoided by the 
application of a little good selling sense. 

5. Interdepartmental and intercompany corre- 
spondence. — ^Few large houses in which the volume of 


interdepartmental and intercompany correspondence 
is heavy give as much attention to it as to correspond- 
ence with customers and outside concerns. But why 
not? Consideration of the point of view of the ad- 
dressee is as necessary in gaining effectiveness in this 
kind of correspondence as in correspondence with out- 
siders. There is no essential difference involved. As 
a means of improving the effectiveness of the cooper- 
ation within an organization, interdepartmental cor- 
respondence is invaluable; its importance, therefore, 
should not be underestimated. 

A big company might have an elaborate set of in- 
structions and suggestions, in the form of a manual, 
for interhouse and interdepartmental correspondence. 
This manual would serve a valuable end, for it would 
furnish an excellent means by which the management 
could present its ideas on effective cooperation, lay- 
ing emphasis on the necessity of such cooperation and 
its value to the house and to all employes, "who are 
the house," as is sometimes said. Among the more 
fundamental suggestions of such a book would be : 

If a memorandum to a fellow-member in this organization 
is worth writing at all, it is worth careful attention — just 
as careful as tho you were writing to an outside concern on 
whom we are dependent for business. Please mark this: 
We are just as much dependent for business on the way in 
which we cooperate among ourselves as on the way in which 
we cooperate with customers. You can readily see the con- 
nection between internal cooperation and service to cus- 
tomers. One of the most important means of effective in- 
ternal cooperation is carefulness in all written and spoken 
communications with all other members of this organization. 


Therefore, in our written or spoken messages, it is best for us 
always to: 

Know definitely just what we want to say before we say it. 

Make clear what we want to tell the other fellow, so that 
he will get it with the least possible effort on his part. 

Show the right spirit — the businesslike attitude, not letting 
close, personal acquaintance with the addressee cause us to 
"get familiar" with him. Business is business. Don't mix 
social chatter with business. 

Remember that good business is good salesmanship; and 
that good salesmanship is always considerate of the other 
man'^ feelings; that it cannot afford to hold grudges; that 
broad human sympathy — not sentiment, but intelligent 
sympathy of the sort you find in a good salesman — is what 
gets cooperation from the other fellow; that success in 
getting others to cooperate with you measures the thickness 
of your pay envelop. 

Write to the point; use clear, direct, definite, simple 
English; put yourself in your reader's place. How would 
what you say affect you if you were the other fellow? Keep 
that question in mind. In short, make each interdepartment 
or interhouse letter a sales letter. 

These instructions are suggestions. They are not meant 
to be complete. Many of us are observing all of them. 
But there is always room for improvement in making writ- 
ten or spoken communications more effective. We all are 
sized up by what we say as well as by what we do. 

6. Formal instructions. — Thus, the essential prin- 
ciples upon which other kinds of business correspond- 
ence depend for effectiveness apply also in writing 
any kind of message to fellow-employes. They apply 
to the subordinate's communications to his superior 
officers and to the executive's letters to men under 
him. In each case a mistake is commonly made. On 
the one hand, the subordinate too often kowtows to 


his superior; the executive, on the other hand, not 
infrequently shows condescension toward his em- 
ployes. In the first case the employe gives an un- 
desirable impression of weakness; and in the other, 
the executive assumes an attitude of superiority which 
hurts his influence with the employes. 

7. Buying letters that sell. — Many good buyers do 
not appreciate the fact that they are writers of selling 
letters of the most difficult type — letters that sell 
good-will, ^hich secures the best price and the best 
service in all cases in which the buyer is at all de- 
pendent on the seller. 

Whether or not the buyer shows the selling atti- 
tude in his relations with his supply house, is revealed 
in the letters he writes as much as in his personal in- 
terviews with salesmen. Perhaps he does not need 
to be so diplomatic and considerate as the advertis- 
ing or sales manager. But it often pays him to write 
letters that will serve his future interests well. For 
instance, when all the bids are in and the contract 
is awarded to one firm, he may write a diplomatic let- 
ter to all the other firms stating who received the or- 
der and why it was given to that concern, if they do 
not already know. Such information might help 
them to figure better the next time they are asked to 
make an estimate; and such a letter gives the unsuc- 
cessful bidders an impression of fairness which it is 
worth while to convey. 

The same fundamental rules for effectiveness apply 
in buying correspondence as in sales correspondence^ 


altho in each case the emphasis is differently placed. 
The necessity for definiteness and clearness, for ex- 
ample, often requires the buyer to make it a rule not 
to use abbreviations or shortened expressions of any 
sort whatsoever, because they are liable to be mislead- 
ing. The buyer who writes with his addressee's point 
of view in mind concerning supplies and prices is 
likely to secure the prompt and careful attention he 
wants. Even when a house wants a buyer's business 
the order department often resents the tone of the 
buyer's letters, so that poor service is an inevitable re- 
sult. The conducting of efficient buying correspond- 
ence is a highly specialized art which has not received 
the attention it deserves. 

8. Essential considerations in buying letters. — A 
signed order is a legal contract. Therefore it is wise 
for the buyer to make sure that there are included 
in the order all provisions for his entire satisfac- 
tion, such as arrangements for time and means of 
shipment, terms of payment, guaranty of service, and 
so on, as well as complete and exact specifications of 
what is wanted. As a rule, printed order sheets are 
enough for all essential details, but often it is advis- 
able for the buyer to write a letter in order to em- 
phasize the importance of his receiving the kind of 
service that the contract calls for. 

The chief point is that an order when accepted be- 
comes a legal contract. A realization of this fact is 
usually sufficient to cause a buyer to make sure that 
his written order is complete, but it certainly should 

XII— 10 


not prevent him from making his letter "hmnan," 
even when it is necessary to use a great many techni- 
cal terms. A few idiomatic expressions sprinkled in, 
here and there, tend to lessen any severity in the con- 
ditions he assigns in placing his order; they help him 
to gain prompt acceptance of his order and willing 

In fact, the most difficult task of writing an effec- 
tive buying letter is to make it complete and thoro 
without causing offense. It is important to include 
some "human touches." For example, consider the 
following letter, written from the addressee's point of 

Gentlemen : 

The special order inclosed (No. 846) is all for merchan- 
dise to be used in our big 50th Anniversary Sale, which 
begins on March 31st. Therefore, in case you can't ship all 
these items so that they will reach us before that date, 
please let us know not later than the 5th of this month. 

Yours very truly. 

The order blank used in placing this order included 
spaces for all essential information. In general, it 
is wise not to send a letter with an order unless it is 
necessary, but it is extremely important to be sure 
whether or not it is necessary. The special point to 
be noted here is that the letter quoted above is hu- 
man. Contrast it with this : 


Order 4^846, inclosed, is not valid unless goods reach 
us not later than March 31st. Unless we have guaranty of 


arrival by that date on or before March 5th, will place 
order elsewhere. 

Yours truly, 

There is not much question as to which of these let- 
ters best serves the interests of the writer. One is 
human ; the other severe. One leads; the other drives. 
One is a selling letter; the other is too nearly a de- 

9. Letters that follow up orders. — Frequently ship- 
ments are delayed and it is necessary to write a 
letter designed to hurry the filling of the order. The 
purpose of such a letter is to secure immediate action 
on the part of the seller and to get definite infor- 
mation, if possible, as to when the order will be 

When cancellation would be legal according to the 
agreement embodied in the order, and would not 
greatly inconvenience the buyer, it is allowable to state 
in the letter that the order will be canceled unless ship- 
ment can be made on or before a specified date. 
Usually this statement will secure the desired action if 
the letter is written in accordance with principles of 
good salesmanship. There should not, of course, be 
the least suggestion of a threat. But if cancellation 
would work even a greater hardship on the buyer than 
on the seller, it requires considerable skill to handle 
the situation. Under such circumstances, a buyer too 
often writes an ineffective letter in which he nags the 
seller, claims that he has been wronged, or weakly 
pleads for early shipment. In other words he takes 


the wrong attitude and consequently fails to produce 
the desired effect upon the addressee. 

The following letter is a good example of this type. 
It failed to get results. 

Dear Sir: 

Your salesman promised delivery of our order ^^6897 by 
October 10th at the latest but his word does not seem to be 
good. Here it is the 20th and the shipment hasn't even 
started yet, so far as we know. If we had known that your 
promises are worthless we would have ordered elsewhere. 
But it's too late now for that. We are losing money by the 
delay. Please get busy, won't you, and get the shipment 
on its way. When will it be here? Why is it delayed? 

Yours truly, 

That letter starts defiantly and ends pleadingly. 
The following example is in strong contrast; it se- 
cured satisfactory results in a similar case : 

Dear Sir: 

Our special order of September 10th, 4^4774, should have 
reached us five days ago. Something exceptional must be 
holding it up, for we had an explicit agreement concerning 
the date of delivery. Please look this shipment up and let 
us know by return mail, if possible, how soon you can send it. 

Yours very truly, 

This letter makes a plain, straightforward request. 
It is notable for the fact that the writer has entirely 
avoided the strong temptation to heap accusations on 
some young correspondent in the order department 
who was not responsible for the delay, and who feels 
that his concern is doing the very best it can under the 
circumstances. The salesmanship in this second let- 


ter is evident chiefly in its restraint. Courteous firm- 
ness is the dominant tone. 

10. Contract letters. — There are many other types 
of letters that are comparatively difficult to write, such 
as some credit and collection letters and adjustment 
letters. There is much technical correspondence, too, 
which is difficult because the writer very often has 
either much greater or much less technical knowledge 
of the subject than the reader. Much government of- 
ficial correspondence of the more formal sort is also 
difficult. The principles presented in preceding chap- 
ters apply to all these types, for there is not much, 
if any, fundamental difference between the various 
kinds of difficult correspondence. If the writer's sell- 
ing sense is properly developed he can handle effec- 
tively almost any kind of difficult case, provided he has 
sufficient information concerning conditions and facts 
to enable him to know his addressee's point of view. 

One type of letter that requires special informa- 
tion, however, is the contract letter. It is well to 
know, for instance, that when A makes an offer to B 
by letter, B's letter of acceptance completes the con- 
tract as soon as it is mailed. If, however, B sends his 
acceptance by messenger, by telegraph or by other 
means than that used by A in making his offer, the 
contract is not complete until A receives the accept- 
ance. Also, a revocation of an offer must be received 
before the contract has been completed, in order to 
be effective. The right to revoke acceptance by tele- 
gram before a letter of acceptance is received may be 


reserved if this is stated in the letter as a condition of 
acceptance. Offers must be accepted within a "rea- 
sonable time" after they are received, but it is usually 
advisable to attach a time limit to offers made by let- 
ter. Telegraphic offers should be accepted by tele- 
gram the same day they are received. 

It is also important for a correspondent to possess 
a knowledge of libel laws. Defamatory statements, 
especially those that are damaging to the reputation 
of an individual, have no place in business correspond- 
ence. They become published libel when a third 
party reads the letter that contains them. The cor- 
respondent should bear this in mind when answering 
requests for credit information. While such com- 
munications are privileged, and are not libelous even 
if untrue, the privilege is lost if malice can be shown. 
It is dangerous to make a positive statement that 
some one is not worthy of credit. 

Apart from legal knowledge of this kind, accuracy 
of statement is important in letters of contract. In 
this connection, clearness, the rhetorical quality of 
greatest significance in business English, is a prime 
requisite. It was considered in Chapter IV, Section 
5, and is again treated in Chapter XVII. 

11. Telegrams, cablegrams and wireless messages. 
— A large proportion of all telegrams transmitted 
lack completeness and accuracy. This is explainable 
largely by the fact that in a great many cases the 
writer of a telegram is working under high emotional 
pressure, and, in his haste, fails to give the composition 


of the message deliberate consideration. But very of- 
ten the more urgent his message, the more time should 
be given to its composition. Sometimes, on the other 
hand, the writer will labor long and hard over his mes- 
sage in the belief that brevity is the chief virtue in a 
telegram, and will eventually send a communication 
so brief as to be unintelligible. 

As a rule, the sole purpose of a telegram, a cable- 
gram or a wireless message is to convey definite in- 
formation clearly. To include all necessary words 
is as important as to omit all unnecessary words. To 
know definitely what you want to say before you at- 
tempt to say it in less than ten words, is the first re- 
quirement, and the next is to say it naturaUy with 
short words and short sentences, just as briefly as 
possible. The third step is to eliminate unnecessary 
words and to have the reader's point of view always 
in mind, remembering that a telegram is not a con- 
test in condensation, but a message to some one who 
might not be skilful enough to follow the guide posts 
accurately. This method has been found good in 
practice. Some men do best, if the message is a dif- 
ficult one, by writing and then rewriting it again 
and again. But if the message is to be made com- 
plete, it is safer to use the other method just ex- 

What is said about writing effective telegrams ap- 
plies to cablegrams and wireless messages, except that 
in the latter case the higher cost makes brevity more 
desirable. Code and cipher systems, however, are de- 


signed to make it possible to send messages of ade- 
quate length at a reasonable price. 

It is well to remember that the telegraph com- 
panies do not contract to write punctuation marks, 
unless they are spelled out; therefore the words in 
the longer as well as in the shorter messages should 
be so arranged that punctuation will be unnecessary. 
It is also well to remember that plain facts can be 
better stated with short Anglo-Saxon words than 
with longer words, which are more fittingly used in 
conveying complex thought. Furthermore, long 
words are more likely to be misunderstood by the op- 
erator, and consequently missent. It is good prac- 
tice to use short words and few. 

In addition to general information of this kind, the 
writer of a telegram should know the technic of the 
art. For instance, spelling out all numerals saves 
expense, for each figure is counted as one word. 
"Fifteen" is charged for, of course, as one word, but 
"15" counts as two. Furthermore, numbers spelled 
out are more accurately transmitted than if written 
in figures. The correspondent should know also that 
a compound word counts as one word; that there are 
many kinds of telegrams — that day letters, for ex- 
ample, may or may not be delivered the same day 
they are sent ; that each of the more common business 
abbreviations may as a rule be written so that it will 
be counted as one word — for example, C.O.D. and 
C.I.F. may be written often as cod and cif ; and that 
code words which can be pronounced readily are per- 


missible in telegrams, but not in day letters. Tele- 
graph companies supply information of this kind. 


What problem in the management of correspondence arises 
from the fact that all types of letters include some cases which 
are easy and others which are difficult to handle? 

Why should serious attention be given to interdepartmental and 
intercompany correspondence ? 

What are the essential considerations in the conducting of 
buying correspondence? 

What kind of letter is most likely to hurry up a shipment? 

What constitutes a good telegram? What is the best way to 
write one? 



1. Adjustment letters and salesmanship. — Ad- 
justment letters are closely connected with sales. In 
fact, their influence on sales is sometimes of greater 
weight than that of direct selling letters, for it is 
usually more desirable to keep the patronage of old 
customers and have them satisfied than to get new 
customers. The active ill-will of patrons who are dis- 
satisfied with goods or services is the price of the 
failure to make satisfactory adjustments of com- 

Therefore adjustment letters are really sales let- 
ters, and they are sales letters that are difficult to 
write. Even when a fixed and liberal policy of ad- 
justment is the practice, it is not easy to write a let- 
ter which will grant the claim and satisfy the customer 
so thoroly as to increase his good-will toward the 
house. And yet this is the requirement that all ad- 
justment letters must meet to be effective. This de- 
sirable result is most difficult to attain when it is un- 
wise to make an adjustment which would free the 
claimant from all his loss as he figures it. 

It is often the business of the correspondent who 
answers a complaint not only to make an adjustment 
which will be deemed satisfactory by the claimant, but 



also to resell him on his confidence in the reliability of 
the goods or the service. If an automobile tire, for 
instance, does not give satisfactory service and it is 
necessary to supply a new tire, it is reasonable to be- 
lieve that the customer will not be as confident of good 
service from the second tire as he was about the first — 
even if it is supplied entirely free of charge — unless 
the letter of adjustment includes information of the 
sort that tends to restore confidence in this brand of 
goods, as does the letter quoted in Section 8 of this 

Owing to these and many other conditions, adjust- 
ment letters are among the most difficult that a cor- 
respondent has to write. The difficulty arises from 
the facts that the addressee's attitude is in most cases 
unfavorable with respect to his relations with the 
writer ; that his conception of j ustice may be unreason- 
able ; and that the final adjustment of the case may fall 
short of his expectations. To give a disgnmtled 
claimant less than he asks for, and at the same time 
to cause him to feel completely satisfied, always re- 
quires the exercise of the best salesmanship. . 

2. The right attitude. — To have the right attitude 
toward the addressee is a requirement which applies 
with exceptional force to adjustment letters, since 
so many letters of complaint are of the kind that tend 
to arouse the reader's antagonism. It is not always 
easy to maintain an even temper toward a person who 
makes accusations and claims which are clearly un- 
just, especially when he uses vituperative language. 


But even if the claimant heaps insult on the house 
and its products, in writing an effective adjustment 
letter the correspondent, as a rule — ^not necessarily in 
all cases — ^will ignore that part of the complaint let- 
ter which arouses resentment. If he is going to do 
his best work, he cannot afford to let emotion inter- 
fere with his judgment. 

The successful adjustment man will, however, take 
note of every point in the claim letter that tends to 
indicate definitely what is the exact caliber of the 
claimant, and what his frame of mind was when he 
wrote. In fact, he prefers a complaint letter which 
frankly reveals the true feelings of the writer to one 
in which the degree of disappointment is carefully 
concealed. He knows that the bark of savage com- 
plaint letters in most cases indicates lack of inclina- 
tion to bite, that often those who complain most vo- 
ciferously are most easily appeased. He feels sure, 
therefore, that the situation is not nearly so serious 
as the tone of the letter would seem to indicate. The 
expert adjustment correspondent fears most the com- 
plaint letter that shows courteous restraint, for he 
knows that often those who say the least will be most 
likely to cut off their purchases silently, but swiftty 
and surely, if they are dissatisfied. 

3. It pays to welcome all complaints. — Whatever 
the nature of the complaint may be, there are a few 
general requirements, with respect to the attitude of 
the adjuster, which apply in all cases. The first is 
that all complaint letters ought to be sincerely wel- 


corned, for two main reasons : ( 1 ) courteous attention 
given to complaint matters goes far toward keeping 
customers satisfied; and (2) to the firm that is alert 
and has the right attitude, complaints furnish valuable 
suggestions in regard to the improvement of the prod- 
ucts and the service. If a concern assumes the right 
attitude, there is every probability that the number 
of complaints will decrease as time goes on. "En- 
courage complaints so that fewer of them will be 
made," is as paradoxical as "Make money by losing 
it," when liberal adjustments are made for the sake 
of future business. But both policies are sound. 

The welcoming of complaints, therefore, does not 
necessarily mean undue liberality in adjusting the 
trouble. But it is true that the man who complains 
about unsatisfactory goods or services is doing a favor 
to the one to whom he complains. The number of 
cases in which the complainant deliberately makes a 
false claim are so few in the experience of most houses 
that they can be entirely ignored in establishing 
fundamental adjustment policies. And the founda- 
tion of any proper policy is the right attitude toward 
claims and complaints — the attitude which convinces 
the claimant that the firm is actually thankful that he 
took the time and trouble to help the company to keep 
him as a satisfied customer, and to help the house to 
improve its service to all other customers, 

4. Other requirements. — Perhaps the most difficult 
requirement is to keep the adjustment letter free 
from resentment. This does not mean that it is never 


wise to call the attention of a claimant to the fact 
that his remarks are not just, but it does mean that if 
this must be done the statement should be made in an 
impersonal way, and often with the implication that 
the firm feels that the claimant really does not mean all 
he says. Even when the complainant is abusive and 
does mean all he says, it is the adjustment correspond- 
ent's duty to entertain sympathetic personal interest. 
He should consider the lack of sound business training 
that his addressee's letter shows, and accordingly 
should write him with toleration a business letter — 
and business letters are always courteous. 

5. What constitutes true courtesy? — At this point 
it might be well to point out again the danger of mis- 
interpreting rules. For instance, the important rule 
that business letters should always be courteous is 
often mistaken to mean that all business letters ought 
to contain smoothly polite phraseology. We have all 
received letters that are too evidently courteous. 
For instance, in replying to a particularly bitter com- 
plaint letter, the correspondent too often makes his 
letter obviously courteous in his effort not to allow 
the claimant to discern any show of resentment. 
An obviously courteous letter under such circum- 
stances is likely to defeat its own end and to inflame 
anew the claimant's anger. The complainant's feel- 
ing under such circumstances is similar to that which 
the street Arab entertains for the refined language 
of the well-bred lad when a quarrel is brewing between 
them. The well-bred boy would find unrefined talk 


more effective in such a case, unless, for strategic rea- 
sons, he wanted to make his antagonist blindly mad. 

It often pays, in the case of an angry claimant, to 
state facts plainly, without using a too polite phrase- 
olog5^ The following letters illustrate this point: 

Dear Sir: 

Your people are the limit. That last shipment contained 
two tubs of No. 14 candy that was all wormy, and besides, 
the shipment reached here two weeks later than promised. I 
am sending back the rotten stuff, and don't trouble your- 
self to write me one of those salvy letters of explanation. I 
want service, not letters, and intend to buy only where I 
can get it. 

Yours truly, 

This letter happened to express a feeling that many 
complainants entertain toward "salvy" adjustment 
letters — evident attempts to soothe ruffled feehngs. 
It is very clear in this case that an obviously courteous 
reply would be most ineffective. But whether or not 
this man had said, "Don't trouble yourself to write me 
one of those salvy letters of explanation," the corre- 
spondent would have handled the case just about as 
he did. His letter follows. It explains without 
seeming to. 

Dear Sir: 

Your letter of September 30th makes my blood boil against 
the railroad which, by mistake, kept those two tubs of candy 
shut up in a hot box-car two weeks longer than they should 
have. It is not the loss of the candy that we regret — the 
railroad will make good on that — but the railroad can't get 
us another account to take the pface of yours. It is tough 
when we have to suffer for the mistakes of others. 


If you will immediately wire us collect "ship two tubs, 

number fourteen, by express," we will start the goods to you 

by express, prepaid, within a half-hour after the telegram 

reaches us. ^r . , 

Yours very truly, 

6. Over-anxiety to please. — This letter secured the 
desired telegram, followed by a letter of apology. One 
proof of the good salesmanship in it is the fact that 
no direct request is made that the complainant change 
his mind about buying elsewhere. The correspondent 
lets the reader draw his own conclusions concerning 
who was responsible for the trouble. He shows to- 
ward the railroad a natural resentment which this ad- 
dressee can readily understand, and then takes the 
opportunity to make a subtle appeal to the reader's 
pride by giving the impression that the concern would 
consider the loss of this particular account a serious 
matter. Yet the writer avoids the common mistake 
of seeming to be over-anxious to please an angry 

This mistake, also, results from a too rigid ap- 
plication of a good principle, or rule : the advisability 
of gaining as much good-will as possible out of an ad- 
justment. The reply to the following letter illus- 
trates the failure to do this. The writer makes the 
mistake of using too many very courteous phrases, the 
purpose of which is altogether too obvious to the trav- 
eling salesman to whom the letter was sent. The ad- 
dressee would have received an impression of greater 
sincerity if the correspondent had written* in a less 
suave and ingratiating tone. 


The complainant's letter follows: 


I know a big concern like yours gets behind its merchan- 
dise with a guaranty of satisfaction. Therefore I am re- 
turning the inclosed tie, which I bought in your 14th Street 
store. I have worn it five or six times. The price was 
one dollar. 

I am a traveling man but hit New York frequently and 
like to buy in one of your stores. But this tie is a disap- 
pointment. Send me another one about like it, if you will, 
but one that won't fray out right away. 

Yours very truly, 

The tie was badly worn at the edges and altho 
there was not much question that the material was de- 
fective, it was possible that the edges might have been 
scorched in pressing. 

Here is the adjustment letter: 

Dear Sir: 

Please accept our thanks for your very kind and courteous 
favor of the 30th, directing our attention to the unsatis- 
factory service given you by a tie purchased at one of our 
stores. Rest assured that we are prepared to stand back 
of our merchandise under any and all circumstances. 
Furthermore our one great desire is to have every customer 
thoroly satisfied. 

We take great pleasure in inclosing herewith a new tie to 
replace the one you returned, and trust that it will give you 
a great deal more satisfactory service than the one you re- 
turned. If it should not, do not hesitate to return this one 

Yours very truly, 

In spite of the fact that the adjustment of the com- 
plaint was entirely satisfactory, this letter distinctly 

XII— 11 


impressed the addressee with a feehng that the writer 
did not mean all that he said. He seemed to be too 
anxious to please. Furthermore, the correspondent 
neglected to create confidence in the new tie. Here 
is the letter rewritten with the object of creating this 
belief in the firm. 

Dear Sir: 

Thank you for returning to us the unsatisfactory tie. 
The purest silk will sometimes fray out easily; or it mijs;ht 
be that this tie was scorched when it was pressed. We re- 
gret that you happened to get this particular tie. But we 
are glad you took the trouble to send it back and give us 
this opportunity to send you another tie, which, we trust, 
will give you entire satisfaction. 

Please remember that this company stands back of its 
merchandise with an unqualified guaranty of entire satis- 
faction, including ties made of pure silk. 

Yours very truly. 

The writer, in this case, avoids the mistake of show- 
ing too much anxiety to say what will please the 
reader. He resells the customer on confidence in this 
particular tie, and yet leaves a loophole in case this 
tie, too, fails to give satisfaction. The mention of 
the fact that it is made of the purest silk not only 
serves as a selling point in reestablishing the custo- 
mer's confidence in the goods, but also influences the 
customer to be somewhat more careful in handling the 
second tie. 

7. Should an adjustment letter he long? — Inci- 
dentally the two adjustment letters in the preceding 
section also illustrate another principle which is often 


misapplied, namely, that adjustment letters ought to 
be long rather than brief. All that is said in the first 
letter might better be stated in one-half the space, 
and many of the statements might better be omitted 
altogether. The length of the adjustment letter, as 
that of all other letters, depends on what informa- 
tion it is necessary to impart in order to make the im- 
pression desired. Piling up courteously phrased sen- 
tences that really say nothing is a poor means of being 
diplomatic and tactful. There is an important dif- 
ference between letters that are long because they 
contain many facts which aid directly in gaining the 
result desired, and letters that are long either because 
too many words are used to express comparatively few 
facts, or because facts are included that do not help at 
all to make the desired impressions. 

The reason successful adjustment letters are fre- 
quently somewhat long is that it is necessary to make 
sure not only that the customer is complete^ satis- 
fied with the adjustment, but also, as already empha- 
sized, it is essential that the addressee receive such an 
impression of the firm that he will want to continue to 
deal with them. Also, when the trouble is caused by 
the customer's misuse of the product or service about 
which he complains, the presentation of "educational" 
information that will prevent future trouble often re- 
quires considerable space, for such information must 
usually be imparted in detail. 

S, An ''educational adjustment letter. — The fol- 
lowing letter is designed not only to prevent future 


trouble with the addressee, but also to prove to the 
latter's satisfaction that the allowance which the 
house has made is just, in view of the fact that the 
addressee himself was largely responsible for the 
trouble. This letter is necessarily long. 

Dear Sir: 

After examining your two 37x4 casings mentioned in 
your letter of March 24, we can appreciate that the mileage 
you received from them was somewhat disappointing. In or- 
der that you may have better results in the future, and avoid 
further disappointment, let us briefly explain what caused 
your trouble. 

A thoro examination of your casings showed that the fab- 
ric on the side walls was separated in spots by insufficient 
inflation ; the tread was cut ; loosened and water-soaked by 
sand blisters and moisture. 

Now, an automobile tire will run along uncomplainingly 
for a while, even if it is not sufficiently inflated, but all the 
time the inside fabric is undergoing an unnatural bending, 
and heat is generating. This heat causes the cement be- 
tween the layers of fabric to melt, and the layers begin 
slowly to separate. When once they get in this condition 
they do not work as a unit and chafe one another at every 
revolution of the tire. Further, a tire not properly inflated 
is more easily damaged by road bruises, for when the tire 
contains the right amount of air, shocks are distributed over 
all parts of it, and the strain at any one point, caused by a 
bump, is hardly ever sufficient to cause the fabric to break. 

To avoid under-inflation in the future, and to be assured 
that your tires are always pumped up to the proper pres- 
sure, we would suggest that you test them every few days 
with an air-gauge. You can buy a small but reliable gauge 
for $1.00 from your local dealer, and the tire expense it 
will save you will pay for it many times. 

The water-soaked fabric and tread-loosening are both 
caused by small snags and cuts in the tread which were al- 


lowed to go unrepaired. We would suggest that when these 
cuts appear in the tread you wash them out thoroly with 
gasoline and fill them with some good repair-gum. The best 
time to do this is in the evening, before you put your car 
away for the night. If this is done the repair-gum placed 
in the cuts will harden over night and by morning will have 
become an integral part of the tread. 

We are inclosing one of our small service bulletins with 
certain sections marked with blue pencil, giving explicit in- 
structions how tread bruises and cuts should be repaired. 

By following out the above suggestions, you will have no 
further difficulty with either fabric-separation or tread- 
loosening, and we are sure that the increased mileage serv- 
ice you obtain will amply compensate you for taking these 

In looking at this proposition from your point of view we 
can appreciate how you feel, and it is not our idea, in bring- 
ing these matters to your attention, to evade whatever re- 
sponsibility may be ours. However, we found these condi- 
tions, and thinking it would be of value to you to know how 
to prevent a recurrence of your past difficulties, we have 
offered you the foregoing remedies. 

We are going further in this particular instance and 
are going to assume part of the loss of service caused by 
these tires giving out prematurely, because our first wish is 
to satisfy your sense of fairness, and this, better than any- 
thing else, explains why we are offering you two new 37x4 
plain tread-casings for $24 each, $12 below the regular 

We have two new casings wrapped and ready to ship, 
awaiting your instructions. 

Yours very truly, 

9. Adjustment should be fair to all concerned. — 
The letter just quoted is a good illustration of what 
constitutes an adjustment which is fair to all con- 
cerned, tho the case was one in which it was difficult 


for the company to be fair to itself as well as to the 
customer. Competition is so lively in the rubber busi- 
ness that a firm which is wide awake overlooks no op- 
portunity to increase the good-will of its customers. 
On the other hand, dissatisfaction, due to the buyer's 
misuse of the goods, to carelessness and lack of cau- 
tion, is common. The writer of adjustment letters in 
this business is exceptionally difficult, unless the com- 
pany is willing to accept a great deal of loss. In any 
event, a poHcy such as that suggested by the well 
known statement, "The customer is always right," 
would not be in accordance with a practical definition 
of a satisfactory adjustment. 

This is a nice question of policy: How much of 
the loss should a company be willing to bear when 
it is not entirely responsible for the trouble? Of 
course the answer will depend largely upon how much 
the company desires, the good-will of the complain- 
ant. But even when that good-will is greatly desired, 
it is doubtful whether it is wise for the firm to agree 
to incur a greater loss than is actually justified by 
the facts in the case, in so far as the facts can be ascer- 
tained. On the other hand, it is perhaps advisable in 
most cases to give the customer the benefit of any 

In general, it might be said that the best adjust- 
ment is the one that is the fairest to all parties con- 
cerned. Few, if any, business houses can afford to 
practise absolutely the policy which is based upon the 
theory that the customer is always right. The spirit 


of this theory is admirable and has a significant rela- 
tion to the kind of service that wins business, but to 
apply such a theory to all cases, without exception, 
would often mean unfairness to the customer as well 
as to the house. For instance, if this theory had been 
applied in the case just cited, and two new tires had 
been sent without cost, the addressee might have failed 
to make use of the educational information that the 
firm gave him. He might have been less inclined to 
believe what was said about the cause of his trouble, 
and undoubtedly would have been much less inclined 
to respect the house. 

Thus, the practice of the policy of fairness to all 
concerned would often make easier the task of writ- 
ing an effective adjustment letter, altho it would 
sometimes make the task of adjusting the trouble 
more difficult. Most people are reasonably fair and, 
if their demands are unreasonable, are willing to be 
shown in what the unreasonableness consists. 

10. Building the adjustment letter. — It is neces- 
sary, of course, that each case be handled with due 
regard for the particular circumstances, but there are 
a few practical points that will be of value to the cor- 
respondent in answering nearly any complaint let- 
ter, whether the subject be delayed shipment, goods 
damaged in transit, defective goods, goods different 
from those ordered, shortages, lost shipments, or any 
other kind of claim. Besides these points that have 
already been presented, the following are important. 

It is essential to answer a complaint letter promptly. 


and to assure the complainant that his claim is re- 
ceiving immediate attention. But this is not enough, 
for, after all, an immediate acknowledgment that gives 
the complainant nothing but the assurance that his 
claim has been received and will be adjusted as 
promptly as possible, is not as effective as a letter 
that is not sent so promptly, perhaps, but which con- 
tains details in regard to the adjustment. 

Then, in building the adjustment letter it is, as a 
rule, best to show at the beginning that the addressee's 
point of view is appreciated, and to say something 
which will assure him that he will get a fair adjust- 
ment. It is always advisable to show fairness and a 
determination to satisfy a complainant. In this re- 
spect the letter quoted in Section 8 might be im- 
proved if, after the first sentence, a statement like this 
were added: "And it is against our policy to allow 
any one who uses our tires to be disappointed." 
This assurance of satisfaction — even stronger and 
more direct assurance might be given, provided it does 
not raise the addressee's hopes too high — would make 
the reader somewhat more willing to read on with 
strict attention until his big question was finally an- 
swered. But he should first be given to understand 
that under the conditions he cannot, in fairness, ex- 
pect as liberal an adjustment as he had hoped for. 

11. Classification of adjustment letters. — The most 
common classification of adjustment letters is ac- 
cording to the kind of complaint; that is, delayed 
shipments, defective goods, shortages, and so on. In 


each case, it is possible for the house not only to fix 
the general policy of adjustment, but also to lay down 
definite insti*uctions in regard to what the contents of 
the letter shall be. For example, in the case of de- 
lay in transit, the letter should give definite informa- 
tion concerning the date, and the method and route 
of shipment ; the correspondent should express regret 
concerning the delay, and should promise that the firm 
will immediately give assistance if it shall be found, 
after a tracer has been sent, that the shipment has been 
lost. He should also offer to duplicate the order 
promptly in such a case, if the customer desires him to 
do so. 

The cause of the trouble largely determines the 
kind of letter to be written. If, for instance, the 
cause of the delay in transit happens to be a mistake 
on the part of the shipping department, and is not 
due to any negligence on the part of the transporta- 
tion company, the correspondent should frankly admit 
the error and explain how it occurred, and if a claim 
has been made for damages resulting from the delay, 
should grant it, provided the facts substantiate it. 
Thus, it is clear that the responsibility for the trouble 
is another important basis of classification. 

Still another important basis for the classification 
of adjustment letters is the degree of seriousness of 
the loss to the house or to the customer. In general, it 
is advisable to give especially careful attention to the 
more serious cases, altho this policy may be disputed 
from the theoretical standpoint. 


Such classifications in a limited way allow the use 
of form letters and form paragraphs in the handling 
of the similar complaints. But comparatively few 
complaints can safely be answered by means of forms. 
Most cases are difficult, and these are the kind in which 
it is necessary to apply skilfully the fundamental prin- 
ciples of effective letter-writing, which are mentioned 
in the first part of this book. 

12. Simpler classes of adjustment letters. — ^Very 
often the simple cases, which involve no serious trou- 
ble, offer an opportunity for skilful work. The fol- 
lowing complaint letter, received from a woman by a 
big mail-order house, and the method of dealing with 
the complainant, are evidence of this fact. 

Dear Sirs: 

Last week I received the Oil Stove No. 113, also the 
groceries. The Oil Stove we do not like. Can you furnish 
me with a wick-stove like this so I can set it on my cook 
stove? Please let me know at once how we can exchange. 
This stove is in just as good shape as when we received it. 

Yours truly, 

The idea of the firm in answering this letter was 
to encourage the customer to keep the wickless stove, 
since they knew that it would prove entirely satis- 
factory as soon as she became accustomed to it. One 
correspondent in handling the case wrote as follows : 

Dear Madam: 

On referring to our records we find that we sell a great 
many more wickless oil stoves than wick-stoves. The wick- 
less stove that you purchased is one of our best sellers and 


one that should give satisfaction to you, as it has to thou- 
sands of others. 

We, however, do not expect our customers to keep goods 
with which they are not satisfied, and if you do not want 
the stove, you may return it to us. For your convenience 
in doing so we inclose tag and bills of lading. 

When you make the shipment you can let us know just 
how you want this case handled, that is, what stove you 
want in place of the one you are returning. Your wishes in 
the matter will have our immediate attention. 

Yours very truly, 

But that letter was not sent. It was held up by an 
older correspondent who was responsible for train- 
ing the young man that wrote it. The older corre- 
spondent suggested the following letter: 

Dear Madam: 

You may return the unsatisfactory stove by freight, col- 
lect, making use of the inclosed triplicate bills of lading and 
tag. After shipment, mail the original bill of lading to us in 
the inclosed envelop and we shall be very glad to send you an- 
other stove that you may select. We should be glad to send 
this stove now, but you have not told us just what you want. 

We sincerely regret that you received a stove which did 
not prove to be just what you wanted, but we are glad you 
have called our attention to the fact, as we are always willing 
and anxious to live up to our guarantee of satisfaction. 
You may be sure that your reply will be given prompt at- 

A review of our records shows that we sell a great many 
more wickless oil-stoves than wick-stoves. Most of our 
customers find the wickless stoves more to their liking, and 
your stove, in particular, has been one of our best sellers. 
We believe that if you will try this stove for a while you 
will not think of returning it. If you decide to keep the 
stove no reply to this letter will be necessary. 

Yours truly, 


In this letter eagerness to satisfy the customer is 
plainly evident in the first sentence; then the writer 
makes a skilful transition to a definite suggestion — 
without the slightest hint of argument or even of a 
request — that the customer keep the stove. This let- 
ter was successful. No reply came back. Such let- 
ters as the two given above illustrate what a vast dif- 
ference in effectiveness there may be between indi- 
vidual adjustment letters of the simplest type. 

13. List of practical pointers. — A list of "Inside 
Tips on Adjustment Letters," has been prepared for 
a mail-order house. The following "tips" are quoted 
from this list: 

Welcome every complaint. 

Sympathize with the complainant. 

Show willingness to make right any wrong. 

Avoid promises unless you are sure you can keep them. 

Get at the facts of the case. 

Avoid arguments — state facts. 

Be courteous, but not effusive. 

Cheer up all the time. 

Avoid weak-sounding apologies — admit derogatory facts 
frankly — make good with deeds rather than with words. 

Have a good reason for each concession. 

Never suggest that you suspect the customer of dishon- 
esty or carelessness. 

Give the customer the benefit of any doubt. 

Don't cause the customer inconvenience, especially for 
anything that is our fault. 

Satisfy the customer, if possible; but be just as fair to 
the house as to the customer. That's the only kind of fair- 
ness that is fair. 



Why should the correspondent welcome complaints ? 

Mention other fundamental requirements with respect to the 
right attitude. 

In writing adjustment letters why are many correspondents 
over-anxious to please? 

How long should the adjustment letter be? 

Why should the adjustment letter be fair to the house as well 
as to the customer? 

Mention several fundamental ideas in connection with the con- 
struction of good adjustment letters. 

Why could an unskilled correspondent succeed in writing sim- 
ple adjustment letters? 

Mention the most practical pointers on writing effective adjust- 
ment letters. 



1. Highly specialized letters. — Credit and collec- 
tion letters are perhaps the most highly specialized 
of all types of correspondence. For many years it 
has been the universal practice to give a great deal of 
careful attention to this class of letters. In the past, 
when selling was relatively easy and satisfactory ad- 
justments were not considered as important as they 
are now, and when competition for business in all lines 
was not as keen at it is today, the credit and collection 
problem was relatively greater than it is now, since 
more efficient cooperation in credit and collection ma- 
chinery is at present available, and especially since 
business men today expect a more strictly businesslike 
treatment at the hands of credit and collection mana- 
gers. Even tho credit and collection correspondence 
has been established in the business field longer than 
other specialized types, and notwithstanding the fact 
that more has been written on this subject than on any 
other type of letters, except sales letters, yet there 
are few credit and collection managers who feel at 
all satisfied with their skill in writing the kind of let- 
ters they wish to write. 

2. General purpose of credit and collection letters. 



The first thing to be considered in writing effec- 
tive credit and collection letters is the close relation 
they bear, not directly to sales, as in the case of ad- 
justment letters, but to profits. The primary aim of 
these letters is to protect profits by securing payment 
for goods which have been bought and delivered, and 
to do this with the least possible expense and at the 
same time to exert the best possible influence on 
sales. The influence on sales, however, is a secondary 
consideration, altho it is, of course, desirable that a 
credit letter or a collection letter help the sales de- 
partment as much as possible. Effective credit 
and collection letters are successful by virtue of the 
good salesmanship exercised in writing them. But 
writing a letter in which the principles of good sales- 
manship are incorporated as the means of making it 
effective, and writing with the direct influence on sales 
uppermost in mind, are not one and the same thing. 

The primary task of the credit or collection corre- 
spondent is to prevent loss from bad debts after sales 
have been made. Credit letters look forward and col- 
lection letters look backward, so to speak, with re- 
spect to guarding against loss. The purpose of both 
is primarily negative and defensive, altho this purpose 
may be accomplished by means of the application of 
positive selling principles. The purpose is preven- 
tion of loss. This fact is too often lost sight of by 
the modern credit or collection correspondent, who is 
inclined to make too great an effort to avoid undesir- 
able effects on sales in his attempt to protect profits. 


in so far as profits depend on the prompt pa5Tnent of 
accounts. He therefore often falls into the error of 
being too diplomatic. 

3. Being too diplomatic a mistake. — In view of the 
fact that credit and collection correspondents very 
often have to deal with delicate situations it is only 
natural that they frequently carry diplomacy too far. 
Letters that are obviously diplomatic, like adjustment 
letters that are obviously courteous, ai-e the least 
effective. In other words, here is another case of 
the misapplication of a rule, which serves to explain 
why it is often said that one cannot write effective let- 
ters merely by following set rules. Sometimes a let- 
ter is best when it calls a spade a spade, and appar- 
ently makes no attempt to be diplomatic. In such a 
case the reader is usually impressed with the sincer- 
ity and honesty of the writer. Those qualities com- 
mand respect. 

Here is a letter, for example, the writer of which 
did not command respect. He refuses shipment to a 
merchant whose credit standing is doubtful, and at- 
tempts to get him to agree to cash terms. 

Dear Sir: 

As you know, it is customary in all big wholesale houses 
to look up the credit rating of new customers before ship- 
ments are made on the credit basis. You, no doubt, do the 
same with your own new customers. Therefore we are de- 
laying shipment on your valued order until our reports are 

Our outside reports are not sufficient to permit us to ar- 
range this matter on an equitable basis. These reports all 


speak highly of you in a personal way, but do not give us 
the required information concerning assets and liabilities to 
enable us to determine a credit rating, to which we feel con- 
fident you are entitled. 

We inclose a statement and will appreciate it very much 
if you will fill it oui so that we can fix your credit as high 
as you deserve. This information, we assure you, will be 
held in strict confidence and used only by ourselves. 

Your order calls for goods to be shipped immediately. 
We will make an exception to our rule in this case. We sug- 
gest that you send us a draft by return mail, in considera- 
tion of which we will allow you a special discount of 5 per 
cent. But this concession applies, of course, only to this 
first order^ for we are confident we can easily arrange credit 
for future shipments. 

We trust you will take no personal exception to our above 
suggestions, which we have made solely in your interest. 

Thanking you for the kindness of an immediate and, we 
trust, a favorable reply, we are. 

Yours very truly. 

This letter was used as a form. While it has many 
good features, it seldom influenced an addressee to 
send a statement of liabilities and assets. On the con- 
trary, in several cases, the result was that the pro- 
spective customer tried to get the shipment without 
complying with the conditions. The credit man who 
used this letter found opportunity to talk confiden- 
tially with several merchants to whom it had been sent. 
He was surprised to find that his effort not to offend 
these men had failed. Their resentment was caused 
not so much by the "turndown'* as by the obvious at- 
tempt to make the refusal diplomatic. They resented 
the facts that the writer apparently thought they were 

XII— 12 


the kind of men who had to be handled with gloves, 
and that he also seemed to think that they could not 
see thru his attempt to be diplomatic. 

With this knowledge of the reader's point of view 
in mind, the credit man rewrote the letter as follows : 

Dear Sir: 

We find that the commercial agencies give you a low 
rating. We know, however, that the agency reports are 
sometimes wrong. But we always desire a personal state- 
ment direct from each new customer, and our regular form on 
which these statements are made is inclosed for your con- 

As soon as we get your favorable report we shall make 
immediate shipment of your order. It is being prepared 
for shipment and will be forwarded as soon as we hear from 
you. If you care to avoid any delay due to the time it 
might take you in giving us the confidential statement re- 
quested, we will allow you a 5 per cent discount for cash by 
return mail. 

This liberal cash discount, however, applies only to first 
orders. It is given because we feel that it is a fair con- 
cession to you under the circumstances ; and, frankly, we do 
not want to miss the opportunity to ship the order. We 
know that our goods and services will satisfy you. We want 
this order to be the beginning of another good account 
for us. 

You understand, of course, that any other wholesale 
house from which you would want to buy follows this same 
practice in opening new accounts. It means protection for 
you as a customer of ours. We await your commands. 

Yours very truly. 

This letter proved much more effective for accom- 
plishing its purpose — ^to get the cash or the statement. 
In not a few cases, it brought a frank confession of 


financial weakness, but with adequate assurance of 
growing strength sufficient to warrant a limited 
amount of credit. The main difference between this 
and the other letter is its evident directness and hon- 
esty. It was an unusual experience for the merchant 
to be told frankly in the first sentence of a letter of 
this sort that his rating was low — it was not "sur- 
prisingly low," or "lower than expected," or "com- 
paratively low," nor did it even "happen to be low," 
but it was "low." The writer did not even "regret to 
find" it so. The addressee, knowing that what the 
writer says in the first part of the letter is true, would 
naturally believe that the rest is true also, and he 
would have a definite desire to make good with this 
kind of credit man, especially if he knew that his fi- 
nancial condition at the time was really sound enough 
to make his report favorable, or if he happened to have 
available the necessary cash. 

4. General requirements in writing effective credit 
letters. — Effective credit letters are dignified — seldom 
apologetic in tone. They evince a strong but imper- 
sonal interest in the financial standing of the ad- 
dressee. It is very important to treat all customers 
exactly alike. This is well illustrated in the successful 
letter just quoted. But even the fact that a firm has 
adopted this policy must not be unduly emphasized 
to the reader. It should be suggested rather than 
stated outright. Credit letters are also, almost invari- 
ably, earnest and confidential in tone. They seldom 
lapse into good nature as is the case with many sue- 


cessful sales letters. Yet they are always optimistic. 
They also impress the addressee with the fact that the 
firm's interest and his own are, after all, identical. 

The successful credit correspondent encourages di- 
rectness, frankness and honesty by exhibiting those 
qualities himself. It is to be expected that these char- 
acteristics will be prominent in the personality of a 
good credit man; and letters reflect the spirit of the 
man who writes them. Naturalness is also important. 
The credit letter can be dignified without seeming to 
be unnatural. In fact, all the chief characteristics of 
effective letters are to be found in effective credit 
letters, just as they are in all other types of successful 
business letters. As a knowledge of conditions in each 
individual case is also very important, it naturally fol- 
lows that few form letters are effective. 

5. Use of ''educational" credit letters. — Many 
credit letters are designed to have an "educational" 
influence on the reader as well as to gain immediate re- 
sults. This "education" consists, as a rule, in influenc- 
ing customers to adjust themselves to the credit prac- 
tices and policies of the house. The main idea is to 
make each customer thoroly familiar with these poli- 
cies and practices, and to secure their favor and good- 
will with respect to them, as well as to train customers 
to assume the right attitude toward credit matters in 

For example, credit letters may impart such in- 
formation as the following: the fact that a customer's 
credit relations with a house constitute a most im- 


portant and serious business matter; that the credit 
department exists to serve the interests of the custo- 
mer as well as those of the house ; that the credit de- 
partment always stands ready to help the customer 
solve his financial problems, and to give counsel con- 
cerning market conditions and sales, as well as the 
amount of purchases that constitutes the right pro- 
portion between assets and liabilities. 

But the most important educational result of credit 
letters is that if they are sent promptly, as the occa- 
sion arises, they make it plain that the house adheres 
strictly to its credit policies and practices. Such 
letters, while they are always frank, direct and defi- 
nite, avoid a dictatorial tone. The correspondent 
writes as if he took it for granted the customer knows 
that the credit rules and regulations are made in his 
interests. Gradually, if the letters are sent regularly 
and promptly, the customer becomes "educated" up 
to the requirements of the house. 

6. A letter refusing to allow discount. — A good 
example of a case in which the success of an educa- 
tional letter depends much on the previous "training" 
that the customer has received from the house, is that 
in which a customer deducts a discount to which he is 
not entitled by the terms of the sale. The kind of 
letter that such an occasion calls for is considered by 
many credit men to be a difiicult type of credit letter, 
or collection letter, as some prefer to call it. One 
house wrote the following successful letter to a cus- 
tomer who had been well "educated." The addressee 


had deducted a discount to which he was not en- 

Dear Sir: 

Thank jou for your remittance of $58.80, just received. 
Our 2 per cent discount, however, does not apply on pay- 
ments made more than 10 days after the date of the state- 
ment. We are therefore continuing a balance of $1.20 on 
this account, which you can add to your next payment. 

Yours very truly. 

The writer of that letter made no attempt at all to 
be "diplomatic," except in so far as he took it for 
granted that the reader would not be offended and 
therefore wrote the kind of direct and fearless letter 
that the reader expected to get from this house. 
The following letter would not have been as effec- 

Dear Sir: 

We thank you sincerely for your remittance just received, 
but note that your bookkeeper has probably confused our 
terms with those of some other wholesale house. We allow 
the cash discount for payment in ten days. It does not 
apply in this case, as you will agree. The difference is 
$1.20. Please include this amount with your next order. 

Yours very truly, 

"Alibi" letters of this sort are seldom, if ever, as 
effective as letters that possess the characteristic of 
credibility, discussed in Chapter III. Even a letter 
like the following tends to arouse doubt, and in many 
cases would not be as effective as one that gives only a 
plain statement of the facts. 


Dear Sir: 

It was, no doubt, merely an oversight on the part of your 
bookkeeper that discount was deducted on invoice No. 8,941, 
dated October 10th, as we did not receive your payment 
until December Srd. 

Will you kindly include this amount ($1.^) with your 
next order? 

Yours very truly, * 

7. Collection letters; general requirements. — There 
is no fundamental difference between the require- 
ments for writing effective credit letters and those 
for writing successful collection letters. The main 
difference between these two types of letters is in the 
object, or end; one prevents, the other attempts to 
cure. This difference is marked, but the means of 
gaining the end is the same in each case — ^writing from 
the reader's point of view. 

As in the case of other letters, the right attitude 
toward the addressee is of fundamental importance. 
What attitude toward him will best enable the cor- 
respondent to write a letter that will secure payment, 
if possible, without arousing antagonism? That is 
a big question. To induce any addressee to pay out 
money and at the same time to keep his good- will, is, 
in most cases, a task that requires no little skill and 

"You can't get even with a man and get his money 
at the same time," is an epigram that contains sound 
common sense. The man who writes a successful col- 
lection letter generally insists confidently and firmly, 
but courteously, that the debt must be paid. He 


makes it clear that it is not a question of the debtor's 
conferring a favor by settling, but that it is rather 
the privilege of the debtor to pay promptly what he 
owes. As stated in the letter in Chapter II, Section 9, 
"You have a little of my money," is the idea that the 
correspondent should emphasize. If he does so it is 
not likely that he will make the mistake of writing in 
the apologetic tone that marks so many collection let- 
ters, and so he will probably avoid the mistake of of- 
fering an excuse for wanting the money. A corre- 
spondent who takes this point of view will also, in all 
probability, make requests regularly for payments 
due. The fact that payment is often demanded only 
at irregular intervals explains why many accounts are 
uncollectable. They grow bad gradually, on account 
of the collector's lack of promptness and firmness. 

Another general requirement is careful considera- 
tion of the true cause of the debtor's failure to pay 
promptly, as agreed. If the bill is not promptly paid 
when rendered, simply because the debtor is careless 
or is not in the habit of paying until he is requested 
to do so, a courteous request for payment is usually 
sufficient to secure results. If the debtor is unable 
to pay, the cause of inability to pay determines the 
kind of letter. Sometimes debtors are classified ac- 
cording to this basis as "good pay," and "bad pay," 
but such general classifications are seldom accurate, 
except when there is not the least doubt in which class 
the debtor belongs. It is best to cultivate consider- 
able confidence and optimism in carrying on collection 


correspondence. It is accordingly clear that a gen- 
eral use of the "bad pay" classification is likely to in- 
terfere with success. This does not mean, however, 
that it is not well to recognize the probability when a 
debtor has apparently made up his mind not to pay, 
but it does mean that it is seldom wise for a firm to 
let the debtor who is, without doubt, in the "bad-pay" 
class know that the house realizes what the situation is. 

8. Use of form letters. — In collection correspond- 
ence each case is difficult. Carefully prepared form 
letters are used extensively, but they are most effec- 
tive when skilfully adapted to the individual cases. 
Some collection men, however, favor the use of letters 
that are obviously forms because their use would 
plainly show the debtor that he was being treated in 
the same way as other debtors. It is safe to follow 
this practice in cases in which a simple reminder is 
all that is necessary. Yet, even in such cases, the use 
of a form might result in further delay since a form 
letter would carry the definite suggestion that delay 
is common, that other debtors are in the same boat, 
and that the failure to pay is considered lightly by 
the creditor. 

The use of form letters, therefore, is not recon- 
cilable with the sound theory that frankness and hon- 
esty of statement is always desirable. Nevertheless, 
a series of collection letters which usually begins with 
a "Please remit" stamped on a duplicate statement, 
and ends with a notification that legal action will be 
taken, has its place, especially when comparatively 


little is known about the debtor. Such cases, how- 
ever, ought to be few. A creditor seldom considers 
lightly the non-payment of a debt when payment is 
due; and honesty requires, as a rule, the omission of 
statements designed to compliment the debtor by try- 
ing to make him think the matter is not seriously con- 
sidered. Moreover, even if the matter is considered 
of little importance, it is usually unwise to say so. 

When a collection correspondent is writing concern- 
ing non-payment, if his attitude is right, his anxiety 
should be due to the fact that a contract is broken, and 
consequently one man is using money which belongs 
to another and the longer he uses it the greater is the 
injustice done. This should be the chief cause of 
serious consideration. If it is, for that very reason 
the writer will be optimistically confident of receiv- 
ing payment. Direct, frank, honest statements that 
have a distinct ring of confidence in them are charac- 
teristic of successful collection letters. The following 
letter is a good example : 

Dear Sir: 

Our record of your account shows a balance of $40, due 
since April 1st. According to agreement this ampunt was to 
be paid on the first of this month. Just put the inclosed 
statement with your remittance in the inclosed addressed 
envelop — and let Uncle Sam do the rest. 

Yours very truly. 

That letter was successfully used by an insurance 
man in collecting many small accounts. It produced 
much better results than this letter : 


Dear Sir: 

May I call your attention to the inclosed statement of a 
small balance of $40, due on your account since April 1st, 
Your delay is no doubt due to an oversight, and we shall 
appreciate it very much if you will favor us with a remit- 
tance by return mail. 

Yours very truly, 

This letter does not arouse in the reader any desire 
to pay; rather it causes resistance. Its chief fault 
is the apparent eagerness to avoid giving offense. In 
the letter first quoted above, the expression, "let Uncle 
Sam do the rest" gives the necessary touch of good 
nature. It clearly suggests the writer's friendly at- 

9. Collecting retail accounts. — Unpaid retail ac- 
counts are difficult to collect by letter for several rea- 
sons : the addressee is either not a business man with 
the business attitude toward debts, or he is inclined 
to be more sensitive about overdue household ac- 
counts than he is in regard to business debts; then, 
too, credit arrangements in the accounts of retail 
customers are seldom as definitely fixed as when 
the debtor is a business firm. This difficulty, how- 
ever, makes it even more advisable that retail credits 
be fixed on a business basis and that retail customers 
be "educated" in the necessity of observing the regula- 
tions that the firm establishes — in short, that they be 
influenced to expect courteous but emphatic insistence 
on prompt and regular payments. 

Even when there are very definite credit arrange- 
ments, the retail debtor requires more careful handling 


than a business firm. One grocer, for instance, finds 
that it pays him to include with all monthly state- 
ments, a blotter bearing a cheerful quotation in verse 
or prose, and a calendar for the month. He says 
that payments have come in more promptly since he 
began this practice. When customers fail to pay 
promptly, it is essential when letters must be used, 
that the retail collection letter be adapted to the in- 
dividual case. Some of the suggestions made by one 
of the largest wholesale houses in the country to its 
customers, small town merchants for the most part, 
clearly present this problem. Excerpts from these 
instructions follow: * 

Collecting money is lllce selling goods. It involves a 
knowledge of human nature and ability to select the methods 
that work best with individual debtors. No matter how 
carefully you pass upon your credit risks, some are sure to 
be slow in settling. Misfortune may befall them. Any one 
of twenty things may cause the customer to fall behind. It 
naturally follows, then, that the better you are acquainted 
with your debtors, the more successful will be your collection 

A very important essential of the successful collector is 
firmness. Many a dealer will not press a customer because 
he is afraid of losing his trade. So he lets the bill get big- 
ger and bigger until finally the customer leaves because the 
bill has got beyond him. This is a very weak position and 
a useless one. 

At the same time you must know the customer from whom 
you are trying to collect. What might answer with one will 
offend another. Understand the circumstances as com- 
pletely as possible before you do anything. 

1 Quoted by permission, from the "Butler Way System Book," published 
by Butler Brothers, Chicago. 


A grocer who insisted on collecting his bills on the 1st 
and 15th of each month noticed that one of his new custo- 
mers was two weeks in arrears. So he wrote the customer 
reminding him very curtly that his account was running 
entirely too high and must be settled, as the policy of the 
store was that bills should be paid promptly on the first and 
the fifteenth. 

The bill was paid. A check came by return mail. But 
the grocer never sold that family five cents' worth of mer- 
chandise again. 

The fact was, that this customer's wife had been called 
away from home by the sickness of a relative. Her depar- 
ture was sudden. The maid she left in charge of the house 
was not instructed to pay the grocer's bill — a very natural 

Then the grocer made his mistake. He found out after- 
ward that the customer's financial standing was even better 
than his own — that the customer was good for many, many 
times the amount of the bill, and that he had a high posi- 
tion among business men. If he had investigated before 
writing the letter, of course, he would not have written it. 
He not only could have collected his money in due course, but 
now would be selling more groceries. 

This loss to the grocer seemed unjust in a way. He had 
asked for nothing more than was due him. He had given 
the family his goods and was entitled to his money. Prob- 
ably the aggrieved customer would admit as much. At the 
same time, the customer had a right to resent the unneces- 
sarily sharp letter the merchant wrote. Anyway, he did 
resent it and this is what caused the grocer to lose. 

You don't have to be apologetic about collecting your 
money. It is yours. But you do need to know your cus- 
tomers and to deal with them in accordance with what you 
know. If you don't you are likely to lose them. 

10. Suggestions for retail collections. — As exam- 
ples of letters that may help the retail merchant to 


write successful collection letters, this wholesale house 
offers the following series, with comments: 

Dear Sir: 

May we call your attention to the inclosed state- 
ment of your account? This is somewhat past due, as 
you will see by the date. 

By the way, whenever you think of some improvement 
we could make that would render our store service more 
satisfactory to you, will you be kind enough to tell 
us about it? We surely appreciate your trade and 
want to do all we can to please you. 

Thanking you for a response at your early con- 
venience, we are. 

Yours very truly, 

Smith & Co. 

This letter is courteous and yet firm. It expresses no 
regret over having to remind the customer of his delinquency. 
It does not apologize for asking for money that is right- 
fully due to the store. 

Note the second paragraph. This is a tactful compli- 
ment to the customer. As he reads it he will almost get 
the impression that you are asking him to give his opinion 
about the store and are mentioning the money incidentally. 
In any event the letter is one that few would take offense at. 
The sensitive past-due debtor will generally pay after being 
reminded of it in this manner. Or, if he can't pay, he will 
write or call upon you and give an explanation, telling the 
approximate date on which he expects to settle. 

If this letter does not bring a response try ^a second one. 

Dear Sir: 

Undoubtedly you have overlooked our other letter 
calling attention to your account. Accordingly, we are 
again reminding you of it. 


Our books show you owe us. . . . Can you tell us 
approximately when you will be able to pay this? 

Will you not let us know within the next day or two 
just what we may expect? 

Yours very truly, 

This letter is somewhat sharper in tone. It is very 
courteous, but not in the least apologetic or explanatory. 
It informs the customer that he is indebted to the store in a 
certain sum, and endeavors to get him to name a date upon 
which he will pay. 

Note that in the concluding paragraph of the letter the 
debtor is told, in effect, that you expect to hear from him 
either with a settlement or an explanation within the next 
couple of days. This letter will bring responses in a great 
majority of cases. 

Now, you have disposed of all your highly sensitive people. 
You can deal with the remaining debtors on the list in a more 
straight-from-the-shoulder manner. You are right in as- 
suming, if neither money nor explanation is forthcoming 
after letter No. 2, that the person needs poking up in quite 
a sharp manner. Even at that, his silence should not be 
taken to indicate that he does not intend to pay. A thick 
hide rather than a dishonest nature may be the case. As- 
sume, therefore, that you are going to get the money within 
a short time, and write him somewhat as follows : 

Dear Sir: 

We are considerably surprised and just a little hurt 
that you have not acknowledged either of our previous 
letters regarding your indebtedness to us. 

Of course, you have some good reason for not paying 
this money-— a reason which, from your standpoint, 
may seem sufficient. But you have not told us any- 
thing about it. Won't you take us into your confi- 
dence RIGHT NOW? 

We assure you we want to show you every consider- 


ation. Yet it must be plainly apparent to you that 
your seeming neglect of this account will have a ten- 
dency to hurt your credit standing in this town. 

Come in and let's talk the matter over. Or write 
us. You know our terms. The only condition under 
which we can extend credit is to have prompt settle- 
ment. We have done our part. When are YOU going 
to do yours.'' 

Very truly yours, 

This letter is firmer than the others. Yet it assumes that 
the customer really means to pay. It is, however, an out- 
spoken demand for an immediate settlement — or at least 
an explanation. 

Any person who makes no response after receiving this 
letter should be gone after hard. 

Making allowance for local conditions and your acquaint- 
ance with the customer, the fourth letter should be written 
something after this fashion : 

Dear Sir: 

We have written three letters regarding what you 
owe us, but you have not replied. The letters haven't 
come back to us and so we are assuming you got them. 

What is the matter.'' Surely the account is correct, 
or you would have told us so before this. And don't 
you think a person to whom you owe money is en- 
titled to at least an explanation when the money is not 

We think we have treated you fairly in this matter. 
You have enjoyed the advantages of this store on an 
equality with everybody else. Must we assume, there- 
fore, that you are not going to carry out your part of 
the agreement you made when you opened your ac- 
count with us? 

For your own sake, as well as for ours, you surely 
ought to adjust this matter right now. A person's 


credit is one of the most valuable things he has. We 
should regret it exceedingly if we should be forced to 
take steps in this matter that would injure your credit 
standing. We would feel better about the thing if you 
had acknowledged some of our letters. It certainly 
would help for you to tell us when you would attempt 
to pay. 

We have tried all along to do right by you and shall 
continue to do so. In fact, we believe you will decide 
to make some adjustment of your account at once. If 
you do not, we shall have to take some other steps, 
which will not be pleasant for either of us. 

May we be favored by an immediate response to this? 
letter? We shall leave the matter open until next 
Wednesday, with the confident expectation that we 
shall hear from you by that time. 

» Yours very truly. 

If even a letter like this does not wake up your delinquent, 
you have done all you can in a friendly way. It is now 
your duty to go after the gentleman with such other methods 
as you may have at hand. It is advisable to write him one 
more letter, sharp, curt and to the point, something like this : 

Dear Sir: 

We regret we have been forced to form the con- 
clusion that you do not intend to pay us the money you 
owe us unless stern measures are taken. We have taken 
such measures. This is to inform you that unless we 
get a settlement of this account by tomorrow we shall 
enter suit. The consequences, of course, will be un- 
pleasant to you. We can stand it, tho, much as we 
dislike such a procedure. 

Yours very truly. 

Under ordinary circumstances, in an average town, you 
probably will have had one or more personal interviews with 

XII— 13 



the debtor before writing him letters like number four or 
five. In this event the letter should be worded in a way to 
make allowance for things that might have been said during 
the interview. 

It has been the aim, in the present chapter, to point 
out a few of the more exceptional features of the best 
modern practice in the writing of this type of letters. 
In fact, special types of letters, discussed in other 
chapters, are considered primarily for the purpose of 
illustrating the application of the chief principles that 
are of universal usefulness in writing effective letters 
of all kinds. The central aim thruout is to get at 
fundamental principles which are applicable in the 
writing of many kinds of letters. 


What is the real purpose of credit and collection letters ? 

Explain the diplomacy of truthfulness and frankness. 

State the main requirements for success in credit correspond- 

Is there any difference, as regards fundamental requirements 
for success, between credit and collection letters? 

Mention the main requirements in the writing of successful 
collection letters? 

What are the essential differences between retail and wholesale 
collection letters? 



1. Trained correspondents in modern business. — 
As a result of the increasijig necessity of constant im- 
provement in the selling end of business, many busi- 
ness concerns have taken an active interest in the 
training of their correspondents. The amount of 
favorable influence that a firm's correspondence ex- 
erts upon its sales is of course determined by the de- 
gree of skill which the correspondents possess. This 
skill comes almost invariably only as a result of train- 
ing — chiefly self-training based on experience — but 
none the less training. 

2. Acquired qualifications. — The knowledge, then, 
of persons, conditions and methods is acquired. Skill 
in accurate and forceful expression of thought is also 
acquired thru training. Many successful personal 
salesmen and correspondents dishke the word, train- 
ing, because they associate it with the methods of the 
school-room. They probably realize the fact that self- 
training results in the best kind of salesmanship — in- 
cluding that which is involved in business correspond- 
ence — but they are often inclined to underrate the at- 
tempts that are made to supply them with the means 
of better and more rapid self -training. 

Many houses, both large and small, have increased 



their profits as a direct result of training their cor- 
respondents. This practice started years ago in 
houses that depended exclusively on the mails as their 
selling medium. It is now widespread, and doubt- 
less, as the principles of effective letter writing be- 
come better known, the training of correspondents 
will become a more universal practice in business 
houses of all kinds. Training in written salesmanship 
brings results when the methods of training are in ac- 
-cordance with good common-sense principles of edu- 

3. Results to he gained from training. — On first 
thought it would seem that the question, "Why train 
correspondents?" could be easily answered in this 
way : in order that they may gain more good- will from 
their letters, which will then bring more sales, there- 
fore greater profits. But there are other ends to be 
gained, which are sometimes overlooked. One is the 
standardization of the tone, not only of all the letters 
that go out from a house — including routine as well 
as sales letters — but also of all written messages be- 
tween the employes in the organization. 

This point is well presented in a booklet published 
for the employes of Crane Company, Chicago, en- 
^titled "The Writing of Good Letters." The fore- 
word of this booklet runs as follows : 


This booklet is not a "ready letter-writer" designed for 
general use. 

It is for the purpose of making the business correspond- 
ence of Crane Company more effective. 


Its mission is to improve the quality and tone of all writ- 
ten communications between the Company's employes and its 
several departments and branches. 

The end is, that good letter-writing may become a custom, 
and politeness a habit. The importance of this can not be 

Every letter written and sent out by Crane Company 
must be worthy the character, traditions and standing of 
the house. 

Many people know Crane Company thru correspondence 
only, and the conveyance of a good impression thru a letter 
is of great value, while a poorly constructed one will have 
the tendency to give a customer the idea that Crane Comr- 
pany's goods are also poorly constructed. 

It is, therefore, essential that every person who is en- 
trusted with writing or dictating a letter bearing the signa- 
ture of "Crane Company'^ should be thoroly imbued not 
only with the Crane Company spirit, but also with the neces- 
sity of mastering the art of easy, correct and convincing 

The habits to be formed in this field of responsibility are 
those of directness, smoothness, simplicity of diction, ease 
of address, conciseness and clearness. 

The following hints do not aim to show every step, but 
point the way to the goal desired. 

They are suggestions, which adopted, will be helpful to 
one wishing earnestly to make his letters models of business 

4. Personal note necessary in big business. — As a 
business grows, the dominating personality in the 
business can not himself superintend the correspond- 
ence. Often the letters gradually lose that personal 
touch which not infrequently has had much to do with 
the success of a business when it was young and com- 
paratively small. One of the chief advantages that a 


firm derives from training correspondents is that by 
so doing they enable their men to write letters that 
possess a tone and spirit truly characteristic of the 
firm. The larger the business becomes, the more nec- 
essary as well as the more difficult it becomes to write 
letters which will make the addressee feel that he is 
dealing with human beings much like himself, and not 
with a cold and impersonal "house." 

Such training of correspondents is an effective 
means of securing uniformity of tone in all the letters. 
If some of the correspondents are not up to the stand- 
ard in writing letters that are courteous, direct and 
business-like they are liable to destroy the good effect 
of those that have reached the top grade. Variation 
in the tone of letters, and even variation in appear- 
ance, is quickly noticed by the addressee and tends to 
lessen his confidence in the firm. Uniformity in the 
quality and appearance of letters, on the other hand, 
gives the reader a distinct and consistent personal im- 
pression of the firm, which is strengthened by each 
additional letter. Supervision of all correspondence 
is necessary to insure this uniformity, and supervision 
involves training. How to secure a uniformly high 
standard of excellence in a firm's letters is the main 
problem in training correspondents. 

5. Standardizing correspondence. — The problem, 
therefore, is to bring all correspondence in a business 
up to a fixed standard, and then gradually to raise this 
standard thruout the entire house. 

Standardization is accomplished first by estabhsh- 


lug definite standards with respect to excellence and 
the methods by which to attain it. The formation 
of a definite idea as to what the quality of the corre- 
spondence ought to be, and what kind of correspond- 
ent will be able to write a letter of the required qual- 
ity, is the first step. 

It is important to make sure that the correspondents 
employed are efficient. This involves one or both of 
two processes: securing better men to take the place 
of those not up to standard ; and training present em- 
ployes who are below standard so that they can fulfil 
the requirements. The latter cannot be done, of 
course, unless the correspondent whose work is de- 
ficient possesses the ability to improve. 

6. Right kind of timber. — What type of per- 
son makes a good correspondent ? His qualifications, 
apart from those ordinarily required for success in 
any other kind of work, are few. Of course the fact 
that correspondence influences sales and profits natur- 
ally implies that the correspondent's task is a diffi- 
cult one, and that he must receive some training be- 
fore he can write effective letters. With these facts 
in mind, one executive summarizes his requirements 
as follows: 

A high-school education — or the equivalent of high-school 
training in ability to write correct English. 
At least twenty years of age. 
At least one year of experience in the business. 
Able readily to talk to the point in simple language. 
Natural carefulness in accurate expression of thought. 
A sincere spirit of service and courtesy. 


Sound moral character; plain honesty and truthfulness. 
Willingness to learn from experience. 
A good supply of common sense. 

This official emphasizes the point that all-around 
business training and ability are of first importance, 
for if a man has these he will have the right attitude 
toward his work, and the ability to think thoroly 
and accurate^. His greatest difficulty is to get 
correspondents who keenly appreciate the reader's 
point of view. He prefers a man whose selling 
sehse is sound and abundant, and who has the knack 
of applying the principles of successful salesman- 

7. Supervision of correspondence. — "Superintend- 
ent of Correspondence" is a title which is now fre- 
quently found in business organizations. Whether 
the organization be large or small, it is advisable to 
hold some one person, well qualified for the duty, 
responsible for the character of all the correspondence. 
This is now done in many concerns. In some in- 
stances this official is called the "Manager of Cor- 
respondence," and in others he is known as "Cor- 
respondence Critic." In very large organizations 
the work of supervising the correspondence is divided 
among several officials. But whatever the title of the 
office or the scope of responsibiUty, the duty is to 
keep all letters up to a high standard of efficiency, 
and the task is primarily to train the men who write 

To this end the supervisor adopts a definite pro- 


gram. He often holds conferences with individual 
correspondents and with groups. He prepares writ- 
ten instructions, often in the form of a manual of cor- 
respondence, and seeks to apply the soundest of peda- 
gogical principles in his work. The main point here 
is that the reader should remember that this task of 
training correspondents is necessary and important 
for the reasons already stated. 

8. Conferences on correspondence. — Many houses 
find the conference system of training correspond- 
ents very effective. Not a few firms regularly set 
aside an hour or so a week for conferences on this 
subject. As a rule, the correspondents study actual 
letters, both successful and unsuccessful. They 
think together on the problem of why a letter was or 
was not successful; they try also to determine how 
the unsuccessful letters could have been made effec- 
tive, and how the successful letters could have been 
improved. These discussions involve the deepest 
principles of salesmanship, and are, as a rule, of ab- 
sorbing interest, and of great profit to all concerned. 

One advertising manager in an eastern concern 
which employs sales correspondents to cover the 
smaller towns of each state has secured remarkable 
results in two years' time by means of weekly con- 
ferences with these men and others in the organization 
who are interested in correspondence. He estimates 
from definite figures on sales that there has been a 40 
per cent increase in their efficiency. This manager 
gives the following description of his methods : 


I started these conferences with the idea of learning as 
much as my correspondents would learn about writing better 
letters; more, if possible. I was determined that it should 
be strictly a cooperative enterprise. I believed that we 
should all get together in order to find out how we all could 
improve our letters. 

To encourage freedom of discussion, I always supplied 
copies of correspondence without any marks which would tell 
who had written the letters. I chose these examples care- 
fully, edited out all marks of identification, had enough 
copies of each mimeographed so each man could have a set, 
and sent them around the day before the conference. They 
served as a reminder of the conference and gave each man 
a chance to do some thinking before he came. 

Our first hour of conference was up before we had finished 
discussing the first letter, so the next time I tried the plan 
of having each man write out a summary of his criticisms of 
two letters. One was a good one, the other a letter that had 
failed. We covered more ground. I have since followed 
the plan of assigning definite lessons, but not arbitrarily. I 
got suggestions from all the men concerning their ideas of 
good assignments. 

Each man has a hand in the creation of everything we 
do. For instance, we created a brief manual of instructions. 
There is not a mq,n on the staff whose handiwork is not in- 
cluded in this manual. Each man has pride of ownership in 
it. In fact, I think that each one of the men feels that he 
himself created nearly all of this manual — which is not far 
from the truth, as a matter of fact. 

One of the big results of these conferences was a general 
broadening of our information concerning various classes 
and types of our customers and prospects. We found that 
nearly all of our letters that failed showed lack of informa- 
tion that the correspondent might easily have had. We 
have developed the habit of cherishing every scrap of in- 
formation that enables us to get a more accurate picture of 
our readers, and of reading with greater care the letters 
we answer. 


9. How to read a letter. — The method pursued in 
the conferences referred to is best described by an 
illustration. Again, we use the words of the sale,* 
manager : 

Take this example. Here's a letter from a man out in 
Lakeville, Indiana. I find that Lakeville is a little village of 
about 200 people ; but something tells me that the letter was 
written by a better business man than you would expect to 
find in a village of that size, especially in a country village 
which is close to a big city like South Bend. In fact, this 
letter compares favorably in tone, thought, and expression 
and in general appearance with letters of inquiry from 
buyers in big stores. Here's the letter: 


Your advertisement in the current Hardware Deal- 
ers* Magazine leads me to ask for more information 
about your product. 

I am not sure that your system would sell to our 
trade, but it seems to me that there is a good market 
here for the right article in that line. 

Yours very truly. 

You see, it is really a good letter: He gives us as little 
definite information as possible about his situation. He 
wanted to make sure that he would get unvarnished facts. 
Yet his letter suggests a good market. He wants us to give 
his request careful attention. But the letter tells us more 
than this. The fact that he is willing to give our advertising 
credit for his interest is evidence that proclaims him a pro- 
gressive merchant, especially so as it comes from a man in 
a very small town. Also, it looks as though he has not yet 
tried to sell another system, for he says in the second para- 
graph **hut it seems to me that this is a good market." 
Now if he had said, "but there is a good market," and not 
"it seems to me," then it would not be so certain that he had 
not tried to sell some other system. 


Therefore, this man is a good business man. His rating 
and his letter both suggest a big and profitable business, and 
the size of the town makes it certain that nearly all his 
business is done with farmers. 

That is the way in which we thought about that simple 
letter of inquiry in one of our conferences. We wrote this 
man in about the same tone of down-to-business impersonal 
dignity that characterizes our letters to big buyers. 

There is not much doubt that this advertising man's 
conferences were conducted in accordance with sound 
educational practice. At least he had in mind the 
important fact that the best kind of training in sales- 
manship is self -training, based on every-day business 
experience, and he did not forget that it is the chief 
function of the supervisor of correspondents to in- 
spire his men with the desire to train themselves. 

10. Conferences with individuals. — Many execu- 
tives spend a half -hour now and then with each cor- 
respondent, running over his carbons, and making 
such suggestions as occur to them at the time. This 
work is important. Even the most valuable officer 
in the business can afford to give some of his time 
to it. Here again the problem is to get the corre- 
spondent to feel that he and the critic are thinking 
together, and to forget that his letters are being criti- 
cised. It is important, therefore, that the executive 
criticise favorably as well as unfavorably. But if a 
correspondent seems to resent just criticism, perhaps 
he is not the right man for that kind of work. 

The mere fact that a man happens to be presi- 
dent, or vice-president or treasurer of an organiza- 


tion is not, of course, proof that he could train cor- 
respondents successfully. Yet almost any executive 
who knows a good letter when he reads it could do 
this work if he were willing to devote to it the time 
and effort necessary. A man who has "a good ear" 
for effective letters, even if he lacks the ability to 
* lecture," may, in fact, become the best kind of coach 
on correspondence. 

11. Reading method of training, — A Western 
manufacturer, who gets about 40 per cent of his 
sales by sending letters to dealers in various lines, 
has a manager of correspondence who picks out the 
letters that will sell, apparently by instinct. He is 
able, invariably, to forecast the comparative results 
of tests that the firm often applies to several letters 
written to accomplish the same result. He began 
work with this company as a personal salesman, and 
in that capacity visited nearly every state in the 
country when his firm was getting a foothold. The 
president of the company discovered that he could 
write a good letter, and before long placed him in 
charge of a mail sales department. 

There are now eight correspondents in this depart- 
ment, and each one was trained by "Bill," the man 
who could judge letters. Bill, however, cannot point 
out just what is wrong with a poor letter, or just why 
a good letter will be successful. For the first few 
weeks after a correspondent begins work. Bill takes 
time to read every letter that the new man writes 
and asks him to rewrite every letter that does not 


have the right "ring" to it. Bill gives him carbons 
of successful letters and tells him to read them all 
and to note any differences that distinguish them from 
his own. This is the main part of his training method. 

The new man is kept reading successful letters un- 
til sooner or later he catches the right spirit and ob- 
tains sufficient information to enable him to write 
well enough so that, of all the letters he writes, per- 
haps half of them pass Bill's censorship. If the cor- 
respondent has the perseverance to stand this grind 
of reading and re-writing, he has the right stuff in 

12. Educational principles involved. — The funda- 
mental educational principles involved in training 
correspondents are the same as those which apply in 
training men for personal salesmanship, since cor- 
respondence is one phase of this art. A few of the 
more basic considerations follow : 

Good selhng sense is the basis of the ability to 
write effective letters — letters that cause the reader 
to think and feel and do as the writer desires. 

Selling sense may be developed. Salesmen are 
both "born" and "made." There is no limit to the 
possible improvement of the selling sense in any in- 

Self-training is the best kind of training in written 
salesmanship, as well as in personal salesmanship. 

Actual experience is the best basis of self-training. 
Help from reading and from personal criticism is 


effective in so far as it tends to stimulate self -train- 

In self -training the correspondent takes advantage 
of the opportunities that his practice offers to find 
out why his letters succeed or fail, and how to cut 
down the percentage of failures. 

Willingness to learn from experience — from the 
experience of others as well as his own — is charac- 
teristic of the man who has good selUng sense. 

The amount of training that the correspondent 
gets out of his experience varies with the amount and 
quality of the thought that he puts into it. 

Among other things, the thinking that he does 
should include a definite conception of what consti- 
tutes good selhng sense. 

Whether or not the correspondent will have the 
right attitude toward the addressee depends largely 
upon whether or not he possesses the proper personal 
qualifications — optimism and aggressive confidence, 
for instance. These, in turn, depend to a consider- 
able degree upon sound health, which is almost as im- 
portant to the correspondent as to the personal sales- 

The importance of mental qualifications is being 
more and more emphasized. Effective writing is 
based on sound thinking, and that is based on com- 
plete and accurate information, such as that outlined 
in Chapter I, Section 10. 

The most important information that a correspond- 


ent can possess is that which enables him to know his 
proposition from the addressee's point of view. 

It is well for the man who attempts to train cor- 
respondents to give some attention to basic consid- 
erations of this sort; and it is a good thing for the 
correspondent himself to do a great deal of thinking 
about the best means of improvement. It is well 
for him to remember, for example, that the big dif- 
ference between correspondents nowadays is in the 
kind of thinking that they do before they write ; that 
the quality of this thinking depends upon the com- 
pleteness and accuracy of the information that they 
possess; and that much or little training may be 
gained from experience, according to the desire and 
inclination of the individual. 

13. Manuals of instruction for correspondents. — In 
preparing a manual of instruction or guidance for 
correspondents, it is well to bear in mind certain effec- 
tive educational principles, one of which is to avoid 
dogmatic rules stated in dogmatic terms. 

The rule, "Under no circumstances, shall a corre- 
spondent misspell the addressee's name. This error is 
unpardonable. You can't make it and work for us 
very long," might much better be stated as follows: 

How do you feel when you get a letter with your name 
misspelled, or the address wrong? Your addressees are all 
sensitive people. "They don't even think enough of my 
business to get my name spelled right," is the way the 
customer feels about it. Misspelled names and incorrect 
addresses kill a great deal of business. We naturally re- 
fuse to pay men to kill our business. 



Sound reasoning, concrete expression and a tone 
of sympathy and good nature, mark the manual that 
is read with interest. It possesses all the chief char- 
acteristics of an effective letter. It is a work of 
salesmanship in itself. It shows a keen apprecia- 
tion of the reader's point of view. Consider, for in- 
stance, the first paragraph of the Crane Company's 
manual quoted in Section 3 of this chapter. 

Manuals of correspondence vary greatly in sub- 
ject matter as well as in style of presentation. Some 
cover all kinds of correspondence completely ; in fact, 
they constitute good practical text books on the sub- 
ject. Others consist of merely a few brief instruc- 
tions concerning the mechanical appearance of the 
letter; these are more truly handbooks for stenog- 
raphers than they are manuals for correspondents. 
A review of the Manual of Correspondence used by 
the National Cloak an^ Suit Company will give the 
reader an idea of a typical manual. From this "text 
book" the correspondent receives part of his training; 
for the rest he must depend upon experience. 

This manual contains about forty pages, which are 
12 inches long and 9 inches wide. The paragraphs 
are brief and crisp, and many of the important words 
are capitalized. The first part of the manual, en- 
titled "The Letter Salesman," brings out clearly the 
fact that good salesmanship is the big requirement 
in all successful correspondence. Then comes the 
National Cloak and Suit Company's definition of 
salesmanship : 

XII— 14 


The manner^ the method, and the art of most econom- 
ically effecting the exchange of an article for money to the 
equal and permanent satisfaction of both buyer and seller. 

The close connection between salesmanship and ef- 
fective letter-writing is emphasized, in part, in the 
following manner: 

Your sentences may be hned up as regularly as soldiers on 
parade; your grammar and rhetoric may be so perfect that 
the liiost exacting critic could find no fault — but unless 
salesmanship is there, unless your letters have "the reason- 
why" argument, they won't be the kind that produce results. 

Again, this is the excellent description of a sales- 
man as given in this manual: 

Sincere and convincing, neat in appearance, courteous, 
knows all about his goods, knows them to be the very best 
goods in the world for the money, enthusiasm, clear answers 
to all questions, earnestness, the right spirit. 

And Part One, which is not prefaced by any in- 
troduction or foreword, contains also this important 
advice : 

Use every-day words, plain thoughts, plain illustrations — 
But what you say must hit straight from the shoulder. . . . 
Don't grind but letters like a school boy reciting his lesson. 
Talk humanly to your customer, not at her. Talk as you 
would if she were sitting beside your desk. You know what 
you would say if she were there. Why not say it? . . . 

Use your heart as well as your head. Be humanly your- 
self — be natural. . . . 

People you write to are living, doubting, considering hu- 
man beings like yourself. . . . 

Make it plain to the customer that your goods are the 


kind she needs. Make her say, "That seems reasonable — 
that's so.". . . 

Leave nothing to be taken for granted. Simple little 
matter-of-fact points may seem commonplace to you, but 
may be just what your customers want to know. 

Thus much of the information is definitely designed 
to enable the correspondent to understand the cus- 
tomer's point of view better. 

One of the most significant sentences is this: 
"Grammar and rhetoric can be learned — so can sales- 

This manual contains, besides the other valuable 
information, numerous general statements concern- 
ing traits of human nature. Its most striking char- 
acteristic is concreteness. A generous number of il- 
lustrations serve to make clear and forceful the ideas 
that are presented. 

14. Contents of a manual for correspondents. — The 
manual just mentioned takes up all essential re- 
quirements, including knowledge of words, gram- 
mar and rhetoric, the "National" business in gen- 
eral, and how mail is received, assorted and dis- 
tributed. The classification of mail is explained in 
detail, and the methods of handling each class is made 
clear. But even this technical information is given 
in such a way that true salesmanship receives strong 
emphasis ; for example, in the treatment of "inquiry" 
mail, the fact is emphasized that this mail is an im- 
portant source of new business if the proper skill is 
used in handling it. And the following sentence em- 



phasizes an important point in regard to adjustment 
Correspondence : 

A complaint always means that we are dealing with a real 
customer, not a prospect. It is better and easier to keep 
our present customers satisfied than to get new ones. 

That part of the manual which deals with correct- 
ness of expression includes a list of phrases, sev- 
eral pages long, which are not to be used. In each 
case the reason why the expression is undesirable is 
stated. These pages are arranged as follows: 

Do Not Say 

Say Instead 


Inclosed herewith 


"Inclosed" can mean 
only herewith. You 
cannot inclose any- 
thing under separate 


We regret to inform 

We regret that your 

It is not the inform- 

you that your order 

order — 

ing that we regret, but 

has been delayed. 

the fact. 

Thru an oversight on 

Thru an oversight 

"On our part" is un- 

our part 


This valuable list of "what not to say," as the 
illustration indicates, consists of actual errors in ex- 
pression which are frequently found in letters written 
by careless correspondents. It is usually possible for 
a correspondence critic to accumulate in a compara- 
tively short time a long list of errors of this sort. A 
tabulation of errors in thought also serves a valuable 
purpose very often,, especially if it is made out in the 
form given above. 

This manual also includes many examples of good 
opening and closing sentences, and an extended dis- 


cussion of adjustment correspondence with many illus- 
trations. In short, it contains all the information that 
a good correspondent in this particular business ought 
to possess. Its purpose is not only to impart in- 
formation, but also to inspire enthusiasm, zeal for im- 
provement, concentration, and a sincere interest in 
the work. 

In general, it may be said that the manual of cor- 
respondence in almost any business is so important 
an influence in the training of correspondents, that 
even the considerable expense necessary to make it 
as complete and efficient as possible is a good invest- 
ment. This means that the manual may well include 
an explanation of all the main principles upon the 
observance of which the success of all business letters 
depends, and that it should be shown how these prin- 
ciples, with slight variations, apply in the writing of 
all the different types of letters. 

The preparation of an effective correspondence 
manual, like the construction of a folio of effective 
form paragraphs, is an evolution. It would be well 
if everybody in the organization could have a hand 
in its composition, especially the correspondents for 
whom it is prepared. The complete manual of cor- 
respondence includes: instruction concerning the 
mechanical form and appearance of all letters, includ- 
ing inter-organization communications; information 
concerning what constitutes a good letter, with illus- 
trations ; and the general policies that govern the writ- 
ing of various classes of letters. 


15. Traimng in foreign correspondence. — Corre- 
spondence with business firms in foreign countries is 
becoming more and more important. It no longer 
suffices that the correspondent know well the foreign 
language in which he must write his letter, it is 
also necessary that he be thoroly acquainted with the 
fundamental principles of selling. Careful adapta- 
tion to the customs that prevail in the addressee's 
country is necessary. The foreign correspondent 
should be a real salesman, whose salesmanship is based 
on universal principles of success. The reader's point 
of view — based on a thoro knowledge of the business 
customs of the foreign country — is one such principle. 


What is the connection between the standardization of corre- 
spondence and the training of correspondents? 

How can standardization of correspondence be effected? 

Could a high-priced official afford to give his time to super- 
vision of correspondence? 

What is the greatest benefit to be gained from these confer- 
ences ? 

What is the best way to make conferences on correspondence 

How can a conference with an individual correspondent be 
conducted so that it will be successful? 

Mention the more important educational principles involved in 
the training of correspondents. 

Discuss the nature and the uses of manuals of correspondence. 



1. Successful letters built on good salesmanship, — 
One could not overemphasize the fact that successful 
letters are built on good salesmanship — whether or 
not the writer is conscious that he is applying selling 
principles. If he does consciously practise these prin- 
ciples, however, his letter will be all the better on that 
account, for he will be much less likely in so doing to 
make fundamental mistakes. Good salesmanship will 
mean to him, primarily, a knowledge of conditions. 
He will give himself adequate opportunity to learn 
the reader's point of view, and will make good use of 
this knowledge as his best guide in building the letter. 

2. No fixed process, — Few successful correspond- 
ents build their letters consciously by means of a fixed 
process. This fact, however, does not mean that it 
is not valuable to know a fixed process that will be of 
help in the building of a successful letter. Many 
people play the piano by ear, for instance, but the 
greatest players are those who possess a thoro knowl- 
edge of the technic of their art. For each one who 
plays well by ear, hundreds play well because they 
have devoted many hours to the study of harmony 
and counterpoint, as well as coimtless hours in finger 



exercises. In letter writing, which is about as much 
of an art as piano playing, the case is similar. The 
possession of a native ability to write effective letters 
is highly desirable, but it constitutes a strong argu- 
ment for studying technic, and not, as some seem to 
think, against it. The man who writes letters "by 
ear" is never as sure that his letter will be successful 
as the man whose natural ability is coupled with a 
knowledge of the principles of successful salesman- 

3. Fundamental steps. — While it is probably true 
that no hard and fast rule for building a success- 
ful letter can be laid down, yet among many writers 
of effective letters we find agreement in regard to 
the fundamental steps. 

Men who have little or no experience in one kind of 
business, especially experience in dealing with cus- 
tomers, are seldom able to write successful selling 
letters to prospective customers of that business, no 
matter how skilful they may be in expression. On 
the other hand, men who have had the necessary ex- 
perience in their particular line of business cannot 
write successful letters unless they know how to ex- 
press themselves effectively. One point, then, on 
which authorities agree, is that business experience 
and the ability to express one's self are both funda- 
mental requirements for success in correspondence. 

Nearly all writers of effective letters agree that 
the correspondent should think carefully before he 
writes. When a letter fails, it is generally because 


the writer has not done this. It is true, of course, 
that the man who has had years of experience does not 
need to give so much time to the planning of his 
letter. But this does not mean that he need not plan 
it at all; it dimply means that his previous experience 
enables him to plan much of his letter as he writes. 
The great advantage of planning beforehand is that 
when the time comes for writing, the correspondent 
is free to concentrate on effective presentation. 

Another fundamental point of agreement among 
successful sales correspondents is the necessity that 
the correspondent have clearly in mind as he writes, 
the specific and definite purpose of the letter; and, 
equally important, a definite knowledge of the im- 
pression, or the series of impressions, that he wishes 
to make upon the reader in order to gain the desired 
end. Moreover, it is agreed that the writer should 
know what facts will be most likely to make each im- 
pression; as well as what kind of expression is most 
likely to convey the facts clearly and forcibly to the 
reader's mind. 

Expert correspondents also agree on the impor- 
tance of a proper arrangement of facts and impres- 
sions. They are also agreed that there is no essential 
difference between the construction of an effective 
routine letter and the composition of a forceful sales 
letter. If this is so, a study of sales correspondence 
is of considerable value to the man who writes any 
kind of a business letter, irrespective of the amount 
of influence that it exerts upon sales. 


4. Facts and other material. — Giving facts alone, if 
believed, would often make a letter successful. Fail- 
ure often results because facts are obscured by an 
expression that is too profuse, or by argument or 
persuasion. In short, the reader loses sight of them 
and will seldom take the trouble to pick them out 
from among a surrounding mass of words and phrases. 
Newspapers interest us because they are full of new 
facts — of news. Material other than facts is worse 
than useless unless it helps the reader to place a fav- 
orable interpretation upon the facts presented. But 
the impressions desired are made primarily by the 
facts themselves. The human mind craves facts and 
is disappointed in letters in which facts form onh^ a 
small proportion of all the material. Too many let- 
ters are of this kind. 

5. What facts shall be used? — Two leading ques- 
tions are: 1. How shall each fact be presented? 2. 
What facts shall be used? The first question has 
been answered in previous chapters, in which the ar- 
rangement of material was discussed. The second 
question brings up new and important considerations. 

Since facts are interesting to the reader in propor- 
tion to the "news value" that they possess, the corre- 
spondent should know what facts are richest in this 
kind of value. The news value of facts depends upon 
how closely the reader associates them with his pre- 
vious knowledge and experience, especially with his 
main self-interest. 

The correspondent should select those facts which 


are most likely to cause the reader to feel that com- 
pliance with the writer's wishes would most nearly 
lead to the satisfaction of his own desires. The less 
the writer's proposition appeals to the reader's self- 
interest, under existing conditions, the less reason 
there is to expect that the letter which presents that 
proposition will be effective. 

6. Building routine letters. — What has been said 
about facts and the choosing of them, is applicable in 
routine correspondence as well as in sales correspond- 
ence. When an order is to be acknowledged, for 
example, what facts must be presented if the purpose 
of the letter is to be accomplished? What is the 
purpose of the letter? As explained elsewhere, it 
should be to make the customer feel so well satisfied 
because he sent his order to this firm that he will 
wish to send other orders later. What facts will best 
accomplish this purpose? Generally the correspond- 
ent should acknowledge the receipt of the order and 
express appreciation; inform the reader that it is 
receiving prompt attention; promise that it will be 
filled accurately; state how and when the goods will 
be shipped, and, if the reader has given any special in- 
structions, assure him that they will be carefully fol- 
lowed. In short, the letter should contain the facts 
that will make the customer's satisfaction, as far as 
possible, complete. Thus nearly all the funda- 
mental considerations in sales correspondence hold 
good in all other kinds of correspondence. 

7. Have definite knowledge of impressions to be 


made. — The young man who wrote the following let- 
ter, which was successful, said that before he wrote it 
he had in mind several impressions which he thought 
would cause certain druggists who had refused to 
stock his specialty the year before, to modify their 
decision. First, he wanted to impress the reader with 
the fact that his product sells readily and repeats, in 
order that the prospect might draw for himself the 
obvious conclusion that the product gives the con- 
sumer entire satisfaction. Next, he wanted to make 
sure that the reader would be impressed with the truth 
of these facts. Then, he wanted each letter to give 
the impression that his concern could do without the 
druggist's order if necessary; that is, he wanted to 
impress the fact that his concern is self reliant, also 
that he was not trying to force the druggist to order. 
He wanted to make the druggist feel that his order 
was being solicited on a sound business basis. He 
also desired to emphasize the fact that the specialty 
which he wanted him to sell is not an article of sea- 
sonal use only, so that the druggist would not refuse 
to accept the proposition for fear of overstocking. 
Last, he wanted the druggist to get the impression 
that he ought to be "in on" this, and since this offer 
might be his last opportunity,, he ought to accept it 
immediately. All these impressions were made in the 
following one-page letter: 

Dear Sir: 

Competing druggists in your town last spring and sum- 
mer sold 76 gross of El Vampiro, the non-poisonous powder 


which kills flies and bugs, including the toughest species of 
the cockroach family. 

All but ten gross of this business came to us as repeat 
orders. Our special window displays started retail sales, 
and El Vampiro kept them on the increase. 

These are facts. Your fellow-druggists will tell you 
that El Vampiro sells and satisfies — that they sold 76 gross 
last year. In fact, their sales have kept on during the 
winter months. But spring and summer are the seasons for 
the rapid sale of the "fly and bug killer in the bellows box." 

The inclosed folder tells you that there is a generous 
profit in El Vampiro. Your stock will turn as often as 
twice a month during the summer months. Other druggists 
in your town did it. Can you? 

Our "every-man-in-on-it" off^er will be held open for your 
acceptance until April 30. We would hold it open longer, 
but there is a limit to our supply of El Vampiro. 

Yours very truly, 

This letter includes nearly all the chief character- 
istics of effective letters. The opening words, "Com- 
peting druggists in your town," grip the reader's 
interest. Then the writer makes the impressions he 
planned to make. The letter has individuality.* It 
is filled with pertinent facts. It is definite and dip- 
lomatic. The expression is natural and business like. 
The tone is respectful and courteous. Not all these 
characteristics are apparent unless the critic is able 
to put himself in the place of a druggist. 

8. A self -question chart. — As a mechanical aid for 
his staff of sales correspondents, whose duty it was 
to cooperate frequently in writing form sales letters, 
the advertising manager of a manufacturing plant 
devised the following chart of questions. 


A. To be answered before you write the letter: 

1. Definitely, what is the fundamental purpose of your 

2. What type of person is the addressee? 

In case you are writing this letter to a class of 
buyers, address your letter to an individual — ^if 
possible a real person with whom you are ac- 
quainted — a person who typifies the class. Know 
this addressee as thoroly as possible. Visit with 
him, if possible; draw on all your experience in 
dealing with him both by correspondence and in 
in person ; ask questions about him of those who 
are well acquainted with him. Find out all you 
can about him. SEE him ; where he lives, his oc- 
cupation, his habits, his hobbies, his aims, his 
temperament ; and give particular attention to 
the following questions: 

3. What is your addressee's knowledge of, and atti- 
tude toward you, toward this business, toward your 
proposal, and toward our competition? 

4. What are the definite impressions necessary to make 
your letter accomplish its definite, fundamental 

5. What are the addressee's • probable resistances to 
each of these impressions, and what facts will gain 
each impression in the face of these resistances? 

6. What are the addressee's self-interests to which your 
proposal will appeal most strongly? 

7. What arrangement of impressions, or selling points, 
will be most effective — ^will be most likely to increase 
the reader's interest as he reads ? 

8. Does the plan of your letter make it as easy as possi- 
ble for the reader to do as you wish, and as difficult 
as possible for him not to do as you want him to? 

9. How can you best appeal to a strong feeling of self- 
interest in the reader right at the start of your 
letter — in the very first sentence, if possible? 


B. — To be answered as you write: 

1. Just how will each word, phrase, statement, and 
paragraph impress the reader? 

C. — To be answered after you have written: 

1. Will the very first part of the letter get favorable 
attention and cause the reader to want to read on. 
(This usually means a direct, concrete, and con- 
vincing appeal to one or more of the reader's per- 
sonal desires, and a forecast of the possible satis- 
faction of the desire as a result of reading the 

2. Will the reader's interest increase as he reads.? (Do 
you keep him in the letter? Could you add or sub- 
tract anything and thereby increase his interest?) 
Remember, you must make him read, and read with 
keen interest, or your effort is likely to be wasted. 
Lead him to a climax of thought and feeling which 
causes him to be willing to do as you wish. 

3. Will the reader believe all the statements you make? 
Is it all the truth from hi»' point of view? Do you 
give him facts, and not ymir own arbitrary opinions 
or conclusions? Do you avoid telling him what he 
already knows (as well or even better than you)? 
Especially, do you avoid telling him what he ought 
to know, so that he might get the impression that 
you think he does not know? Do you supplement 
his knowledge of facts so that he will be likely to con- 
clude for himself that he ought to do as you want 
him to? 

4. Do you cause him to get a vivid impression of the re- 
sulting good to him of doing as you want him to ? 

5. Will your closing sentences be likely to cause him to 
act upon his willingness to do as you want him to? 
Does he get a definite suggestion of juSt how he may 
do as you want him to? Have you avoided the 
hackneyed "do-it-now" close? 


6. Is you expression effective? Is it all clear to him? 
Does it all sound natural and sincere to him? Is it 
\ free from hackneyed phraseology and lifeless ex- 

pressions? Is it direct and simple and definite, and 
free from waste of words and unnecessary state- 
ments. Does it attract the eye? 

9. Use of this chart. — The executive who prepared 
this chart attributes to the use of it a phenomenal 
increase in the results gained not only from the form 
sales letters written by his staff of correspondents, but 
also from the letters sent to individuals. He is now 
using the chart in a modified form as a guide for gen- 
eral correspondents, and is also getting out editions 
of it especially adapted to the requirements of each 
department. The questions above quoted are the set 
of general questions that apply to the sale of almost 
any product or service. For the sake of illustration, 
imagine the following conditions calling for a letter 
to be written by means of this Self-Question Chart 
according to the directions. 

A firm manufactures orthopedic specialties — foot- 
arch supports, heel-pads, and so on. The sales are 
made thru the agency of retail shoe merchants mainly, 
and the firm wants these merchants to understand the 
human foot, its more common ailments and deformi- 
ties, their cure and correction. Therefore, as the 
means of giving shoe merchants this information, 
which would cause them to give consumers of the 
products better service, the concern has published a 
book entitled "The Human Foot." 


Since the firm wishes not only to get this book into 
the hands of as many shoe merchants as possible, but 
also to have the merchants get its contents into their 
heads, they charge something for it. Possiblj'- they 
could afford to give the book away, but the manage- 
ment believes that the fact of the merchants' hav- 
ing to pay for it will convince them that it is worth 
something, arid that therefore they will read and 
appreciate it. The price, $3.00, compares favorably 
with that placed on other technical books of this sort. 

The purpose of the letter, then, is to cause the 
shoe merchant to want this book so much that he will 
be willing to send $3.00 for it. It is the only work of 
its kind in existence and will therefore be of consider- 
able interest to the men to whom it will go. The firm 
has been dealing with shoe merchants for many years 
and feels well acquainted with them. The merchants 
know that there is good profit in handling the line, 
and will naturally respect the suggestion that they 
should get the information which this book will give 
them. Therefore it will probably be possible to write 
a letter that will sell the book to them. 

10. Impressions desired. — What impressions will 
arouse in the merchant so strong a desire for in- 
formation that he will send us $3.00 in order that he 
may obtain it? First, it might be well to awaken in 
him an ambition to make his business grow; next, to 
give him the impression that this book will help him 
realize his ambition. To make him really believe that 
the information will be the means of growth and 

XII— 15 


greater profits — that is the most important purpose 
that the firm wishes to accomplish. How? What 
will be his resistances? What facts will overcome 
them? With these questions in mind the manage- 
ment decides that it would be effective to give an 
example of what results will be secured by reading 
this book. They believe that this example would 
probably serve both to increase the merchant's ambi- 
tion and to make him feel that possibly their letter of- 
fers the means of growth and consequently of greater 
profits. The firm wishes also to give the merchant a 
definite idea of the contents of this book — to make it as 
real to him as they can — as well as to convey as vivid 
an impression as possible of the favorable results that 
he can obtain from reading it. They must avoid 
arousing any possible prejudice that he may have in 
regard to purchasing any book of this kind, or con- 
cerning a "book" knowledge of his business. 

11. Beginning of the letter. — Suppose that the 
management, having done a great deal of thinking 
along the lines indicated, decides to cite the case of a 
merchant who bought and read this book a year or 
so ago, and to show what information he got from it. 
Such a case, they believe — and rightly — ought to 
make a good point of contact, if presented concretely. 
To secure vividness, they begin by quoting this man. 
(Put yourself in the place of a shoe merchant in a 
town of about 20,000 people, and imagine, as you 
read, the impression that each statement would make 
upon him.) 


Dear Sir: 

"I am considered the leading shoe merchant in my town. 
This was not so true a year ago. But during the past year 
I have succeeded in causing the people to feel that I know 
my business. My sales have jumped 24 per cent. My net 
profits are better by 30 per cent. My bank balance tells me 

A shoe merchant visiting in Chicago — ^his name will be 
given on request — told me this not long ago. I asked him 
how he did it, and he answered: 

"The information in your new book for shoe dealers helped 
me do it. I studied the human foot. I learned a lot about 
its ailments and deformities, and how to prevent or correct 
them. I made a talk before the high school students on the 
care of feet. The parents heard about this. They appre- 
ciated it. I put in a little orthopedic department in my 
store, and did some advertising along the lines you sug- 
gested. I used some of the ads you get out for dealers. 
And the first thing I knew, I found that people began to 
think that I knew my business exceptionally well — and I do. 
Of course I knew it pretty well before I read the book I got 
from you, but that book helped me make people in my town 
realize how well I know my business — and that is more im- 

Now what impression would these first three para- 
graphs make on the reader? Would not the first 
paragraph cause him to speculate on his relative stand- 
ing as a shoe merchant in his town? And could he so 
speculate without feeling a strong desire to be con- 
sidered the leading shoe merchant? In other words 
the correspondent has made, at the very beginning, a 
concrete appeal to a strong personal desire. Fur- 
thermore, this paragraph would be of considerable 
interest to the reader because it is a brother mer- 


chant in another town telling his successful experience. 
The second paragraph immediately makes it plain who 
is doing the talking, before the reader's curiosity on 
that point could distract his attention. It is impor- 
tant to remember that if there is an unanswered ques- 
tion in the reader's mind, it is always a difficult task 
to hold his interest. 

12. Reader's questions determine arrangement, — 
After reading this paragraph, the merchant would 
naturally wonder, "Well, how did he do it?" There- 
fore, he would probably read the third paragraph 
with considerable interest, but also with considerable 
skepticism. But the direct and detailed statements 
of facts ring true, and there is every probability that 
after he finished the third paragraph he would be 
curious to know just what kind of book this is. 
Therefore the fourth paragraph ought to be made to 
satisfy him on this point. It reads like this : 

This man refers to my new book, entitled "The Human 
Foot," written especially for shoe merchants and their clerks. 
It is the only book of its kind ever written. Every one of 
the 390 pages is interesting, altho the subjects — foot anat- 
omy, and foot deformities and their treatments — are techni- 
cal. Those subjects are important to the shoe man who 
wants to know his business as thoroly as possible ; but you will 
find much more in this book. Pages 297 to 317, for exam- 
ple, give an interesting history of footwear, from ancient to 
modern times, and all the changes in style are illustrated 
with ninety-seven interesting pictures. Chapter 40, on 
"Fitting Shoes," is a practical treatment of this important 
subject, while Chapter 41 tells all about proper and im- 
proper kinds of hosiery. A chapter is given to each of the 
common foot ailments, so written that you not only get a 


surgeon's knowledge of the human foot — you enjoy the pro- 
cess of getting it. 

Thus, the correspondent aims to satisfy the reader's 
chief interest after it is aroused. This paragraph, 
placed at the beginning of the letter, would be dull 
to the reader. The arrangement that has been made 
is a good illustration of consideration of the reader's 
point of view. There is strong temptation for the 
writer, immediately after the third paragraph, to say, 
"This merchant did it ; so can you." But such a state- 
ment would be out of place there, because the ques- 
tion uppermost in the reader's mind at this point is 
probably, "Well, just what book is this?" 

13. Picturing and proving the results of accept- 
ance. — Having gained from the first part of the let- 
ter a definite idea of the contents of the book, the 
reader is likely to ask himself, as he goes on, "what 
use would this information be to me?" The next 
part of the letter anticipates such a question and an- 
swers it effectively. 

And after you get this information — What? 

Increased sales of foot-comfort appliances at big net 
profits ; increased sales of shoes ; bigger future business, 
owing to increased comfort from the shoes you sell — from 
the same shoes you are now selling; gradual increase of the 
feeling in your town that you know your business exception- 
ally well. Any one of these advantages is worth many times 
the price of this book. Will you really get these results? 
Listen : 

Thus the writer gives the shoe dealer a rapid, com- 
pact summary of the benefits he can derive by doing 


what the former wishes him to do — send for the book. 
Then he anticipates the doubt that is bound to arise 
concerning these benefits, and holds the reader's in- 
terest by anticipating another question that the 
reader would naturally ask — "Will I really derive 
these benefits?" — and answering it. The answer of 
the writer takes the form of evidence so strong that 
it invites belief: 

This book, "The Human Foot," is really the first funda- 
mental scientific textbook for the retail shoe business. It 
helps you lift shoe-selling from a trade into a profession — 
and you will agree that a shoe merchant must make a scien- 
tific profession of his business in order to make real money 
in these days of rising costs. This book is not in any sense 
a "get-rich-quick" scheme. But it does offer the chance to 
get the kind of unusual information that will help you in- 
crease your prestige and improve your business by enabling 
you to get more people to trust more in you as a merchant 
who KNOWS his business exceptionally well. Many mer- 
chants, both in this country and abroad, have done what 
the merchant I quoted above has done. 

With its definite point of agreement, that "a shoe 
merchant must make a scientific profession of his busi- 
ness in these days of rising costs," and with its an- 
ticipation of possible resistance, embodied in the state- 
ment, "This book is not in any sense a 'get-rich quick' 
scheme," such a paragraph of definite assertions at 
this point in the letter will constitute strong evidence 
in the mind of the man who really wants to believe, 
because he has had a clear vision of the results that 
he can secure if what is said is true. And the reader 


wiU have this vision if the letter has been well planned 
and well constructed, if the ideas are expressed in both 
concrete and general terms. The concrete should 
precede the general. The paragi'aph last quoted will 
serve to recall to the reader's mind the concrete case 
with which the letter starts. 

14. Focusing the appeal directly on the reader. — 
Now, therefore, is the time to state more positively 
and directly the advantages that the book holds for 
this merchant. He would be ready for such a state- 
ment by this time. He would be much less inclined 
to resist the following statement than if it were 
made earlier in the letter, a fact which goes to prove 
what has already been said — that the credibility of a 
letter depends somewhat upon the arrangement. The 
letter continues: 

No matter how much prestige you now enjoy in your town, 
this book will help you add to it. If this statement is true, 
of course you won't want to ignore it; and without expense 
you can find out whether or not it is tru^. 

By means of such a statement the writer avoids any 
possible implication that the addressee is without pres- 
tige in his town — a good illustration of diplomacy. 
If the writer now answers satisfactorily the reader's 
mental question, "How can I find out whether or not 
this statement is true?" by arousing the reader's cu- 
riosity and his desire 'for information, he will have 
made it all but impossible for him not to send for the 
book. The interest of the average merchant, as he 


reads this letter, would naturally rise to a climax re- 
sulting in action — the kind of action that the writer 

15. Close of this letter. — The writer aims to in- 
crease the reader's interest still more by means of 
the following paragraph, and at the same time to 
make him realize that the offer, tho by no means an 
unusual one, is of the kind that is not generally made 
unless the seller believes thoroly in his product. The 
letter concludes as follows : 

I back up my belief in this book as a valuable asset in 
your business with an offer of the sort that I could not afford 
to make unless all that I say were founded on my experience 
in selling orthopedic supplies to- shoe merchants for more 
than a decade. The offer is this : 

If 3'ou are not entirely satisfied with this book after you 
have read it return it at my expense and I will return your 

Just sign and return to me the inclosed order, and in 
a day or so your copy will be on its way to you. 

Yours very truly, 

Thus the letter has been brought quickly to a con- 
fident close, and yet its effect has not been weakened 
by the statement of any obvious conclusions in con- 
nection with the guarantee — as, for example, the too 
common "No risk to you." The whole proposition 
sounds natural and sincere. The tone is sufficiently 
dignified and courteous. The personal pronouns "I" 
and "you" are used after and not before the reader 
and writer come to feel acquainted. The letter is clear 
and free from hackneyed phraseology^ and seems en- 


tirely credible. The statements are direct, simple, and 
definite, and there is no waste of words. In short, 
the letter contains all the chief characteristics of an 
eiFective letter as set forth in a preceding chapter. 
It is a good letter because it %ioas written from the 
reader's point of view. 

This letter, in substance, was composed by the ex- 
ecutive who devised the self-question chart quoted in 
Section 8. He unconsciously guided himself by this 
chart in writing the letter, which has brought big re- 
turns. It not only makes the shoe merchant want 
the book enough to send for it, but it makes him 
want it so much that he is actually impatient for its 

A chart of this kind is useful in helping the corre- 
spondent get the habit of putting the right kind of 
thought into his letters ; it helps him build them on 
good salesmanship, instead of writing them in a hit- 
or-miss fashion. Not only the form sales letter, but 
all the letters the correspondent dictates and all the 
general correspondence should be written in this way. 
The use of a chart like this makes letter writing slow 
at first — until the writer gets the habit of automat- 
ically doing the kind of thinking upon 'which all ef- 
fective letters are based — thinking that is inspired 
by a keen appreciation of the reader's point of view. 


Mention the fundamental points of a^eement among expert 
correspondents concerning the process of writing effective letters. 
Compare the relative value of facts and other material. 


In general, what facts is it best to use in a sales letter ? 

Explain the value of the correspondent's having a definite 
knowledge of the impressions he wishes to make. 

What is the connection between the self-question chart quoted 
and the reader's point of view? 

Why should the correspondent picture for the addressee the 
benefits to be derived thru purchasing? 

Could sales letters be written suceessfully by means of a fixed 
process ? 



1. Parts of a letter. — It is a mistaken idea that 
the close of a letter is the principal element in its 
success. The main problem in closing a letter ef- 
fectively is to know when to stop — that is, when fav- 
orable response is assured. 

To say that the closing talk in a personal selling 
canvass is the most important part of the presenta- 
tion is a generalization which is true of few cases, 
and presentations ought to be such that it would not 
be true of any. As a matter of fact, the entire sell- 
ing canvass should be "closing talk." The opening 
statements sometimes have much more to do with 
closing the sale than the final statements. What is 
said in the body of the talk is all designed to close 
the sale. The mere fact that a few well chosen words 
happen to precede immediately the closing of the 
sale, does not signify that those words are necessarily 
largely responsible for the success of the talk. 

Now the sales letter is a written selling talk. Just 
as it is wise to consider one part of a personal sell- 
ing talk of as much importance as any other part, 
so it is best to consider that the opening, the body and 



the close of a selling letter have an equal influence in 
making the letter successful. 

These divisions of the letter are merely mechanical 
conveniences. No general statement should be made 
to the effect that the most important part of a letter 
is either the opening or the close. Yet each of the 
divisions of a letter offers a distinct problem. To 
insure that the reader will give favorable attention 
to the rest of the letter is the writer's main problem 
in the opening, which is often called the "point of con- 
tact." As regards the body of the letter, the corre- 
spondent's chief concern should be to satisfj^ as com- 
pletely as may be necessary, the reader's desire for 
facts that will lead him to accept the offer. And in 
the close of the letter, as mentioned above, the princi- 
pal point is to know when the reader's acceptance is 
assured, and to stop neither too soon nor too late. 

2. Point of contact. — Definite statements of fact, 
which suggest that, in all probabilitj^ it would pay the 
addressee to read on attentively, are found at the be- 
ginning of many successful letters. In some cases 
these statements are designed also to cause the reader 
to feel that the writer has the reader's point of view 
and knows what he is talking about. 

Here is the beginning of a letter to druggists that 
was successful: 

After you have run up front a half-dozen times to sell 
a couple of stogies, a package of court-plaster and a post- 
age stamp; to change a five-dollar bill for the barber; to 
answer the 'phone and inform Mrs. Smith that Castoria 


is thirty-five cents a bottle; and to assure Mrs. Jones that 
you will have the doctor call her up as soon as he comes in, 
then take a minute for yourself and look over this proposi- 
tion. It is worth while. 

This opening paragraph caused the druggist to 
want to read on. In the first place, there is a touch 
of good nature which causes the reader to feel that 
he might get some further enjoyment from finishing 
the letter. But a busy druggist is not favorably in- 
fluenced by this so much as by the impression that the 
writer knows what he is talking about — perhaps, be- 
cause he has had experience in a drug store. 

3. Credibility in the opening. — What is said at the 
beginning of a selhng letter must command belief as 
well as interest. There is a great temptation to make 
an exaggerated statement of the profit that the 
reader will derive if only he will read on into the let- 
ter and then act upon the suggestions that are made. 
Lack of credibility only serves to lessen interest. 

Openings which begin with "If" seldom get fav- 
orable attention. "If" implies doubt, and therefore 
interferes with belief. 

If, from where you are sitting you could lay your hand on 
the best methods of selling more goods . . . 

"If within arm's reach you could have ideas and sugges- 
tions based upon the combined experience of 115 prominent 
sales managers . . . you would value this information 

This is the beginning of one letter that attempts 
to sell a book. It runs on with a long string of "if" 


sentences designed to sustain interest, altho the con- 
clusions that complete the conditions are rather ob- 
vious. The letter was not successful. Mechanical 
suspense of that kind seldom arouses interest. The 
appeal to self-interest is not as strong and direct as 
is necessary to arouse favorable attention. Buyers 
like to eliminate all "ifs" before they purchase. They 
depend on facts. Therefore, it is important that the 
correspondent convince them that the statements in 
the sales letter are true and are accurately expressed. 
4. Abrupt openings best. — While openings that 
pave the way for a whole-hearted reception of facts 
are often necessary and effective, yet, as a rule, 
the opening that immediately wades into an impor- 
tant fact, especially a fact that possesses high "news 
value" for the addressee, is most likely to get favor- 
able attention; for example : 

Dear Sir: 


We're not quitters. War or no war, we're advertising 
Three-in-One stronger* than ever. This is our big business 
opportunity — and yours. 

The letter of which this was the beginning was 
successful in causing its readers to get ready to take 
full advantage of a special opportunity to sell more 
of an advertised product. This introduction com- 
manded favorable attention because it stated a new 
fact which was. closely connected with the reader's 
chief interests. Or take this case : 


Dear Sir: 

Prices on the new Forest Park Addition will be advanced 
ten per cent at noon on October the tenth. The present 
schedule of prices holds good only until that time. 

This is another illustration of the beginning of a 
successful letter — an abrupt beginning that states 
a fact of considerable interest to the addressee. The 
letter was designed especially for prospective pur- 
chasers who were on the point of buying. The rest 
of the letter tells why the prices are being advanced. 
But the reader is not urged to "buy before the prices 
go up," lest he be made to feel that the main cause 
of advancing the price is to force him to buy. The 
fact that the lots are worth more money than formerly 
is emphasized. In short, the advancement in price 
sheds a new light for the prospect on the advant- 
ages of these lots. 

5. Indirect opening. — The abrupt news-fact open- 
ing is the easiest type to write, for it implies that 
the writer has a message that will be of interest to 
the reader. But in a follow-up series of letters, for 
instance, when the addressee has apparently paid no 
attention whatever to several preceding letters, it is 
often necessary to use an opening that is only indi- 
rectly and in small degree related to the actual busi- 
ness of the letter. 

If a drygoods merchant in a small town had not 
responded to several sales letters recently received 
from the writer of this one, how would a letter like 
the following impress him? 


Dear Sir: 

If you aren't too busy, "suppose" with me for three min- 
utes. If you can't do it now, shove this back on your desk 
until you can. 

Suppose, first, a new family moved into your community — 
a family that you knew would be desirable customers, a fam- 
ily whose trade 3'ou knew you could hold, once you got it 

Suppose, next, you met the head of that family, and as 
courteously and tactfully as you could, you spoke of your 
store, your goods, and your desire to show him that you 
deserved his business, and — he turned on his heel without 
a word to you. 

Suppose you met him again, and again you tried to show 
him from another angle that his trading with you would be 
to his profit, as well as to yours, and — again he refused to 
even answer. 

Suppose now, you repeated your requests on a dozen dif- 
ferent occasions and each time he shut up like a clam — 
couldn't get a word out of him. 

I'll bet you'd' be "hoppin' mad." Well, in a way, you're 
he, and I'm you. I've written you a dozen or more letters 
and each time, so to speak, you've spun on your heel without 
even an answer. BUT, here's the difference — I'm not a bit 
mad, but I'm mighty curious. 

I've searched our proposition over from A to Izzard try- 
ing to find out where it has fallen down in your eyes — why 
it has failed to interest you. 

Within the last six months, 682 first-class merchants have 
ordered from us for the first time. If every single one of 
them isn't thoroly satisfied, I don't know it, and a kick sent 
in to this office hits me first. 

I am mighty curious to know why we haven't had a trial 
order from you. There is an order card attached. Ask 
your glove girl what she needs, and let us supply you. That 
would put us on trial. 

Or write me where the hitch comes that is keeping your 
house and ours apart. Please don't turn on your heel. 


Almost all of this letter is "point of contact." It 
not only shows appreciation of the reader's point of 
view, but also gains consideration for the writer's 
point of view. A big selling point is involved here. 
We are all inclined to interpret the experience of 
other people in terms of our own. Often, in order to 
make another person know how we feel about a situ- 
ation, it is necessary, as in this case, to "bring it home" 
to our readers by citing a similar case that falls within 
the reader's experience. 

6. Main problem. — The main problem of the open- 
ing is to arouse interest sufficient to secure fav- 
orable attention for the letter. The importance of 
the opening of a letter, therefore, varies with the 
amount of interest the reader already has in the sub- 
ject matter. Often the best opening consists merely 
in the statement of the fact that is of greatest in- 
terest to the reader. Such a fact will stir up ques- 
tions in the reader's mind and cause him to read on 
in the hope that these questions will be answered, as 
in the case of the real estate man's letter which began 
with a plain, direct statement of the fact that prices 
would advance. This fact, simple as it was, held 
greater interest for the reader than anything else in 
the letter. 

If the beginning of a selling letter causes the 
reader to want to read on, the opening is good. To 
arouse such a desire is the main problem. It might 
be best merely to state what the writer has to 
sell, if the reader's feeling of need for the product or 

XII— 16 


service were already great. Or it might be best to 
begin the letter with a convincing forecast of what 
profit the reader may derive if he reads on. 

7. Body of the letter. — There is no essential dif- 
ference between the opening and the body of the 
letter. If the opening of a letter presents the prob- 
lem of securing attention by means of direct appeal 
to the reader's chief interests, the writer's problem 
in the body of the letter is to sustain interest by an- 
swering as satisfactorily as possible those questions 
that are most likely to occur to the addressee as he 
reads. The difficulty of this task also depends upon 
the degree of desire for the product or sei'vice that 
the prospective buyer already has. 

Nearly always both the competition of other sel- 
lers of a product or service, and competition of other 
possible uses for the buyer's money, make it neces- 
sary that the seller exercise considerable salesman- 
ship if he is to be successful. The strength of these 
two kinds of competition determines the quality of 
salesmanship required in the writing of a successful 
letter, and since conditions vary decidedly with dif- 
ferent cases, it is impossible to give any fixed for- 
mula for the contents of the body of a letter. 

The following letter illustrates principles already 
discussed. Imagine, as you read it, that you are the 
buyer of paper for a printing company. 

Dear Sir: 

You know paper just as well as we do, so we won't talk 


We just want to ask you one question. How can you af- 
ford to ignore Benjamin Bond — ^like this sheet — at seventeen 
cents a pound? 

You can see that the quality compares favorably with 
bonds costing from fifteen to thirty per cent more. 

Try Benjamin Bond on a few orders, and give your cus- 
tomers equal satisfaction at less cost. 

A card showing our agents in your vicinity is inclosed. 
Fill out and mail the blank, and we will send you our sample 
book showing colors and weights in Benjamin Bond. 

Yours very truly, 

8. Why this letter was successful. — The forego- 
ing letter -brought exceptionally good returns. Un- 
less we study it carefully, it does not seem to satisfy 
the chief interests. It is one of those extraordinary 
letters which, like many other successful letters, look 

In the first place, this letter has a remarkedly good 
point of contact. The first paragraph gains im- 
mediate interest chiefly because it inspires confidence. 
Any buyer prefers to deal with the salesman who is 
willing to rest his case on fact-evidence, the truth of 
which the buyer can determine for himself. This 
opening appeals strongly to a buyer's desire for com- 
plete independence in making his decisions." He is 
eager to learn the offer of a man who appreciates his 
point of view to this extent. His curiosity is satis- 
fied in the next paragraph, which he reads with double 
satisfaction because of the favorable attention created 
by the first paragraph. 

The beginning of the second paragraph "We just 
want to ask you," sounds very natural and serves to 


give the reader an impression of sincerity. There- 
fore, if he had any suspicion of flattery as a result 
of the first paragraph, he would be inclined to for- 
get it after he had read the rest of the letter. 

Then, the stating of the offer in the form of a 
question, "How can you afford to ignore Benjamin 
Bond?" and so on, probably would cause the reader 
to test the paper in his hands and would tend to 
stimulate sympathetic interest. The reader would 
very likely question himself, "Well, I wonder why I 
never used this paper?" The word "sympathetic," is 
emphasized because the reader, under the circum- 
stances, really wants his test of the paper to prove 
satisfactory, for two reasons: he likes this writer's 
attitude and apparent sincerity, and he is always in 
the market to get the most for his money. 

This chief interest — to get the most value for his 
money — is appealed to in the next paragraph. His 
next thought would probably be, "But I'm not sure 
that this paper is as good in quality as other paper 
which costs from fifteen to thirty per cent more." 
But the advice, "Try Benjamin Bond on a few or- 
ders and give your customers equal satisfaction at 
less cost," completely clears away any doubt he might 
have on this point. The opinion implied in this re- 
mark is consistent with the attitude expressed in the 
first paragraph. Also, it gives the prospective buyer 
a picture of customers as well satisfied at less cost to 
him ; or, in case his competition for business is strong, 
this part of the letter makes him realize that he will 


be able to satisfy his customers just as well as before 
and at less cost to themr This is true of a great many 
letters that do not seem effective to a critic who does 
not appreciate the reader's viewpoint. 

The reader's next interest could probably be ex- 
pressed by the question, "How can I try this out?" 
This is answered by means of a plain statement, which 
is a good close notwithstanding the fact that it ap- 
parently shows no effort on the writer's part to sell. 
It is nevertheless quite in accord with the attitude of 
the entire letter. This writer knew when to stopT 
The letter is complete. The seller wished any action 
that the prospect might take to be voluntary.* Note 
also that the comparatively low price is mentioned in 
a way that emphasizes the good quality of the paper. 
This is another virtue of the question in the second 
paragraph — it tends to influence the reader to make 
a favorable, but voluntary decision. But the main 
point to emphasize in the letter as a whole is that 
it is written so skilfully that the questions are an- 
swered which the addressee will undoubtedly ask as 
he reads. 

9. Belief. — If interest is the heart of a successful 
selling letter, credibility is its soul. Nearly all suc- 
cessful letters are so direct and sincere, so obviously 
frank and honest, that the reader is inclined to accept 
without question the truth of all the statements. The 
word "all" is emphasized because even one uncon- 
vincing statement in a letter is likely to shake the 
reader's confidence in other statements. 


I hope nobody will ever again send me a whole set of books 
like these. For four days it has been impossible to get any- 
thing done about the house. Nobody will come to meals or 
go to bed or do anything but read . 

That was the beginning of a letter designed to sell 
a set of books. It was sent to a large list of persons 
including many business men, who are quick to sense 
statements that do not ring true. The opening is 
good, and if the paragraph which followed had not 
attempted to represent this testimonial letter as de- 
scribing the typical experience of many other pur- 
chasers, the lack of credibility would not be as great 
as it actually was. The next paragraph reads : 

The above letter came from Superintendent of Schools, 
, of , Wisconsin. There is a whole file-case 

full of similar messages from subscribers, who now num- 
ber 105,000. 

In this paragraph "100,000" had been changed 
with red ink to read "105,000." The idea, perhaps, 
was to make the number seem more exact. However, 
this artifice, no matter how correct the figure might 
be, tends to arouse doubt. Elsewhere in this letter 
the typed figure 105,000 appeared, and this fact 
dispels the thought that possibly 5,000 subscribers 
might have been added since the letter was printed. 

10. Authority. — No matter how true the state- 
ments in a letter may be, the reader will not have 
much confidence in them if he feels that the writer 
is not well informed on the subject that he is dis- 
cussing. It is usually advisable to cause the reader. 


early in the letter, to feel that the writer is speaking 
with authority. The following letter is successful 
in this respect, and it also illustrates several other 
important considerations in making a letter credible. 
It was sent in response to inquiries thru an advertise- 

Here is the color-card and premium list you asked me to 
send. Let me briefly explain why I am able to give you your 
choice of premiums as valuable as these. 

You will remember I said in my advertisement that I was 
getting up a list of premiums that would range in value all 
the way from forty cents up to $11.75. Here they are. 
Study them carefully. I have tried to pick things that I 
would have liked to see in such a list when I was out on the 
farm. I believe that every one of these premiums is of prac- 
tical value to the farmer. And you may have your choice 
of them, as explained on the list, with your first order of 

Paint, or of my barn paint, or of both if you will paint 

both your barn and house. 

Why do I supply my paint direct to you at wholesale 
prices, instead of to the dealers who buy larger quantities at 
the same price, and also give you a valuable premium in the 
bargain for your first order.? Here is exactly the reason, 
or, I should say, the reasons, for I have several of them. 

In the first place, it is really not sold. I must wait for 
the retailer to sell it to the user before I can ship the dealer 
a new supply. I am dependent on him — and I am too much 
of a farmer to be dependent on anybody. 

Then, too, the dealer usually carries several brands of 
paint, and, naturally, he pushes the sales on the brand that 
pays him the biggest profit. And the brand on which he 
makes a long profit is not a guaranteed brand of long-wear- 
ing paint, like Paint. Therefore, as a rule, the dealer 

does not push the sale of his best brand of paint. I don't 
blame him for that. You or I might do the same thing in 
his place. We all like to get as much profit as we can. 


That is what we are in the business for. You are farming 
for the profit you can get out of the land. And I frankly j 

confess that I am making and selling paint for the profit M 
there is in it. I would be three kinds of a chump if I should 
sell paint for the fun of it. And I should be a bigger chump 
if I should try to make you think that I am going to all the 
trouble of making and selling the highest grade of paint just 
to keep myself out of mischief. 

I am in business, just like you or any other business man, 
for profit. That is exactly why I adopted my new policy — 
from paint maker to farm-painter — ^because I thoroly believe 
that I can sell much more paint direct to thousands of farm- 
ers than I could to hundreds of dealers, at the same price 
and at less expense. I will get a bigger volume of sales at 
less cost when I sell direct to you. 

You no doubt know something about what it costs to keep 
a bunch of traveling men on the road. They can see only 
a few dealers as compared with the thousands of farmers I 
can talk to by mail for several postage stamps. Uncle Sam 
is my salesman. I know that he will make good for me be- 
cause my plan of selling direct to users does save money for 
you. It gives you the chance to buy the very highest grade 
of pa;nt at a saving of at least fifty cents on each gallon. 

Your lawyer will tell you that there are no loopholes for me 
in this guarantee. This kind of a guarantee can seldom be 
given by the retailer. It must come direct from the manu- 
facturer, legally made out like the "guaranty" across the 
page, and this makes a lot of bother for the dealer when nego- 
tiated thru him. This is another reason why I prefer to sell 

direct to you : a legally guaranteed paint like is a lot of 

bother for the dealer, so naturally he would not push it like 
other brands. That guarantee means much to you. With it 

you are dead sure that Paint will laugh at the winter 

storms and the hot summer sun for at least five years, that it 
will not peel off or crack or blister — that it will give your 
house a substantial appearance, alongside of which a house 
with cheap paint would be a sad contrast. In fact, I am will- 
ing to match up a five-year-old coat of — Paint with any one- 



year-old-coat of any other paint that costs the same price. 

You get a good two-dollar paint for $1.45 a gallon, and 
you get a valuable premium with your first order. These 
premiums cut deep into my profit, but I am glad to give you 
your choice of them, as explained on the list, because I know 
your first order will not be your last. A self-addressed en- 
velop with an order blank in it is inclosed with this letter. 
Pick out the color or colors and jot down your order on the 
blank right now, put the order blank back into the addressed 
envelop, and then mail it to me. 

Let me thank you for reading this long letter. I meant 
to make it long because I want you to fully understand my 
proposition. I want to supply the paint you need. I want 
your first order strong enough to give you a big share of my 
profit in the shape of premiums. Just figure up the total 
saving of money you will keep in your pocket by getting 
your paint direct from the maker. Then make out your 
order. Be sure to tell me what premium you want. 

Yours very truly, 

P. S. — Remember I said in my advertisement I pay the 

11. Convincing presentation. — This letter sounds 
authoritative to the farmer partly because he soon 
finds out that the writer knows the farm from expe- 
rience. Authority of this kind is most convincing, 
when it is not obviously dragged in for this purpose. 
The style of presentation all thru this letter is con- 
vincing. It has a frank "you-and-I" tone, which is 
not overdone. Farmers, like other classes, are keen 
to suspect letters that are too familiar and agreeable. 
They like to have a letter get right down to business 
from the start. That is what this one does, and at 
the same time, the presentation sounds as if the 
writer were enthusiastically talking to the farmer. 


Several other definite touches in this letter gain 
confidence. "I meant to make it long," in the last 
paragraph, for example. This plainly shows the 
thoro frankness of the writer. "I am in business, 
just hke you or any other business man, for profit." 
In the sixth paragraph is a similar touch of genuine- 
ness. If the writer had said, any other "good busi- 
ness man" the expression would jiot have been quite 
as convincing. 

In the fifth paragraph, "You or I might do the 
same thing in his place," is another confession that 
gains confidence and at the same time avoids severe 
criticism of the local dealers for not pushing the sale 
of their best brands of paint, without lessening the 
effect of the selling point the writer is making. He is 
openly competing with the local dealer, and he does 
not beat around the bush. Evident fearlessness is 
always convincing because it is closely related to 
honesty in human nature. 

12. Unity of purpose. — This letter was successful 
largely because of its convincing presentation; and it 
is convincing, in greater measure, because its purpose 
is unified. That is, it attempts to make two definite 
impressions, and only two; namely, that this paint 
is rehable in quality, and that the price is low enough 
to make a difference in cost sufficient to pay the 
farmer for his trouble in dealing with a house at a 
distance. The plan of the letter is good. A lower 
price would increase the difficulty of convincing the 
farmer that the quahty is high. The premium offer 


takes care of that possible difficulty, and at the same 
time has the advantage of enlisting the help of the 
farmer's strong desire for one of the premiums. He 
could find in this list of premiums at least one item 
which he needed at the time. Inasmuch as painting 
is something that may be put oiF indefinitely, the wis- 
dom of this premium plan is apparent. 

13. Pitfalls in closing. — Evident desire for an im- 
mediate response, too great enthusiasm, too argu- 
mentative a summary, failure to give definite direc- 
tions, unwillingness to let the reader voluntarily de- 
cide and act, not knowing when to stop, lack of a 
straightforward request — these are some of the pit- 
falls at the close of a letter, into which the unwary cor- 
respondent is liable to fall. 

While it is best to avoid the more intense type of 
closing exhortations, like the "brass-band" climax, it 
is also best to avoid the kind of close that dies out 
in soft undertones. When the good salesman fin- 
ishes his presentation, he gets away as soon as he 
can with good grace. The following is the close of 
a letter that sold gas engines : 

• Send back this engine at our expense if it is not better 
than we claim. You would be inclined to doubt mere state- 
ments of all its merits. But you will believe us when you use 
it. There is your pen and here is the order-blank ready for 
your signature. 

It has snap, makes a concrete suggestion, is short, 
and it states effectively and well what is really hard 
to say without exaggeration. This kind of close is 


both credible and conducive to action. Contrast it 
with a close of this type: 

Trusting that we may have your order by return mail, and 
hoping that we may have the pleasure of numbering you 
among our permanent customers, we beg to remain, 

While it is true that the close should be made 
strong and convincing, it is well to keep in mind the 
fact that the opening, the body, and the close are me- 
chanical divisions, that the letter is a unit, and that 
the writer should build up his effect consecutively 
from the beginning. In other words, the correspond- 
ent should not leave too much to be accomplished in 
the close ; in that part he should plan merely to place 
a final emphasis upon what he has said in the opening 
and the body of his letter — and keep out of the pitfalls 
mentioned above. 


Is one part of a letter more important than another? 

What is the fundamental purpose of the opening? Why are 
"abrupt" openings usually best? When are "indirect" openings 

What common requirements knit together the opening and the 
body of the letter? 

What is the connection between credibility and authority? 

What constitutes convincing presentation? 

What are the more common pitfalls which the close of letters 
are likely to present? 



1. "Quality" of the lead. — A majority of the 
sales letters that succeed are written to follow leads 
of good "quality." By the term "quality" is meant 
the degree of ease, or the degree of difficulty, with 
which the lead can be turned into a sale. This de- 
gree is fixed to a large extent by conditions beyond 
the correspondent's control, which are, in many cases, 
largely responsible for the success of the letter. On 
the other hand, the degree of ease with which a lead 
can be turned into a sale can sometimes be increased 
by the correspondent. Often the writer's haste in 
attempting to win against competition leads him to 
write a letter designed to close a sale before he has 
sufficient information about his addressee to enable 
him to make his letter apply definitely to the exact 
requirements of the case, whereas he should have writ- 
ten either to find out the "quality" of his lead, or if he 
already knew that, to improve it. ^ 

2. Over-eagerness to get an order. — It is the writ- 
er's duty to know or to find out the exact need of his 
addressee. If he receives a request for prices on 
paper, for example, it is best for him to make sure 
that he knows definitely what use will be made of the 



paper and what kind of paper in his stock will best 
serve this use. It is often advisable for him to re- 
quest more definite information than the prospect's 
first letter gives him, rather than to attempt to get 
an order immediately. Such a request gives the av- 
erage reader an impression of good salesmanship, es- 
pecially if the letter asks specific questions that are 
easy for the prospect to answer. A request of this 
kind is proof of the fact that the writer is eager to sell 
exactly what is wanted. Sometimes, of course, a cor- 
respondent can offer a choice of several kinds or quali- 
ties of product; but it is advisable, when possible, to 
concentrate all one's efforts in an attempt to sell only 
the one thing that will best meet the need of the ad- 
dressee. Therefore, the inquiry preceding the letter 
that attempts to close the sale, while it is often the 
longest way 'round, is perhaps the shortest and safest 
road to the sale. Over-eagerness to sell seldom pays. 

3. Form letters that find leads. — ^When form let- 
ters are sent to a large number of persons, even if all 
of them are prospective purchasers, it is often wise 
to attempt to get a response that will indicate live 
interest, rather than to try to get the order itself. 
Asking for an order too soon is often as ineffective 
as not asking for it at all. 

This securing of an expression of interest is one 
of the most important considerations in planning a 
series of follow-up letters that are successfully de- 
signed to get some kind of response. True, in the 
first letter in the series, as well as in all the others, 


the correspondent ought to do as much as he can to 
close the sale. But it is doubtful whether it is effec- 
tive to make one point in one letter and another 
point in another letter, and then attempt to close by 
means of a third letter. 

When the third letter, or any later letter in a 
series, "pulls" better than the rest, its superior influ- 
ence is seldom due to the fact that two or more let- 
ters preceded it, but rather to the fact that this third 
letter was designed to find a lead rather than to close 
a sale. Often its effectiveness is due to this less am- 
bitious purpose, and in most cases it would pull just 
as well, often better, if it were sent out as the first 

4. Getting a voluntary expression of interest. — 
The foregoing principle is illustrated by the case of a 
certain correspondent who sells power-pimips to con- 
tractors. He found that a letter which opened with 
his best selling point and said nothing about the fact 
that he had heard that the contractor was in the mar- 
ket for a power-pump, got better returns than a let- 
ter in which he began, "I was informed that you are 
now in the market for a power pump," and then went 
on to try to sell his pump. His more successful let- 
ter ended "If at any time you should be in the mar- 
ket for a power-pump just check and mail the in- 
closed card and we will quote you a price that will 
talk louder than words." 

The successful letter was short and was a form, but 
it was varied to fit each case as nearly as possible; 


no attempt was made, however, to make it seem ally- 
thing but a form letter. The purpose was to get a 
voluntary expression of interest. The questions on 
the return card were easy to answer, and yet they 
served to give this company important additional in- 

Not only did this letter bring more replies than the 
other, but it made it easier to sell — either by means of 
personal selling efforts or by mail — ^to those who re- 
sponded. The writer of this letter made the most of 
the fact that a buj'^er is inclined to be less responsive 
when he knows that the seller is acquainted with his 
need — unless he himself has informed the seller con- 
cerning his need. 

5. When to ask for the order. — The effectiveness 
of the letter just mentioned was due largely to the 
fact that it did not ask for an order prematurely, nor 
did it suggest that a response would be the signal for 
an avalanche of solicitations to land the business. Its 
one aim was to make the prospect really want this 
pump. Centering effort on arousing intense desire 
is the best method to secure the order. But in many 
cases, when competition for the business is most keen, 
the writer feels that there is no time to spare and he 
asks for the business too soon. Time and again in 
cases of keen competition, the salesman who gets the 
order is the one who holds back until he finds out all 
about the conditions, who does not rush in with the 
crowd to close the sale, but waits until he can better 
show the prospect how his product fits the conditions. 


6. Description that sells goods. — ^What the in- 
quirer wants, as a rule, is information, not sales argu- 
ments. The follow-up letter which shows that the 
writer is eager to supply all the information that the 
prospect needs in order to make up his mind inde- 
pendently of a salesman's persuasion, is the kind of 
letter that many find to be most successful. It gives 
facts about the goods and about the use of them, 
rather than opinions or conclusions. Its descriptions 
of the goods or services in which the reader is inter- 
ested are its greatest selling asset. These descriptions 
are nearly always concrete and concise, and they al- 
ways are hooked up with the reader's interest. The 
following letter is a good example : 

Dear Sir: 

In the envelop attached to this letter is an illustrated de- 
scription of our gas engine for irrigating. 

You see all its parts are in plain view and easy to get at. 
You won't need to send to the factory for a special man with 
a special wrench to do the work when a nut or some other 
part needs tightening. 

Sparkers sometimes get gummed up, but it is not any 
trouble at all to take out this sparker. Simply remove two 
nuts, and out, comes the sparker complete. Wipe the point 
off with a rag, put the sparker back in place, and presto ! 
You see the inventor of this machine had a good many years 
of practical experience in installing gasolene engines before 
he started to manufacture his own. 

And the governor ! It is the same type as that used on the 
highest grade of steam engine, allowing you to speed her up 
or slow her down while the engine is running. Few engines 
are built like this. It costs us a good deal of extra money, 
but it does give you a lot of extra satisfaction. 

XII— 17 


This is the beginning of a two-page letter all of 
which is devoted to description of this kind — the kind 
that keeps the reader in the picture. In this case, ad- 
vantage was taken of the permission the postal au- 
thorities gave to paste a letter in a separate envelop 
bearing first-class postage on the outside of a larger 
envelop containing the printed matter and bearing 
fourth-class postage. The opening paragraph of the 
letter refers the reader to the printed matter. This 
method made it certain that the catalog would reach 
the prospect at the same time that he got the letter. 

7. Letters accompanying sales literature. — ^What 
the letter should be which accompanies the catalog or 
booklet, depends, of course, on the conditions peculiar 
to each case. If the booklet or catalog is long, and if 
only parts of it are of immediate interest to the ad- 
dressee, the letter can be used to call attention to 
those parts. In some cases it pays to mark with a 
blue pencil the parts of the catalog which are of great- 
est immediate interest to the reader. In general, the 
purpose of the letter should be to arouse interest in 
the printed material. 

A clothing manufacturer who has had a great deal 
of success with letters, prepared a booklet for con- 
sumers the object of which was to help solve the prob- 
lem of getting the dealers to take the consumers' at- 
titude toward this line of clothes. It was the task of 
the letter to get the dealer to read a booklet written 
for the consumer. This was accomphshed by frankly 


explaining why it would be desirable for a dealer 
to put himself in the consumer's place and read the 
booklet just as if he were Mr. John Colby, the gro- 
cery clerk, who wanted to get the best Sunday suit of 
clothes he could buy for about $15. Here is the let- 

Dear Mr. Jackson: 

Your success in business is due to the same fundamental 
cause that has made success for us. 

You and we both know that our success is due to the fact 
that our customer's viewpoint molds our policies. Your ' 
policies and ours are sound or unsound according to whether 
or not they are shaped by someone who thoroly understands 
the customer's point of view. 

Now we know you haven't much time for reading. But 
anything that will help either of us better to understand our 
business from the customer's point of view is worth taking 
time for. You helped us write the inclosed Style Book. It 
is better than previous style books because it is written more 
from the consumer's point of view. We get much of our in- 
formation about the consumer thru you. Would this book- 
let interest your trade.'' 

Will you do something for me.'* Won't you sit down at 
home tonight and imagine you are Mr. John Colby, the 
groceryman, and not Mr. H. V. Jackson, the clothing man, 
and read this booklet from the groceryman's 'point of view. 
Pay particular attention to the parts we have marked with 
a blue pencil. Do this tonight or today. Will you.'' An- 
other letter from us will reach you tomorrow. But you won't 
appreciate it unless you have first read this booklet from 
your customer's point of view. 

Will write you again tomorrow. 

Sincerely yours. 

Sales Manager. 


The next morning the merchant received this let- 

Dear Mr. Jackson: 

Good morning. How did the style book impress Mr. 
Colby, the groceryman? It will be likely to make the same 
hit with all prospective customers to whom you send it. 

How many do you want for your town and vicinity? If 
you will send me the names and addresses on the inclosed 
sheets, or if you will lend me a copy of your local telephone 
book, having first crossed off the names of those to whom you 
do not want these style books to go, we'll address and stamp 
the envelops and send the Style Books to you by express, all 
ready to mail in your town when you want them to go out — 
and it will Qost you only the penny for postage on each style 

If you have last year's list on hand, check it up and send 
it with any additions you care to make; or send a copy of 
the telephone book, or any other list of names, with the names 
crossed off to whom you do not care to send the Style 

We'll send the addressed and stamped booklets to you 
within two weeks after your list reaches us. 

Why did I wait until today to ask for your list of names ? 

Because I wanted to give you a fair chance to size up the 

valuer of this book from the consumer's point of view, so that 

you would send more names and send them soon, or tell us how 

many books you can use. Better send the list. It's less 

bother for you. ^ ,. ,, 

'' Cordially yours. 

Sales Manager. 

8. Why these letters were successful. — The letters 
quoted above were successful in accomplishing their 
two purposes: to cause the merchant to read a con- 
sumer's booklet with interest, and to get him to send 
this booklet to a revised list of names. Mr. Colby, 


the groceryman, is a real personage, a man in this 
town, selected by the advertising department as a 
typical consumer of the brand of clothes put out by 
this manufacturer. The names of typical consimiers 
were gathered in each town for another purpose, but 
they served well to inject into these letters a per- 
sonal element that was more convincing than merely 
the imitation of it, which comes from the use of per- 
sonal phraseology of the sort that is often employed 
in an attempt to make form letters appear to be per- 
sonal letters to individuals. 

These letters also illustrate the kind of foresight 
which is based on experience, and which marks nearly 
all successful letters. In previous years the mer- 
chants had delayed to send in either new lists of 
names or revisions of old lists, for several reasons. 
In the first place, the request for them was made in 
a commonplace manner ; then, too, no definite instruc- 
tions were given as to how to prepare the lists, and 
no choice of methods of sending in the names was 

In this case the merchant was "sold" on the con- 
sumer's booklet. The manufacturer induced the mer- 
chant to read this booklet from the consumer's view- 
point by taking advantage of a successful method of 
selling to merchants which is used principally by per- 
sonal salesmen. This method consists in calling up in 
the merchant's mind a picture of himself selling to 
his own customers the goods that the manufacturer 
wants him to buy. 


9. Inclosures. — Whether a letter, accompanied by 
printed matter, is sent to one person or is sent out 
as a "form" to many persons, it is to the letter itself 
that the most importance attaches. Those houses 
that get the best results from sales letters recognize 
this fact and compose the letter accordingly. Onty 
such printed matter is inclosed as is necessary to sup- 
plement the letter. 

Unfortunately, form letters are looked upon with 
disfavor by nearly all buyers, including consumers. 
This antagonistic feeling, however, is gradually be- 
coming less intense because the practice of thoro classi- 
fication of mailing lists is becoming more universal. 
In other words, fewer attempts are being made to 
make the form letter seem to be written to an indi- 
vidual, and fewer of these form letters are going to 
people outside the class which they are intended to 

Now and then a retail mail-order concern can stuff 
a letter with a lot of miscellaneous special offers that 
are set forth on separate leaflets. ^Vhen this method 
is found to pay, it should, of course, be used. But, 
as a rule, inclosures which do not have a direct bear- 
ing on the subject matter of the letter that they ac- 
company, serve only to distract attention from the 
main issue. The main question concerning inclosures, 
then, is, "How few (rather than how many) is it pos- 
sible to use?'* 

10. What inclosures are necessary? — The success 
of a letter often depends upon the decision that is 


made as to what printed matter constitutes a neces- 
sary supplement to the letter itself. This supple- 
mentary printed matter is especially important when 
it is of such a nature that it influences the reader to 
act. The order blank serves this purpose; so does 
the printed sheet of information that gives the reader 
facts on which to base his decision in regard to the 
offer. When a favorable decision would involve se- 
lecting one of several products, the letter is often de- 
sighed to help the reader make this selection. In 
such a case it is good salesmanship to include printed 
matter relating to all the products. 

11. Arrangement of inclosures. — When several in- 
closures are used, they often may be so folded and 
arranged that the letter will be read first, and then 
the inclosures in the order in which the writer pre- 
fers to have them read. It is often advantageous to 
have the inclosures the same size as the letter paper. 

One of the characteristics of the successful sales 
correspondent is carefulness in the handling of de- 
tails. For example, the successful writer will clip 
inclosures to the back of the letter, and not stuff them 
in without regard to arrangement. His letter usually 
creates interest in these inclosures, but the letter is 
complete in itself, so that his addressee reads it thru 
before he gives his attention to the supplementary 
printed matter. It is clear that such a letter must 
arouse the reader's interest at the very beginning, and 
hold it to the very end; cons^uently, it must often 
include the salient points which are again presented 


in greater detail in the supplementary printed mat- 

12. Meeting a difficult situation. — The following 
letter shows how a successful real estate man over- 
came some very common "resistances." The "litera- 
ture" inclosed with this letter consisted of another 
letter which cited the experience of investors in real 
estate at Gary, Indiana, when the Steel Corporation 
began to develop that city as a town site. The in- 
closure also called attention to a new town site that 
was being laid out by the same corporation, and 
stated that detailed information about the building 
lots which were for sale would be sent if the reader 
would indicate interest by returning the mailing card. 
There was also inclosed a large sheet (size 21 x 28 
inches) of pictures of the work then being done by 
the Steel Corporation by way of preparing this town 
site for habitation. Interesting captions explained 
these pictures. This mailing was a success, largely 
because of the preliminary letter with the words, 
"Read This First," boldly penned at the top of it. 
This letter follows : 


I know you are molested every day with fortune-promising 
literature, and advice as to how to invest your money and be 
among the millionaires. 

You know your business — I know mine — and for this 
reason I ask that any half-hour when you have nothing to 
do you read thru the other printed matter inclosed herein, 
and if you find anything that interests you, mail me the post 
card and I will send you full particulars. 


Don't say that you haven't any money. 

Don't think that you are not interested because the pro- 
posed investment is away from where you are now doing your 

13. Mail and personal sales cooperation, — ^Finding 
and following leads by means of letters that are a 
result of the correspondence department's coopera- 
tion with the personal salesmen, is a practice which 
has long been widespread, but which, nevertheless, is 
just beginning to be given the amount of attention 
that the results warrant. Sales managers and sales- 
men in many lines of business are coming to realize 
that the efforts which immediately effect a sale would 
many times be unsuccessful were it not for various 
other selling forces more or less distantly related, in 
both time and place, to the sale. Nearly all sales are 
the result of a combination of selling prices. 

The increasing tendency to coordinate all avail- 
able selling methods is giving the letter a place of 
increasing importance, along with advertising, as a 
means whereby to pave the approach and reinforce 
the visit of the personal salesman. Personal sales- 
men are readily led to appreciate what the results 
may be if this kind of cooperation is planned and exe- 
cuted as carefully and completely as its possibilities 
warrant. Letters written by the personal salesman 
himself, or by a man who keeps in close touch with 
him, are most likely to be successful. 

Many concerns are now working all territories 
thru the agency of two men; one is placed in charge 


of personal sales; the other is held responsible for 
mail orders. Each man, however, shares with the 
other the responsibihty for the total sales record in 
the territory. The traveling salesman "pulls" for 
the man at the office, gives him data for effective let- 
ters, plans letter campaigns with him — in short, gives 
the correspondent the kind of cooperation necessary 
for success; and the correspondent, by keeping in 
touch with prospects and old customers, supplements 
the salesman's efforts most effectively. 

The correspondents are frequently chosen from 
among men who have had training as salesmen. 
Even when the correspondent's chief duty is to get 
sales in the smaller communities, where it would not 
pay to send a traveling salesman, cooperation be- 
tween him and the man, or men, on the road is de- 
cidedly desirable. 

14. Function of advance letters. — Letters that 
are sent before the salesman makes his visit may serve 
any one of several purposes. They may merely give 
advance notice of the salesman's visit, or they may 
constitute an extensive educational campaign which 
will thoroly inform the prospect concerning the prop- 
osition, and so enable the salesman to concentrate 
on closing the sale. Or they maj^ — and often do — 
save the salesman's time by eliminating poor pros- 
pects and finding good ones. But this method of lo- 
cating good prospects in a town, prior to the 
salesman's visit, is one that involves the necessity of 
a thoro plan, for there is considerable risk in carry- 


ing it out. Letters often fail to get a response from 
men who could easily be sold by a personal canvass. 
On the other hand, salesmen in many specialty lines 
could not possibly follow the line of least resistance 
without the help of letters if the Correspondence De- 
partment did not seek out the live prospects for 

It is seldom effective to attempt to solicit by mail 
a request from the prospect for a personal call from 
the salesman. Such requests are desirable, but they 
are very difficult to get. Rather than try to secure 
them, it is better, as a rule, to offer some special in- 
ducement that will bring a response from all who 
are likely to be interested. Then, it may be advisable 
in many cases, to send additional mail pieces or let- 
ters to these people with the idea of retaining their 
interest until the salesman can call. If any of these 
prospective buyers express further interest in re- 
sponse to these letters, the salesman may call on them 
first of all when he reaches their town. If he sells 
these prospects — the first that he visits in the com- 
munity — he will be encouraged to work harder than 
ever, and probably will accomplish much, for "noth- 
ing succeeds like success." 

15. Follow-up letters. — Altho it is best to make 
the first letter in a series of follow-up letters do as 
much as possible toward accomplishing the sale, there 
is a certain advantage in sending a number of let- 
ters which makes the follow-up system profitable in 
many cases. This advantage is the power of repeti-. 


tion to cause belief. "If they are so confident that I 
ought to be interested that they will send me all these 
letters, perhaps, after all, they're right and I*d better 
see what they have to offer" is the reasoning that rep- 
resents a common reaction to persistency in sending 
out follow-up letters when the letters go to a lead of 
fairly good "quality." 

Thus, even if the first letters are not read, atten- 
tion may be given to the third or fourth or fifth — or 
the tenth letter in a series, if the selhng budget war- 
rants sending as many as ten letters. Each letter, 
however — no matter how many are sent — ought to be 

It is often best to present the same fundamental 
selling points in each letter, but from a different point 
of view in every one. It is most effective to make 
the difference in viewpoint evident in the opening 
paragraphs, for in a majority of cases letters that 
fail are not read thru. 

"My letter of the 21st ult. brought no reply from 
you, but it did bring us a large number of stock 
orders" was the beginning of a follow-up letter that 
failed to get a single response from 1,200 persons. 
The second paragraph read as follows: 

I know that some orders are hard to get by mail. I wish 
I had the time to call on you, because I believe that within a 
few minutes I could convince you that our goods and prices 
are right. With our automatic machinery we can beat 
anybody else's prices, as I explained fully in my first 


The next paragraph asked for the reason why the 
first letter was not answered, and promised the pros- 
pect a desk calendar, on the condition that he accept 
the seller's proposition. "It is FREE. All I want 
you to do is write me." That was the close of this 
follow-up letter, the writer of which took it for 
granted that the first letter had not only been read, 
but remembered. Now this man's third letter was the 
same as the first, except for the opening, and it was 
successfuL It did not mention preceding letters, but 
it began like this : "Eyelets? Yes! How's this one 
at the price?" The sample eyelet — attached to the 
paper — and its price and specifications, came next. 
Then, "How can we do it? Listen." The writer 
went on from this point to talk convincingly about 
automatic machinery. Instead of offering to send a 
calendar free provided the addressee responded favor- 
ably, he inclosed a stamped envelop containing three 
other small envelops, in which the prospect might 
send back, labeled, samples of any kind of eyelets 
on which he wished to have prices quoted. 

As a rule, the same fundamental selling points will 
sell to nearly all buyers; but the big problem is to 
get the "readers" to read. To solve this problem it 
is essential to present the proposition differently to 
different types of buyers. When a list of names has 
been classified as accurately as possible, and yet it 
is known that the classification is not entirely ade- 
quate, it is sometimes advisable to adapt each letter 
in a follow-up series to one of the different classes. 


16. Letters that aid in effecting the sale. — Letters 
designed to consummate a sale are not used now as 
much as formerly in many lines. The tendency 
seems to be to use general big lists of names, except 
when a letter can be employed successfully to find 
out who are the live prospects in the list. The letter 
secures a response rather than an order — a response 
that will permit the letter-writer to send selling 
letters in which he can take advantage of individual 
differences in addresses. The use of letters that find 
and follow individual leads is growing rapidly in many 
lines of business. 

This is a good tendency. Fewer unsuccessful let- 
ters are being sent out. Consequently the respect of 
most people for the sales letter is increasing. JNIore 
letters are sent to the individual. Fewer merely pre- 
tend to be so written, because the public in general, 
and especially the business public, is beginning to 
take considerable interest in business correspondence 
as one of the more important methods of competition, 
and therefore sincere personal worth receives more 
emphasis than formerly. 

Sales letters are at their best when they are de- 
signed to find or follow definite leads, usually in co- 
operation with other means of selhng. 


Explain how the correspondent can influence the "quality" of a 

Why is it desirable to get voluntary expression of interest? 
What is the best way in which to ask for the order? 


What is the best kind of description? 

Discuss the relation between the letter and inclosures. 

Why is cooperation between the correspondence department and 
the personal selling force necessary? 

What is the function of "advance" letters? 

"What are two basic reasons for the use of follow-up letters ? 

In general, what type of selling letter is most effective, and 
why ? 



1. Handling the mail. — Methods of handling in- 
coming mail vary according to the size of the busi- 
ness. In general, the aim is to develop a system 
which will promote dispatch and thoroness. Many 
large concerns have the date and horn* of arrival 
stamped on each incoming letter, and require that 
all letters be handled within a definite number of 
hours after arrival. Small concerns also find this 
to be a good system. Letters that are hard to handle 
very often represent cases that ought to be managed 
with dispatch; but there is constant temptation to 
hold over hard letters until other and easier matters 
have been attended to. Each case should be handled 
in the order in which it comes up; in this way 
correspondents attend to the difficult cases as they 

A great deal of business is lost each year thru the 
failure to handle difficult cases promptly. For ex- 
ample, a customer who lived out of town returned to 
the adjustment department of a certain department 
store a suit of clothes he had purchased, and claimed 
a refund. His reason for wanting the refund was not 
that he thought the department store could not sat- 



isfy him with some other suit, but that he could not 
get to the city again for several months and could 
not wait that long to get another suit. In his letter 
he explained what was wrong with the clothes and 
stated that he was buying another suit in his home 
town. It happened that alterations had been made 
on this suit at the time it was purchased; these, the 
addressee said, he was willing to pay for. 

He received a pohte postal card by return mail 
telling him that the adjustment he asked for would 
be made as soon as possible. But it was not until 
a month later that the refund was sent — and before 
that time the customer had sent two more letters ask- 
ing for it. He did not get a reply to either of his 
letters. When the refund was finally sent to him a 
letter of apology^ accompanied it. But the apology 
was too late. The customer had resolved never again 
to buy from that department store, and his purchases 
had averaged $150 a year for several years. 

A system which insures promptness in the handling 
of all mail is most highly desirable. When it is 
necessary for the correspondent to get information 
and advice from others in the organization, the mes- 
senger boy service is often found satisfactory. It 
often pays to have the messenger wait for the re- 
quired O. K. or information. The mail-carrier sys- 
tem within the office or house, regulated by hourly or 
half-hourly collections and deliveries, helps greatly 
in solving the problem of quick interdepartmental 
communication when the telephone cannot be used. 

XII— 18 


2. Assorting the mail, — ^Many large business 
houses are finding that it pays well to have as as- 
sorters of mail those men who are able to determine 
not only where each letter ought to go, but also how 
the case should be handled. These assorters them- 
selves handle from ten to twenty per cent of the cor- 
respondence. That is, they indicate by notations at- 
tached to the letter what disposition is to be made 
of the case, so that a well trained typist-correspond- 
ent can make the reply. In many instances, these ex- 
pert assorters also know when a letter must go to 
more than one member of the organization before it 
can be answered, and they route letters accordingly. 
The result is that as soon as the man who is to write 
the answer gets the letter and reads it he has all the 
information necessarj'^ for immediate dictation. In 
other cases, when long letters come in for officials 
whose time is worth a great deal, these assorters sum- 
marize the letters as they read, or hand them to a 
professional precis writer. Often it is necessary for 
the high-salaried official merely to read this summary 
in order to handle the case. 

The kind of assorting described in the preceding 
paragraph is very similar in principle to that done by 
the executive who, as he goes thru his pile of corre- 
spondence, picks out easy letters here and there, jots 
down at the bottom of each the disposition that is to 
be made of it, and lets a subordinate write the an- 

3. Form letters and form paragraphs. — Many 


business concerns can use the form-letter and the 
form-paragraph system to good advantage. The 
abuse of this system is responsible for the unwar- 
ranted condemnation it has received. One mail-order 
house in New York City handles efficiently about 90 
per cent of all its correspondence by means of form 

One often hears: "our letters could not possibly 
be written that way. We have to write an individual 
letter in each case. You can't write an effective let- 
ter unless you adapt it to the individual case," and 
so on. Often, it is true, forms have been tried and 
"they failed," but in most cases the failure was due 
to lack of the necessary patience required to create a 
complete and really efficient set of form letters or 

The use of form letters is much more restricted 
than the use of form paragraphs. A folio of form 
paragraphs may be useful in writing the bulk of the 
more difficult types of business letters. But such 
a folio of paragraphs cannot be created overnight, 
nor can it be done in a year. Several years are 
usually required to develop a form-paragraph system 
to the point where it will enable the firm to take care 
of a large part of the correspondence completely and 
adequately. The task of creating an efficient system 
of form paragraphs is never wholly completed. 

4. When the use of form paragraphs is inadvisable. 
— While the failure of the form-paragraph system is 
usually due to the fact that it is not given a fair trial, 


doubtless it would not pay many business houses to 
take the time and to incur the expense necessary to 
create an efficient set of form paragraphs. The use 
of a complete form-paragraph system may not be 
advisable when the amount of a concern's corre- 
spondence is relatively small and there are not many 
letters of one kind to write; or when the business is 
of such a kind that each letter must be handled dif- 
ferently from all the rest, especially when the cost of 
correspondence is a small item in the expense budget 
in proportion to sales, or to profits, or to the cost of 
getting or doing business — as it is in a contractor's 
ofiSce, or in a machinery supply house, for instance. 
Yet there are few offices where form paragraphs could 
not be used advantageously, at least in a limited way. 
5. When the use of form paragraphs is advisable. 
— Of course, the skill and judgment required in mak- 
ing efficient use of form paragraphs is largely de- 
pendent upon the completeness and thoroness with 
which the fund of paragraphs covers the cases. The 
more efficient the folio of form paragraphs, the easier 
it is to make effective use of it. In the case of one 
company, for instance, 400 different paragraphs are 
prepared. About 200 of these are active. Nearly 
all the firm's letters are composed from the material 
in these 200 paragraphs, which are so well prepared 
that any bright girl can use them to write an effec- 
tive letter. In order to do this, she has, of course, 
to memorize, not the wording, but the thought and 
the purpose of each paragraph. Definiteness and 


unity of purpose in each paragraph is naturally of 
primary importance. 

6. Slip system. — When form paragraphs are used 
in connection with dictation to a stenographer 
— especially when the writer reads form paragraphs 
as an aid in his dictation — ^there is not much saving 
in time and expense, altho such use of form para- 
graphs may now and then be advisable. But when 
hundreds of letters are written daily and the expense 
is an important item, it pays to make direct use of 
form paragraphs. At least one big concern has suc- 
ceeded in developing such a complete and efficient 
stock of form paragraphs that it can use the so-called 
"slip" system of writing letters. The paragraphs are 
printed on slips of paper about the size of a half-sheet 
letterhead. A letter is composed merely by picking 
the proper slips and clipping them together. So 
thoro is the development of this system that nearly all 
the correspondence in this concern is effectively han- 
dled by means of it. 

The girls that do the "picking" — not the writing — 
of letters for the concern just mentioned, are care- 
ful to retype on new slips the paragraphs that need 
alteration. So complete is the supply of paragraphs, 
however, that alterations are necessary only in a slight 
percentage of cases. 

The danger of sending the wrong paragraphs is 
lessened by examiners. It has been found that less 
than one-half of one per cent of letters that are picked 
are inaccurate or incomplete. Each picker addresses 


the envelop for each of her letters as well as the en- 
velops for any printed matter that is to go with it. 
Thus one girl does all the work needed for one letter. 
This seems to be the highest possible development of 
the form-paragraph system. 

Even if the "slip" system did not result in a bet- 
ter letter, as it does for this concern, the big difference 
between the cost of a letter produced by this method 
and that of a typed-from-dictation letter might com- 
mend its use, especially to a big house that has a large 
volume of correspondence. 

7. Knowledge of mailing list. — The mailing list is 
the basis of direct advertising. Like the evolution of 
an efficient form- paragraph system, the development 
of an efficient mailing list takes time. One man's 
* 'mailing-list creed" reads as follows: "Every possi- 
ble customer not on my list represents a leak in my 
future profits, and every name on my list which is not 
that of a possible customer represents a leak in my 
present advertising expense." 

It is decidedly advisable to know a great deal about 
a list of names before sending out letters and printed 
matter. One concern requires the correspondent to 
answer the following set of questions before he circu- 
larizes any part of a big general list of prospective 
purchasers : 

What is the origin of the list, especially that part of it to 

be circularized? 
How many names are on it ? 
What territory does it cover? 


How are the names distributed, territorially? 

What distinct classes of people does the list include? 

What percentage is each class of the total names listed? 

What are the chief characteristics of each class? 

Should not the appeal to each class differ? If so, how? 
If not, why not? 

What are the chief interests of a typical person in each 
class ? 

What are the chief resistances of each class to your propo- 
sition ? 

Is your knowledge of each class accurate? 

These questions serve to impress the writer with 
the fact that he is writing to individuals in classes and 
not merely to a general class of persons. Frequently 
the writer sees that it is advisable to get out several 
editions of a letter, each edition especially adapted 
to one of the classes represented on the list. For ex- 
ample, the International Harvester Company got out 
three tractor letters to three classes of farmers: 
Eastern farmers, Western farmers, and Middle- 
Western farmers. The value of the tractor for use in 
farming large tracts of land was emphasized in the 
letter to Western farmers; the variety of uses to 
which it could be put was emphasized in the letter 
sent to Eastern farmers, and so on. The "reader's 
point of view" is the principle underlying this kind of 

8. Follow-up systems. — JNIechanical arrangements 
as an aid in mailing follow-up letters at the right timie 
are well known. For some reason, many concerns de- 
cide that their prospects are to be given a ten- day or 
a twenty-day follow-up, as the case may be, and a com- 


plicated scheme is worked out whereby an inquiry re- 
ceived on the fifth of the month, for example, will, 
without fail, receive a follow-up letter on the fifteenth, 
twenty-fifth, and so on. One executive who had 
charge of follow-ups in an office-appliance manufac- 
turing business decided that such a system wasted 
time. His clerk had to go thru the entire follow-up 
file every day and pull out the few cards that had the 
names of those due for follow-up, and then return 
them to the file. He had to perform this operation 
every day. In this system no care was exercised con- 
cerning the days on which follow-up letters would 
reach the prospect. And this, notwithstanding the 
fact that it was advisable to send out mailings the first 
of the week so that the letters would reach the pros- 
pects about Thursday or Friday, not on Saturday, 
when the man had gone to the country or was doing a 
day's work in a morning, or on Monday or Tuesdaj'-, 
which are big days for incoming mail of all sorts. 

This executive now has an active inquiry file; each 
person on the list gets a follow-up series of about five 
different pieces, one each week. On Monday the 
clerk prepares the follow-up. Every one on the list 
receives a letter. The list is classified in order that 
each person may receive the right letter. It is much 
easier for the clerk to separate the names according 
to the series, or the number of the letter in the series, 
than to go completely thru the file every day. All 
the follow-ups then go out on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

After the inquiry is five weeks old and all the fol- 
low-ups have been sent, it is transferred to a "pre- 


f erred file" and then the person gets a letter adapted 
to his particular line of business, once every month, 
or oftener, if the season is ripe for selling to prospects 
in that line. Proofs of this preferred list are sent 
every three months to the local agents out in the ter- 
ritories. These agents remove the names of those 
whom they do not consider immediate prospects, and 
also add the names of others, to whom they believe 
circulars should be sent. In the case of open terri- 
tory, not covered by salesmen, the names are left on 
the list for one year and are then transferred to the 
general lists of those who are circularized only dur- 
ing the course of special campaigns. 

Between the ordinary "tickler" file, with its thirty- 
one divisions — one for each day of the month — up to 
the more complicated card and tab systems, which 
facilitate follow-up correspondence, there are many 
variations of follow-up systems designed to meet spe- 
cial needs and conditions. The card system and the 
plan of filing only a carbon copy of the reply serve 
to prevent the sending off of follow-ups to those from 
whom a response is received before the date set for 
the follow-up. It is always best to use a system that 
permits quick reference to all previous correspond- 
ence. The card system for follow-ups possesses this 
advantage. The card, with tabs at the top to indicate 
the date of follow-up, may be filed alphabetically, or 
in the same way in which correspondence is filed. If 
the card system is not used, it is advisable to file the 
correspondence in the regular file and to have only a 


carbon of the reply, or a memorandum, in the follow- 
up file, as already suggested. 

9. Filing systems. — It is not the aim in this treat- 
ment of the systems used in business correspondence 
to give detailed descriptions. Nearly all the large 
manufacturers of filing devices get out detailed de- 
scription of all up-to-date vertical filing and card-in- 
dexing systems; this printed matter constitutes part 
of the selling plans of these concerns. Such sales lit- 
erature is the most complete and the most reliable 
source of information concerning filing systems. 

One booklet on this subject, published by a manu- 
facturer of filing devices, contains a statement of the 
principles of vertical filing and describes minutely the 
various systems of arrangement in filing — alphabet- 
ical, geographical, numerical, subject, chronological, 
and so on. It also contains descriptions of systems 
for filing invoices, vouchers, clipping, catalogs, price 
costs, and the like. In addition, there are sections on 
follow-up sj^stems, attorney's files, card ledgers, sales- 
men's calls, and the transference of correspondence. 
A study of the manufacturers' booklets on these sub- 
jects is well worth the time of any one who is inter- 
ested in improving the filing systems in his office. 


How may assorters of incoming mail save time and expense in 
connection with the handling of correspondence? 

When can form paragraphs be used with success ? What is 
the main cause of failure in the use of form paragraphs ? 

Under what conditions can the "slip" system be used success- 

How can the work of sending out follow-ups be simplified ? 



1. Value of good form. — The effect of the mechan- 
ical appearance of a letter is often compared to the 
effect of the clothes worn by a salesman. This com- 
parison is good, but limited. Salesmen have much 
more opportunity for the expression of individual- 
ity in the choice of their clothes than correspond- 
ents have in choosing the mechanical dress of their 
letters. The principle, however, is the same. 

Nearly all people who know what is good form 
in letter-writing are affected unfavorably by the lack 
of it in letters that they receive. They expect good 
form as a matter of course. Correct form, therefore, 
is not so much a positive asset as it is a precaution. 
Correctness and attractiveness in the mechanical 
make-up of the letter ward off the possibility of un- 
favorable criticism on that score; herein is the chief 
value of observing the current standards of good 

Altho the desired effect of a letter in nearly all cases 
is not gained in any great measure by means of the ap- 
pearance of the letter, it must not be forgotten that 
the consummation of the sale may sometimes actually 
be prevented by the lack of good mechanical form. 



2. Uniformity of mechanical make-up. — Of equal 
importance with uniformity of tone in the letters that 
go out from any one house, is the uniformity of the 
mechanical make-up. It is desirable to have stand- 
ardization of good form both with respect to the con- 
ventional mechanical requirement, such as spacing, 
punctuation, indentions, and so on, and with respect 
to the artistic requirements, such as balance and 
neatness. If an addressee receives several letters 
that differ in mechanical make-up, it is likely that he 
will receive an impression of inconsistency. 

As good usage in literary composition is established 
by the practice of leading authors, so good form in 
letter-writing is fixed by the practice of the leading 
business concerns. The following sections include in- 
formation concerning standards observed in the lead- 
ing business houses of the countrJ^ 

3. Originality and custom^ — The customary me- 
chanical make-up of the business letter is so thoroly 
established that few business concerns care to take 
the risk of disregarding it. Refusing to conform 
to the standard involves the same kind of risk that 
a salesman takes when he wears a hat or a coat that 
is out of style or too much in style. He becomes con- 
spicuous ; and worse still, his clothes distract attention 
from his selling talk. Writing the date in an unusual 
waj', the use of colored stationery, the omission of the 
salutation, odd spacing of the heading or of the ad- 
dress — all such departures from custom involve risk, 
altho sometimes a variation from the standard may 


suggest that the concern is up-to-date, and may there- 
fore command greater attention. 

It is a nice question to decide just how much orig- 
inahty should be shown in the mechanical make-up. 
Safety lies in close adherence to custom. If, however, 
it seems probable that a form which is original and 
unusual will eventually be universally employed on 
accoimt of its utility, it would probably be safe to use 
it. The non-indentation of the first lines of para- 
graphs in letters with single spacing — because the 
double spacing between paragraphs sufficiently sepa- 
rates them — is a case in point. Notwithstanding the 
fact that many leading business houses have adopted 
the custom, there is some question as to whether the 
utility is sufficient to insure universal acceptance. 

There is a tendency on the part of many corre- 
spondents to reason that what is customary is old, 
and what is old is not in accordance with modern 
methods. But even the modern conventionalized 
make-up of a business letter is necessarily in accord- 
ance with utiHty. This does not mean, of course, 
that forms must always remain the same. Quite the 
contrary. For instance, it might be advisable to place 
the name of the writer, as well as that of the addressee, 
at the top of the letter — ^unless the letter-head gives 
the writer's name — because as a rule the reader wants 
to know, before he reads it, who wrote the letter. 
But a change of this kind involves considerable risk 
on the part of the innovator. Its apparent utility 
is not sufficient to insure universal acceptance. 


4. The parts of a letter. — The conventionalized 
parts of a business letter are the letterhead, or the 
heading, the address, the salutation, the body, the 
complimentary close, the signature, and information 
solely for the convenience of the writer, such as the 
writer's initials and those of the stenographer in the 
lower left-hand corner. 

When a letterhead is used, the typed heading con- 
sists of the date only. When there is no printed let- 
terhead, the typed heading should include full infor- 
mation concerning the address of the writer. It is 
placed in the upper right-hand corner of the type 
space. This type space varies in size and shape, in 
accordance with the principle of balance, with respect 
to the amount of typed matter to be included on the 
page. An expert stenographer will always estimate 
the amount of type space required for a letter before 
it is written, and then will write it in such a way that 
the typed matter will be framed by a border of white 
space of pleasing proportions. 

5. Letterhead. — ^A plain letterhead without orna- 
mentation or illustration is preferred by a majority 
of leading business houses. The purpose of illus- 
trated letterheads is often merely to do "free" adver- 
tising, and the effect is likely to be about the same 
as when a firm sends with a letter "stufFers" bearing 
printed matter whose subject is unrelated to that 
of the letter itself. On the other hand, if the illus- 
trated letterhead bears information that makes the 
message of the letter more complete, or which in any 


other way distinctly serves the interests of the ad- 
dressee, the general objection to the use of illustra- 
tions on letterheads may not apply. Nevertheless, 
a plain letterhead is usually preferable. 

If a concern has several branches, it is important 
that each branch indicate its address on its own let- 
terhead in red ink, or by some kind of distinctive typ- 
ing. If this is not done, an addressee will often 
send a letter to the wrong branch. The same thing 
is true when several names appear on the letterhead 
and the name of the official who writes the letter is 
not apparent at a glance. 

It is sometimes necessary to include also informa- 
tion concerning terms, the liability of the company 
in case of strikes, arid other notations of a protec- 
tive nature; but it is best, if possible, to omit ma- 
terial of this kind. 

Another matter of considerable importance is the 
design of the letterhead. It should be appropriate to, 
and consistent with, the character of the business. As 
a rule, it ought to be centered at the top of the page, 
rather than placed off at one side; and its length 
should seldom be more than about one-fifth that of 
the page — that is, from an inch and a half to two 
and a half inches in width. The color of the ink and 
of the paper used should, of course, harmonize, and it 
is desirable that the ink used for the letterhead be 
the same as that of the typewriter ribbon. A com- 
bination of white bond paper and black ink is always 
good. Two-color letterheads are not objectionable 


when the colors are complementary, provided the de- 
sign lends itself to this arrangement. A tinted 
"shadow" illustration — ^the trade-mark, or a picture 
of the building, for instance — over which the letter- 
head proper is printed, is sometimes effective. The 
usage of the highest class of business houses, however, 
favors severe simplicity. 

6. Heading and address. — The modern tendency 
to omit all except necessary punctuation in the head- 
ing and the address of the letter seems commendable, 
altho, as yet, comparatively few companies make it a 
practice to do so. As a matter of fact, punctuation 
is not more necessary here than it is on the envelop, 
and it has come to be bad form to use full punctuation 
in addressing the envelop. It seems probable that the 
omission of all but necessary punctuation in the head- 
* ing and the address of a business letter will sooner or 
later become universal practice. Today, either full 
or "necessary" punctuation is correct. By necessary 
punctuation is meant the use of periods in all ab- 
breviations and the use of commas when necessary 
within the line, not at the end of the line. The fol- 
lowing example will illustrate this point: 

19 East Jackson Boul. 

Chicago, Illinois 
Oct. 10, 1916 
Mr. Harvey Coolidge 
1300 Maple Avenue 
Evanston, 111. 

Dear Sir: 


Full punctuation, however, is safer until the time when 
the above form shall become more universal. An ex- 
ample of full punctuation is this : 

^ . 19 East Jackson BouL, 

Chicago, Illinois, 
Oct. 10, 1916. 
Mr. Harvey Coolidge, 
1300 Maple Avenue, 
Evanston, Illinois, 

Dear Sir: 

It is an almost universal practice to omit the period 
after the date in the heading. 

Both the eschelon and the block arrangements of 
the heading and the address are good. The eschelon, 
or stair-step indentation, suggests a little more care, 
and therefore engenders somewhat more respect for 
the addressee than the block arrangement, which 
saves a slight amount of time for the stenographer. 
The same desire to show respect for the reader by 
avoiding an appearance of haste causes many to pre- 
fer full punctuation for the address and heading. 

The name of the month, altho it may be abbrevi- 
ated, is usually spelled out in full. Writing the date 
like this, 10/8/16, is obsolete. It suggests haste, 
takes more time to interpret, and is sometimes mis- 
leading because the first two numerals are inter- 
changeably used for the day of the month and the 
month of the year. 

"For the attention of Mr. " or "Attention of 

Mr. " is used when it is deemed best to address 

xn— 19 


the firm and when, at the same time, the writer wants 
to make sure that a certain individual in the concern 
will receive the letter. Sometimes the official title 
is used when the writer does not know the name of 
the person for whom the letter is meant — "Attention 
of the Advertising Manager," for example. It is 
best to place this part of the address just above the 
salutation, either in the center of the page or at the 
left-hand margin. In such cases the salutation most 
appropriate for the individual addressed is used. It 
is best, however, to avoid this general kind of ad- j 
dress if possible for it is more effective to use the 
name of the individual addressee on the first line of i 
the address. ! 

Sometimes the letterhead of a firm addressed will 
include a request that all letters be addressed to the 
firm itself. Such requests, however, ought not to be 
made, nor is it well to ask that the addressee, in an- 
swering, mention a file number. Whether or not 
the concern realizes it, the impression is the same as 
if the firm asked for a donation to help keep down 
expenses. In some cases, when the initials of the 
individual addressee are not known and are not avail- 
able, or when there is doubt as to what they are, it 

is best to use this form: "Attention of Mr. ." 

The omission of the initials is not then so noticeable 
as it otherwise would be. 

7. Titles. — It pays to be careful in the use of titles. 
The omission of a title is likely to be resented. Mr., 
Mrs., Miss, or Messrs. (never written Mess.) should 


always be used unless the addressee has a title, such 
as Hon., Rev., Dr., Col., or the like. It is always 
best to use an honorary, professional or academic title 
when it is held by the addressee. To use a title that 
is not held by the addressee is likely to give the im- 
pression either of inaccuracy or, possibly, of irony. 
"Esquire" is seldom used today, but if it is used it 
should be placed after the name and the "Mr." should 
be omitted. 

When the addressee holds more than one title, 
either the one that is most respected may be used, or 
else all the titles — for example, "Rev. Dr. Holmes." 
"The Rev. Dr. Holmes" would be somewhat more 

In the headings where the title precedes the name 
the usage in regard to abbreviations varies. Such 
titles as Hon., Col., may be used in this abbreviated 
form or written out when greater formality is desired. 
Good usage sanctions the use of the abbreviation Rev. 
and it is only in the most formal communications that 
the word is written out in full. The titles Hon. and 
Rev. must be followed either by Mr. or the names or 
the initials of the persons addressed. The form Rev. 
Holmes, Hon. Walker, is incorrect. The weight of 
good usage requires that the title Professor should 
always be written out and that Dr. should be in this 
abbreviated form. Where the word "Honorable" is 
followed, not by the name, but by the official title of 
the addressee it should be written out in full. 

Firm names should be written as they are printed 


on the letterhead of the concern that is addressed. 
The word "The" should precede the firm name unless 
the writer is sure the firm does not use this word in 
its title. "Messrs." is seldom used now except in 
cases when the firm narae does not include the word 

8. Salutations. — "Dear Sir" or "Dear Madam" is 
used in nearly all cases when a letter is sent to a 
person with whom the writer is not personally ac- 
quainted. When the addressee is a man and the 
writer is personally acquainted with him, "Dear Mr. 

" is as often used as "My dear Mr. "; but 

when the addressee is a woman "Dear Miss " 

or "Dear Mrs." is not so often used as the more 

formal "My dear Miss " or "My dear Mrs. " 

even when there is the personal acquaintanceship. 
"Ladies" is the proper salutation in addressing a firm 
composed of women. "My dear Sir" and "My dear 
Madam" are very formal. They are not much used, 
because they might suggest to many readers a slight 
degree of coldness and condescension. "Gentlemen," 
not "Sirs" or "Dear Sirs," is most used in addressing 
a company or a corporation. 

The degree of formality to be observed, which is 
largely dependent on the degree and kind of per- 
sonal acquaintanceship existing between writer and 
addressee, is the chief consideration. The proper 
salutations, in an order of increasing formality, are: 
"Dear John" (in a business letter, permissible only 
in addressing relatives) ; "Dear Smith"; "Dear Miss 


Smith," or "Dear Mrs. Smith"; "Dear Mr. Smith"; 
"My dear Miss (Mrs. or Mr.) Smith"; "Dear Sir" or 
"Dear Madam" or "Gentlemen"; "My dear Sir" or 
"My dear Madam"; and "Madam" or "Sir." 

In the salutation, Dr. is the only honorary title 
which is commonly abbreviated, but this is written out 
if no name follows the title. It is a general rule that 
if there is no name following the title, the title should 
be written out as "My dear Colonel," "My dear Pro- 

9. Forms used in writing official letters. — Letters 
written to an official of any kind concerning official 
business are severely formal in form and tone, unless 
the writer is personally acquainted with the addressee, 
in which case the letter conforms to ordinary business 
practice in respect to the degree of formality that it 
employs. The address is frequently placed at the bot- 
tom of the letter, on the left. In formal official cor- 
respondence "Sir" is the customary salutation. Titles 
are always used, and are not abbreviated. Failure to 
use the correct title distinctly shows either ignorance 
or neglect of the principles of good form. Honorary 
degrees may be used. If they appear, they should 
follow the name and should be abbreviated. Titles 
of a strictly business nature are written out in full 
after the name — Mr. John Atkin, General Manager. 

While in the formal official letter extreme formal- 
ity in language and make-up is observed, many feel 
that it is permissible to include a "human touch" in 
some part of the letter. For instance, in one case in 


which it was necessary to write a request to all the 
members of a state legislature, it was found that of 
two letters which were sent the one that was slightly 
informal secured a much better response. In the more 
successful letter, the correct address was used on both 
the letter and the envelop, but the salutation was 
changed from the strictly correct "Sir" to "My dear 

Mr. ." Thus while the address showed plainly 

that the writer knew the correct form, the less formal 
salutation suggested that he realized he was address- 
ing an official who was also an individual. Some- 
times this desirable human touch may be given by the 
use of some informal phraseolog}\ 

10. Close of the letter. — Many correspondents 
prefer to use "Sincerely" rather than "Yours very 
truly" as the comphmentary close of a business letter 
to a personal acquaintance, for the same reason that 
"Dear Mr. Smith" is preferred to "Dear Sir." The 
use of a concluding phrase, such as "With best 
wishes," is sometimes desirable; but the tendency is 
distinctly away from the use of meaningless phrases 
such, as "We beg to remain" or "We remain." 

The three forms, "Yours truly," "Yours very 
truly," and "Very truly yours," are always safe and 
correct. It is often best to use "Respectfully yours" 
or "Yours respectfully" in addressing a person of 
superior rank, especially in official correspondence. 
"Cordially" and "Faithfully" are reserved by most 
people for use in social letters. "Yours for success" 
or for anything else, is seldom, if ever, a desirable form 



of complimentary close. There is a tendency, also, to 
do away with all participial endings, such as "Hoping 
that you will see your way clear to accept this offer, we 
are." Direct forms of the verb, such as "Will you not 
accept this offer by return mail?" or "We hope you 
will," etc., are more effective. 

Plenty of space should be allowed for the signature 
when it is placed between the complimentary close 
and the firm name, or title. The title should be given 
unless it appears on the letterhead. When the writer 
has no title, it is best, if he would avoid individual 
responsibility before the law for what he says in the 
letter, to sign the firm name first, and below it his own 
name, preceded by "Per" or "By," preferably "By." 
The signature should not be preceded by a title, unless 
the writer is a woman ; an umnarried woman may use 
"Miss" in parenthesis before her name. A married 
woman maj'^ sign her name — Mary Brown — and be- 
neath it write her full married name, in parenthesis 
— (Mrs. John Lathrop Brown). 

11. Reader's point of view. — This treatment of 
mechanical form is, of course, not complete. It would 
be impossible to make it so within a limited space. 
It is advisable to be informed on this subject. The 
addressee expects good form as a matter of course, 
just as he expects correctness in grammar and rhetoric. 

It is well to remember that a conventional form 
now and then undergoes a change of usage. For 
example, many business men now prefer to use "My 
dear Mr. " rather than "Dear Mr. : " in writ- 


ing a business letter to a personal friend, while "Dear 
Sir," which for a while fell into disuse, is today used 
a great deal, as in former years. It is advisable for 
the correspondent to keep informed on these and 
other tendencies of usage. If the letter is sent in re- 
ply to one that has been received, it is often best for 
the writer to use the same salutation as that used in 
the letter which he is answering. If the letter is not 
written in answer to another, it always is safest to 
err on the side of formality rather than on the side 
of informality. 


Why should the correspondent know and use good mechanical 

When is it safe to ignore customary form? 

Mention the requirements of a good letterhead. 

How should the heading and the address be punctuated? 

Why should the writer give careful attention to titles? 

Arrange all customary salutations in the order of the degree 
of formality that they imply. 

Explain the differences between "official" and "unofficial" busi- 
ness letters. 

Why are matters of social friendship out of place in business 
letters ? 



1. Value of correct English. — An ignorant or 
careless use of English is costly. Like correct me- 
chanical form, correct English is not in itself a posi- 
tive asset in writing effective letters — except in so far 
as correctness gains clearness — because correct Eng- 
lish in the letters we read is also taken as a matter of 
course. But incorrect English is a positive handicap 
in nearly all cases. 

Therefore it is advisable that a business correspond- 
ent be sure that his grammar and his rhetoric are cor- 
rect; that is, that in expressing his thought he does 
not violate any of the commonly accepted rules of 
good usage, such as those covered in any good high 
school text on Rhetoric or in one of the recent books 
on business English. Books of both kinds give the 
same general rules. The books that treat of business 
English, however, emphasize those rules which are of 
especial importance in business correspondence. 
They draw their illustrations from business writing. 
They treat correctness more from the point of view 
of its value in gaining effectiveness. Many of these 
books present vital principles of effectiveness. 
Therefore a careful study of a good modern book on 



business English, especially that part of it which deals 
with rules of correctness, is well worth while. The 
best trained correspondent now and then might let 
technical errors in English creep into his dictation. 

2. Technical and non-technical errors. — It is not 
the aim of this chapter to summarize a complete list 
of the technical errors in English that are frequently 
found in business correspondence, such as "faulty 
reference," "dangling modifiers," lack of agreement 
in case and number, and so on. But because this 
chapter emphasizes the less technical principles of 
rhetoric, it is not to be inferred that the more specific 
and technical rules of grammar and rhetoric may be 
slighted by the business correspondent. All technical 
rules are useful in so far as they explain how lan- 
guage may be made a more effective means of con- 
veying thought. And if language is to be a valuable 
medium of expression, there must be agreement con- 
cerning the meaning and arrangement of words and 
groups of words. Rules are merely the crystalliza- 
tion of the consensus of opinion in this regard — the 
opinion of those who speak and write well. For clear- 
ness of expression, then, the rules of grammar and 
rhetoric are indispensable. Whether or not these 
rules were set down in black and white, thej^ are in- 
herent in the very nature of language. They are the 
fundamental cause of the usefulness of language. 

Many grammatical and rhetorical rules concern the 
expression of the finer shades of meaning. These are 
the rules that many consider useless. But a knowl- 


edge of them is essential to the person who writes im- 
portant letters that require absolute accuracy and com- 
pleteness of expression. 

3. Words. — It has been said that words are live 
things. Certainly thoughts are live things, and words 
express thoughts. Deep and accurate thinking can 
only be done by men whose ability in discriminating 
the meanings of words is highly developed. An ex- 
tensive vocabulary is forged on the anvil of neces- 
sity by those who think incisively concerning large 
problems. As a rule, the accurate thinker is a student 
of words, for accurate thinking requires accurate use 
of words. Accurate thinking is not the result of an 
accurate choice of words; it is the cause. In other 
words, carelessness in the choice of words is the result 
of careless thinking. 

Therefore, the fundamental problem of acquiring 
a vocabulary and of acquiring the ability to use words 
most efficiently is that of developing the ability to 
think deeply and accurately. 

4. Choosing the right word. — The knack of choos- 
ing just the right word to express the exact meaning 
for the occasion requires, first, that the exact meaning 
be held clearly in mind; second, that the reader's 
point of view be clearly held in mind ; and third, that 
the writer have a keen appreciation of the minute 
differences in the meanings of words — ^not that he 
have a large vocabulary, but rather that he be able 
to make comparatively few and simple words ac- 
curately express many of his ideas. 


Many first-rate correspondents seem to get along 
with a second-rate vocabulary, as regards the num- 
ber of words in it, evidently because such a vocabulary 
is sufficient for their needs. Their thinking is so 
clear and direct, and they deal so much in plain state- 
ments of fact that they do not need to employ unusual 
words in expressing their meaning. As a rule, the 
fewer and the shorter the words necessary to express 
the thoughts, the better is the thinking for business 

Accuracy of expression requires close discrimina- 
tion in regard to the meaning of ordinary words. 
Dictionary definitions are not sufficient. Often the 
frequent use of a word to express a disagreeable 
meaning causes that word to carry with it an unpleas- 
ant association. The word "conspicuous," for ex- 
ample, is so often used in connection with events or 
things or persons that make an unfavorable impres- 
sion that this word has to be carefully used if it is to 
make a favorable impression, altho neither a dictionary 
nor a book of synonyms would indicate that this word 
may possess a disagreeable significance. We are 
therefore inclined to speak of marked rather than con- 
spicuous success. This example simply illustrates the 
fact that words have current significance which the 
correspondent should be able to sense accurately. 
Frequent use of a good dictionary of synonyms will 
prove valuable to the writer who wishes to acquire the 
ability to express fine shades of meaning. 

5. Simplicity in diction. — Many of the more mod- 


em masters of style in literary English, like Steven- 
son, Lincoln and Emerson — and even earlier classic 
English authors like Bunyan, Addison, Steele and 
Defoe — show a marked tendency toward simplicity in 
diction and an almost fastidious carefulness in the 
choice of words. The results of clear thinking are 
nearly always expressed with admirable simplicity 
of diction. It has already been said, in a preceding 
chapter, that Abraham Lincoln's letters and speeches 
are models of direct style for the business correspond- 

Generally, preference should be given to short, 
Anglo-Saxon words, but this does not mean that 
longer words are not to be preferred when they are 
required for exact expression of the thought. Clear- 
ness is the most essential requirement. Constant ef- 
fort on the part of the correspondent to make his 
language simple helps him greatly to think clearly 
and deeply. 

Anglo-Saxon diction is preferable even when the 
addressee is fully capable of understanding Latinized 
diction, because it always gives an impression of 
greater sincerity on the part of the writer, and be- 
cause the thought of the writer can be interpreted 
more quickly if it is conveyed in short, vivid words. 
The longer words, while they often permit finer shad- 
ing of thought, tend to challenge credibility because 
they are associated with hair-splitting discriminations. 
Such forms of expression are suitable for legal con- 
tracts and, of course, should be used even in business 


correspondence when necessary, but few business 
letters require them. When short words are used, no 
greater number of words is required than when less 
simple diction is employed. On the contrarj^ fewer 
words are required, because the thought is clearer and 
therefore more condensed in its expression. Short 
words and concise expression go together. Lincoln's 
"Gettysburg Address" is a good illustration of this. 

6. Sentence structure. — A subject of considerable 
importance in business English is that of sentence 
structure. The business correspondent should not 
only be able to distinguish between groups of words 
that form a complete thought (or a sentence) and 
groups that do not, but he should also be able to 
understand clearly all the various relationships that 
exist between the words, phrases and clauses of which 
sentences are composed. The main problem in con- 
structing a sentence is to show clearly the right re- 
lationship of the parts of the sentence. This requires 
a logical subordination of ideas — the proper expres- 
sion of coordinate and subordinate relationships. It 
is well always to keep in mind the fact that there are 
numerous connectives in addition to the words "but" 
and "and." Furthermore, it should not be forgotten 
that each one of these connective words is designed to 
indicate a somewhat different kind or degree of re- 
lationship from that indicated by any other connec- 

A thoro sense of the logical relationship of ideas 
within a sentence is the prerequisite to the construe- 


tion of effective sentences. An increased ability to 
express these relationships accurately is the main re- 
sult of a study of rhetoric. Almost any one, no mat- 
ter how well he may write, can improve his style by 
studying a good treatise on the kinds of sentences 
and the varieties of their structure. Mastery of the 
technic of good sentence structure is a distinct asset 
in the art of letter- writing. 

The present treatment of the subject must be 
limited to a brief consideration of unity, coherence, 
and emphasis, which are the terms generally applied 
to good sentence structure. Like good diction, good 
sentence structure is the result of the ability to think 
clearly. This is well emphasized in the summary of a 
chapter on this subject in a college text on English 
Composition,^ part of which is given below: 

Obviously, then, everything goes back to the starting point, 
which is the mind of the writer. In order to write unifiedly, 
coherently, and emphatically, in order to make your thought 
appear on paper as single, clear, and forcible, you must form 
the habit of accurate thinking. It is essential to the whole 
composition, to the paragraph, to the sentence. In the 
sentence, which is the smallest unit of thought, it is to be 
observed with special care. You must cultivate a sense of 
proportion, learn to estimate values, to recognize shades of 
meaning. Train your mind to perform these functions, and 
when you begin to write, the necessary work of construction 
has already been done. You have only to put down in black 
and white what has already been completely planned by the 
faculties of your brain. 

1 "English Composition in Theory and Practice" by Canby and Others. 
Macmillan (1913) p. 150. 


7. Unity. — The authorities on grammar and rhet- 
oric say that every sentence must be unified ; that is, a 
sentence must express one complete thought, and all 
words, phrases, and clauses which are relevant to this 
central thought and necessary for its completeness, 
must be included, while all irrelevant ideas must 
be excluded. The relevancy of any part of a sen- 
tence depends upon how closely it is connected with 
the central thought as well as upon how valuable it 
is in its relation to the completeness of the central 

The business correspondent frequently forgets 
these facts. There is too often a tendency, in dictat- 
ing, to string together thoughts that are not closely 
related to the central idea. This is often due to the 
habit of using long sentences that contain too many 
"ands" and "huts"; and this habit, in turn, is due to 
ignorance or carelessness in regard to the numerous 
connectives that signify various kinds and degrees of 
relationship, as already set forth. The fault can 
really be traced to the lack of clear logical thinking — 
the failure to discriminate between fine shades of 
meaning. The following "sentence" furnishes an ex- 
treme illustration: 

Your order was received on January 1st and we shipped 
the goods on January 5th and our records show that no 
other order came in before the 5th but we shall be glad to 
make sure that your January 1st order is the one we 
shipped and if not a duplicate shipment will go forward im- 


A revision of this sentence in accordance with the 
principle of unity gives us this sentence: 

On January 5th we shipped an order received from you on 
January 1st. Altho our records show that no other order 
came in before the 5th, we shall be glad to make sure that 
your January 1st order is the one we shipped. If not, a 
duplicate shipment will go forward immediately. 

It is equally important that closely related clauses 
and thoughts be included in one sentence. For ex- 
ample, the following "sentences" might better be com- 
bined into one unified sentence: 

The general supply is low. The market price is now some- 
what higher. But we are still selling for immediate ship- 
ment a limited quantity at the old price to a few of our old 

Applying the principle of unity we get this re- 
sult : 

Altho the market price is now somewhat higher because the 
general supply is low, we are still selling for immediate ship- 
ment a limited quantity at the old price to a few of our old 

In this complete thought there is a close causal re- 
lationship which, altho implied in the three separate 
sentences given in the first example, is more clearly 
expressed when the three sentences are combined into 
one and the proper connectives are used. 

8. Coherence, — Coherence is that rhetorical quality 
which a sentence possesses when the parts are ar- 
ranged in the order which gains the greatest possible 

XII — 20 


amount of clearness. This quality is more tangible 
than unity. It may be gained by the application of 
rules. Perhaps the most general of these rules is this : 
All qualifying words, phrases, and clauses should be 
so placed that there will be no doubt as to what part 
of the sentence they are meant to qualify. 

Pronouns and participles are the parts of speech 
which most frequently give trouble. It should be 
made perfectly clear to what word, or words, all pro- 
noims and participles refer. Here is an example of 
vagueness in this respect : 

Mr. Jones saw Mr. Smith before he made out his report. 

In this case it is doubtful which man "he" and "his" 
refer to, unless the reader happens to know which 
man made out the report. In case "he" refers to 
Jones, the sentence could be improved by this ar- 
rangement : 

Before he made out his report, Mr. Jones saw Mr. Smith. 

Or another possible arrangement is this: 

Mr. Jones, before making out his report, saw Mr. Smith. 

Lack of coherence is even better illustrated by a 
sentence like this : 

He is a good executive but only has ten thousand shares 
of common stock now, eliminating him from control of the 
business, as long as the other stockholders are combined 
against him, which is unfortunate for the business. 

Here the precise thought to which "elhninating" 
refers is doubtful. Also, the words "only" and "now" 


are not well placed. Coherence would require some 
such arrangement as follows: 

He is a good executive but now has only ten thousand 
shares of common stock, a fact which, as long as the other 
stockholders are combined against him, will eliminate him 
from control of the business, which is unfortunate for the 

While the antecedents of the pronouns thruout this 
revised sentence are now more clearly indicated, the 
last clause, "which is unfortunate for the business," 
is a thought which seems to stand apart from the 
central idea of this sentence; there is consequently a 
violation of the principle of unity. Greater clearness 
would be gained if this clause were stated as a sepa- 
rate sentence like this: "It is unfortunate for the 
business that he is not now in control of it." Or, 
"His loss of control is unfortunate for the business." 

In the revised form of this sentence, words and 
clauses are placed nearer the word or words to which 
they are closely connected. "He only has ten thou- 
sand shares of common stock now" in the original 
might mean that he alone controls that many shares. 
"Only" refers to "ten thousand shares" not to "he" 
or to "has," while "now" modifies "has." As a gen- 
eral rule, modifying words and phrases ought to be 
placed so that there will be no doubt concerning what 
they modify. That is the main requirement of co- 
herence, as already stated. Sometimes coherence re- 
quires a change in construction rather than a change 


in arrangement, like the change from "eliminating" 
to "a fact which will eliminate." 

The diction in the foregoing sentence might be im- 
proved. For instance, "but now controls^' (or owns, 
as the case might be) would be more definite than 
"has," while "will keep him from control of the busi- 
ness" gives the intended meaning more exactly than 
"will eliminate." 

Still further revision, with a view toward securing 
more exact expression of the meaning, would produce 
this form: 

Altho he is a good executive, all the other stockholders are 
combined against him. Since the common stock he now owns 
— only ten thousand shares — is not a majority, he will lose 
control of the business. This will be unfortunate for the 

9. Emphasis. — The principle of emphasis, if prop- 
erly applied, also helps the writer to make his mean- 
ing clear, and arrangement is one means of applying 
this principle. An emphatic sentence is a sentence so 
constructed that each of the various ideas is given its 
proper importance. The two most emphatic posi- 
tions for words are the beginning and the end of a 
sentence. Within the sentence, the most emphatic 
position is immediately before a long pause ; the longer 
the pause, the more emphatic the position. Some- 
times emphasis is gained by making a separate sen- 
tence of a statement instead of making it one part of 
a long sentence. The last revision of the long sen- 


tence quoted in the preceding section will illustrate 
this point. Another illustration is to be found in 
the unrevised quotation in Section 7, which reads as 
follows : 

The general supply is low. The market price is now some- 
what higher. But we are still selling for immediate shipment 
a limited quantity at the old price to a few of our old 

In this quotation, the fact that the general 
supply is low is emphasized by being placed in a 
separate sentence. To make a separate paragraph 
of it would give it still greater emphasis. The com- 
bination of these three sentences into one, as is done 
for the sake of imity, tends to throw greater em- 
phasis on the fact that a limited quantity is offered 
at the old price. Yet, if the writer desires to empha- 
size the fact that the old price is made notwithstanding 
the fact that the market conditions of supply and 
price are what they are, probably it is better to have 
the three separate statements than the one sentence. 
The logical relationship between the three statements 
is apparent without the aid of connectives. Thus al- 
ways the impression desired governs the application of 
rhetorical principles. 

The last of the three sentences quoted above affords 
a good illustration of emphasis. If it were desired 
to give greater emphasis in this sentence to the fact 
that this price is being made only to a few old cus- 
tomers of the house, and if at the same time it were 
desired to give greater emphasis to the fact that a 


limited quantity is offered at the old price, the sen- 
tence should be worded like this : 

But to a few of our old customers we are still selling for 
immediate shipment a limited quantity at the old price. 

But if "for immediate shipment" were the idea to be 
emphasized, this phrase should be placed in a more 
emphatic position — at the end. 

Emphasis is of great importance in business letters. 
If it is to be secured, a sentence must be so con- 
structed that the important ideas will be readily ap- 
parent to the reader. Emphasis lends force to the 
main points. It is the mechanical substitute for the 
variation in sharpness and stress of tone used by the 
salesman in his selling talk, altho the speaker, as well 
as the writer, can make use of arrangement in secur- 
ing proper emphasis. Emphasis is also gained by 
employing repetition and by giving a considerable 
amount of space to the important ideas, as well as by 
mechanical display, the use of underscoring, capital 
letters, italics, red ink, and so on. 

10. Paragraph structure, — Paragraph structure is 
of less importance in business correspondence than 
sentence structure. The business correspondent does 
not follow literary usage so closely in constructing 
his paragraph as he does in constructing his sentence. 
Yet he can learn much from rhetorical treatments of 
this subject. Paragraphs are complete units of com- 
position. They serve to separate independent 
thoughts that have been sufficiently developed to 


stand alone. The indented first line or the double 
spacing that indicates the beginning of a new para- 
graph warns the reader that a change of thought is 
at hand. It also gives him a resting place, and an 
opportunity to comprehend the completed thought. 
Paragraphs divide the body of a letter into its logical 
parts for the reader's convenience. 

The principles of unity, coherence, and emphasis 
apply also in good paragraph structure, but are fre- 
quently set aside in the composition of the busi- 
ness letter. Yet it is well for a business correspond- 
ent to know what constitutes good paragraph struc- 
ture, the various methods of construction, the impor- 
tance of keeping to one definite subject in each para- 
graph, the art of arranging and connecting sentences 
within the paragraph so that they are closely con- 
nected (coherence) and are therefore easy for the 
reader to follow, and the arrangement by which em- 
phasis is properly distributed. A knowledge of all 
these aspects of paragraph structure is of practical 

The tendency in modern business correspondence 
is in the direction of literary standards of construction. 
Paragraphs in business letters are comparatively 
short however, yet each should be unified and should 
stand alone as representing a complete thought. It 
is often advisable to make a paragraph of a single 
short sentence for the sake of emphasis. Short 
paragraphs make the letter attractive and easy 
to read, but paragraphs in business letters are not 


made short primarily for this purpose. The business 
letter goes directly to the point, is concise, deals in 
plain facts, and therefore lends itself better than lit- 
erary composition to comparatively short paragraphs. 
There is, however, no essential difference between 
good paragraphs in English literature and good para- 
graphs in business letters. 

11. Grammar and rhetoric are specialized subjects. 
— There are many important principles of good sen- 
tence and paragraph structure in addition to those 
mentioned in this and preceding sections. Facility 
in the art of constructing sentences which clearly con- 
vey the writer's meaning, and which make the im- 
pression desired, is increased if the writer makes a 
thoro study of the rhetorical principles of good sen- 
tence structure. 

Grammar and rhetoric are highly specialized sub- 
jects; therefore, as in the case of the more technical 
aspects of credits and collections, any extensive 
treatment of the rules of grammar and rhetoric 
would be outside the range of the subject of this 
volume, which is written with the assumption that the 
reader knows how to write a correct letter. Yet cor- 
rectness, broadly speaking, is a matter of degree. 
The more nearly correct a letter is from the stand- 
point of grammar and rhetoric, the better its chance 
for success, other things being equal. The purpose 
of this chapter, therefore, has been to arouse interest 
in a study of grammar and rhetoric. When studied 
with the end in view of gaining a sharper tool with 


which to carve out more eJBPective letters, grammar 
and rhetoric are not dry subjects, especially as they 
are treated in modern books on business English. 

The author's intention has been to point out some 
of the more important habits of thought and practice 
of many expert correspondents in plying their art, for 
effective letter-writing is a process of thinking. Back 
of good writing for business purposes is good think- 
ing, always — thinking from the reader's point of view. 


What is the importance of a knowledge of the principles of 
grammar and rhetoric for the business correspondent? 

How can a good vocabulary be acquired ? How can one become 
skilled in choosing the right word? 

What aspects of sentence structure are important? 

State the principles of unity, coherence and emphasis in their 
application to sentences and paragraphs. 



1. Purpose of the business report. — Business re- 
ports are usually prepared for a very definite and 
practical purpose at the request of some individual 
or some organization that possesses authority to act 
on the information given or the reconmiendatioiis 
made in the report. It is advisable that the writer 
of the report not only keep constantly in mind his own 
purpose in making the report, but also that he be 
sure that he knows definitely what ultimate use the 
concern will make of it. He must be careful, how- 
ever, not to allow his knowledge of the ultimate use 
of his data to influence him to hand in any information 
that is not entirely accurate. It is by this knowl- 
edge that the writer of the report must guide him- 
self in collecting data, in analyzing and arranging 
facts, and in deciding what form the report shall take 
and what the expression shall be. 

Why is this report wanted? is, then, an important 
question. If a complete and accurate answer can be 
secured before the report is begun, it will be of great 
value in the work of preparation. Now and then, 
however, in order to make it more certain that a dis- 
interested and unbiased report will be submitted, a 
concern will prefer not to answer this question until 



after the report has been turned in. As a rule, it is 
good policy for a firm to give all the information 
it can, from the beginning, since the more the re- 
port-maker knows concerning the concern's needs, 
conditions and policies, the better equipped is he to 
work intelligently for the best interests of the busi- 
ness, and the more likely is it that his report will be 
satisfactory from the standpoint both of substance 
and of style. 

There is no fixed form for a good business report. 
Reports vary in form and method, contents, arrange- 
ment, and so on, primarily according to differences 
in purpose. Yet there are many features which char- 
acterize all reports. It is the aim of this chapter to 
point out some of the more general requirements that 
apply in all kinds of report-making — technical or 
non-technical, personal or impersonal, scientific, 
economic, descriptive, narrative or expositive. 

2. Gathering data. — No matter what kind of re- 
port is to be made, its purpose will determine the 
character of the information that must be gathered. 
If that purpose is to recommend improvement in the 
operation of a department, the report might include 
information concerning the following: present con- 
ditions in the department, both favorable and unfavor- 
able, and the causes of these conditions; past condi- 
tions, the causes that occasioned them; a forecast of 
what the results will be if present conditions continue ; 
and recommendations of changes that would bring 
about the desired improvement. The amount and 


character of information that should be included de- 
pends, of course, upon the ultimate purpose that the 
report is to serv^e. In many cases, the report need be 
only a series of recommendations concerning the im- 
provement of a condition the existence of which is 
well known to the receiver of the report; in other 
cases, it need merely make an impartial and imper- 
sonal statement of facts, without any conclusion or 
recommendations — when that best serves the purpose. 
But in most cases a report consists of definite recom- 
mendations backed up with sufficient data to give the 
reader not only a clear idea of the reasons for the 
recommendations, but also a basis for judging their 
reliability and their practicabihty. 

Gathering and selecting data that wiU serve as the 
basis for a good report is often the most difficult part 
of report making. This problem involves all the 
principles applied in statistical research, which is 
highly specialized work. The report-maker aims to 
secure detailed and accurate information concerning 
the conditions and circumstances in any case, and to 
summarize the facts principally for purposes of com- 
parison — in order that they may serve as dependable 
premises on which accurate conclusions may be 

The most important considerations in gathering 
data are completeness and accuracy. Incomplete- 
ness of data may be in the kinds of facts gathered or 
in the number of cases considered. That is, certain 
facts which would help the concern form its conclusions 


are not considered, or a generalization is made before 
sufficient cases have been considered to make sure of 
the application of the law of averages. Inaccuracies 
may occur in observation of the facts, in their tabula- 
tion, or in their classification. The receiver of the 
report will find it valuable to possess a knowledge of 
the sources of information on which reports are based, 
and of tests that may be used to check the accuracy of 
that information. Such information of the som'ces 
of data and tests for accuracy is often included in the 
report, usually in the introduction, or in the form of 
foot-notes in connection with each unit of data the 
accuracy of which might be questioned. 

3. Preliminary outline. — Careful analysis of the 
problem involved in the report is best made in the 
form of a logical outline. This outline virtually con- 
stitutes a table of contents of the report. The outline 
form is often drawn up before the information neces- 
sary to fill it in is obtained. It is the bird's-eye-view 
of the report, which indicates clearly the broadest 
divisions into which the report itself is divided. The 
subdivision of the report into all its details requires, of 
course, keen appreciation of the purpose of the re- 

If an official of a company were asked to prepare 
for the president Or a board of directors in any busi- 
ness a report designed to throw as much light as pos- 
sible on the problem of improving correspondence 
thruout the organization, his preliminary outline 
might contain the following broad divisions : 


I. Present Conditions . 

II. Possible Improvements 
III. Best Means of Obtaining Improvements. 

What are present conditions? is, logically, the first 
question to be answered. Even tho the reporter 
knows a great deal about present conditions, he must 
make sure that he knows them well enough to criti- 
cize them constructively. Thoro acquaintance with 
present conditions is the first step, and it is a very 
important one. General impressions concerning con- 
ditions are not sufficient; they must be verified. The 
reporter must do as little guessing as possible about 
actual conditions. He must look for excellences as 
well as faults in the present system. When making 
an investigation he usually finds what he looks for. 
Unless he looks for good points as well as bad points, 
and for the causes of both good and bad conditions, 
a one-sided view of the case results and improve- 
ments cannot be so well planned. Improvements 
must be based upon whatever is good as well as bad 
in the system that is being investigated. 

The questionnaire method is a ^ood means of get- 
ting information about present conditions. In this 
case one sets down on paper a set of pertinent ques- 
tions to which written answers are to be given by 
members of the organization who are best qualified to 
answer or he can have personal conferences with these 
members. In general, the less the report-maker is 
dependent on others for his information, the better, 


because "others" are seldom free from a desire to 
make a good showing, and because these same "others" 
are often the originators of faults in the present sys- 

Given the broad, general divisions of a report, as 
above suggested, the construction of the permanent 
outline then becomes a process of logical analysis or 
classification. It is very important that the report 
be unified and that the proper proportion be observed 
— that the less important parts be properly sub- 
ordinated and that the more important parts be given 
due prominence. 

4. Analyzing the data. — Just as the purpose of 
the entire report serves to suggest the broad divisions, 
so the purpose of each main division suggests its sub- 
divisions. Present conditions must be thoroly kno^vn 
in order to make any changes for the better. In the 
case under discussion, improvement hes in two general 
directions: lowering the cost of handling the corre- 
spondence, and increasing the effectiveness of the 
letters. Immediately certain pertinent questions 
about present conditions are suggested: What is 
the cost of handling the correspondence? How does 
this cost compare with that in other businesses? How 
does the cost of correspondence in one department of 
this business compare with the cost in other depart- 
ments? What are the main items of cost in the han- 
dling of the correspondence? How do these items of 
cost compare with the cost of similar items in other 
departments and in other business houses ? And thus, 


by the question method, the problem of cost is an- 
alyzed with a view to finding out whether it may be 
lowered, and if so, where and how. Then questions 
of a similar nature are asked concerning the effective- 
ness of the correspondence: Are the letters effec- 
tive or not? ^Vhy, or why not? On what tests does 
the answer rest? What are the results of the various 
types of letters written in the different departments? 
How do these results compare with those of similar 
letters written by other concerns? If there is any 
difference, what is the explanation? What, in gen- 
eral, constitutes an effective letter? AVhat are the 
most important considerations in effective letter-writ- 
ing? What is the correspondence department's 
weakness and what is its strength? 

Such questions would be the basis of the investiga- 
tion of conditions, and these questions suggest the 
main subdivisions of the report, which might be some- 
what like the following: 

I. Present conditions 

A. General statement of the correspondence methods 

B. General statement of cost 

C. Effectiveness analyzed 

1. Favorable criticisms 

a. General 

b. Types of letters 

c. Departments 

ft. Unfavorable criticisms 

a. General 

b. Types of letters 

c. Departments 


D. Cost analyzed » 

1. Where the cost is low 

a. General 

b. Types of letters 

c. Departments 

2. Where the cost is high 

a. General 

b. Types of letters 

c. Departments 

II. Improvements suggested 

A. General improvements 

B. Departments, or types of letters 

III. "Best Means of Obtaining Improvements" would then 

consist of definite recommendations of the action 
considered necessary to effect the improvements sug- 
gested in Part II. 

The second and third main divisions depend for 
their detailed contents, of course, upon the findings 
that are set down in the first division. 

5. Contents of the report. — The completed outline 
that covers all phases of the investigation and of the 
findings, does not necessarily constitute a good out- 
line of the report itself as it should finally be pre- 
sented. The final outline includes only such matter 
as is necessary for the contents of a report which ade- 
quately fulfils its fundamental purpose. 

Before the report is written, it is well to make sure 
that the final outline is adequate. Usually the first 
draft of this outline ought to be thoroly revised. The 
revision of the outline of a good business report con- 
sists, generally speaking, of adding material neces- 

XII — 21 


sary to promote the success of the report, and of cut- 
ting out material that is unnecessary from the point 
of view of the person or persons to whom the report 
may go. There must often be rearrangement of the 
material if the report is to accomplish its purpose. 
The logical arrangement adopted in solving the prob- 
lem involved in the report is not always the most ef- 
fective arrangement for the report itself. Often it is 
advisable to state recommendations or conclusions at 
some place other than at the end of the report ; at the 
beginning, for instance, or in the body of the report 
following the discussion of the conditions which in the 
opinion of the writer call for a remedy. 

Thus, there is usually considerable difference be- 
tween the preliminary outline of a business report, 
which is designed primarily to help the maker of the 
report, and the outline that is finally presented. That 
is why thoro revision of the preliminary outline is 
essential if the results of the investigation are to be 
made as effective as possible. Another aim of re- 
vision is to insure unity, coherence, and proper em- 

6. Form and expression. — The arrangement of a 
business report is usually designed to economize the 
reader's time. Clear analysis and careful arrange- 
ment of the contents, together with simple expres- 
sion and clear-cut mechanical display, are the prin- 
cipal means to this end. Headings and subheadings 
are inserted, and are distinctly displayed. Form and 
expression are adapted to the reader in as many ways 


as possible in order to gain the greatest clearness and 

Adaptation to the reader may also include the 
"human touches" that add interest — the kind so often 
found in salesmen's reports. The degree of personal 
tone to be used in a report depends on the dignity of 
the subject and the occasion of the report — and espe- 
cially upon the official position of the receiver and the 
business relationship that exists between the maker 
and the receiver of the report. Not all reports need 
be impersonal in tone, but in nearly every case the 
style should be formal and dignified, and the presenta- 
tion should be strictly to the point. As a rule, the 
shorter and the more to the point the report is made, 
the better it serves its purpose. The outline report is 
favored by most executives. When this kind is used, 
figures and facts of a statistical nature are tabulated, 
and for comparative purposes are often presented by 
means of diagrams and charts. 

7. Introduction. — The main title, which clearly de- 
fines the subject of the report and sometimes ex- 
presses its purpose, may be followed by an introduc- 
tion in which may be given the authority by which the 
report is made. This is a more comprehensive state- 
ment of the subject of the report — including any 
limitations of the field covered, or any specific point 
of view adopted — and the methods pursued in gather- 
ing material and the sources of data used. The intro- 
duction may also emphasize the importance of any 
part of the report or of any particular recommenda- 


tion; in short, the introduction to a business report, 
which is usually written after the report has been 
made up, may include any kind of information whicli 
the writer feels would be of value and interest before 
the report itself is read. ISIany business reports are 
saved from misinterpretation and are made more 
effective by the right kind of introduction. Long 
introductions, however, are seldom necessary; usually 
a statement of authorization is sufficient. 

8. Body. — In the body of the report there should 
be as little detail as possible. The amount will depend 
upon how necessary it is to substantiate any informa- 
tion on which conclusions or generahzations are based, 
or to demonstrate the feasibility or practicability of 
constructive recommendations. If the writer is will- 
ing to take full responsibility for his recommenda- 
tions, all he needs to include in his report are these 
recommendations, provided he knows that they will 
be accepted and acted upon favorably. But even 
then, it is usually best to include at least a summary 
of the writer's reasons for his recommendations. It 
is good salesmanship for even a superior officer to in- 
clude in his report to the men under him the reasons 
for his "instructions," as the report would be called 
in this case, altho there is not much difference funda- 
mentally between instructions to inferiors and a re- 
port to superiors. 

Inasmuch as nearly all reports that include recom- 
mendations are written by men who must convince 
the receiver that the recommendations ought to he 


adopted, there is considerable chance for exercising 
good salesmanship in the body of a business report, 
not salesmanship of the emotional or argumentative 
type, perhaps, but the kind of salesmanship involved 
in placing the right facts in the right arrangement 
and display, and with the right kind of expression, 
before the "buyer," so that he will at once be strongly 
inclined to accept the recommendations. As a rule 
the greater the degree of good salesmanship exercised 
in getting out a report — in other words, the more ac- 
curately the writer takes the reader's point of view 
and anticipates what kind of report will best serve the 
interests of the receiver — ^the better will be the re- 
port, at least from the standpoint of effectiveness if 
not from the standpoint of correctness. 

To say that the body of such a report ought to be 
so constructed that it gives only such information as 
is necessary to make the report complete for its pur- 
pose, and so presented that the reader's time will be 
economized as much as possible, is about as far as it 
is safe to go in laying down any general principles. 
A report is a service. The advisability of individual 
adaptation to the needs of its receiver, which vary 
with each case, makes it unwise to recommend a model 
form of report. 

9. Conclusions and recommendations. — It has been 
said that a satisfactory report is a good piece of sales- 
manship. Careful consideration of the reader's in- 
terests is the foundation of the kind of workmanship 
that produces a good report. Salesmanship, there- 


fore, has as much to do with suqcess in making a 
business report, as it has with success in any other 
kind of business activity. "Salesmanship," as used 
here, means the art of causing another person to think 
or feel or act as we desire. It is well for the maker of 
a report to bear this in mind. Whether or not he 
makes any definite recommendations, he has the op- 
portunity to put himself actually in the place of the 
receiver of his report and, taking his point of view, so 
analyze and arrange and present the desired informa- 
tion that his report will yield maximum satisfaction. 

Good salesmanship on the part of the maker of a 
report will first prevent him from making recom- 
mendations that really ought not to go thru, and sec- 
ond, will enable him to get thru recommendations that 
really ought to be adopted. He will not, for instance, 
make the mistake of appearing to be over-eager that 
any of his recommendations be approved, because the 
expression of over-eagerness suggests possible haste 
and doubt, and unwillingness to let the reader make a 
voluntary decision in regard to the action recom- 

Thus do many of the same ideas which apply to the 
writing of effective letters apply also to the writing of 
effective business reports. In fact, a business report 
is essentially a business letter, and often takes that 
form. A business report that begins with a state- 
ment like this, "I hope the board will see fit to ap- 
prove the recommendations made in this report," and 
ends with a similar expression of hope, has about the 


same unfavorable effect on the receiver of the report 
as have such requests at the beginning and end of 
letters. It is best to inject the kind of stuff into the 
body of the report that makes such requests unneces- 
sary. The suggestion of the report-maker's confi- 
dence that his recommendations will be approved is 
better gained by a complete, yet terse, definite, and 
fearless statement of his recommendations. 

Many recommendations are not approved because 
the maker of them failed to anticipate resistances that 
were sure to be offered to their adoption. Resist- 
ance often takes the form of doubt concerning the 
results of the action recommended, or concerning some 
difficulty that would be involved in carrying out the 
recommendations. Such resistances are usually met 
in the body of the report, but it is often advisable 
either to meet them again when the recommenda- 
tion is made at the end of the report; or to make the 
recommendation at the place in the report where it 
will be least likely to meet with resistance, or else to 
refer back to the sections in the report where the re- 
sistance is met. 

In a report on improving the efficiency of corre- 
spondence in an office, for instance, the means of 
making the improvements suggested might well fol- 
low an enumeration of possible improvements, and 
might immediately precede definite, concise and sim- 
ple statements of recommendation. The failure to 
see just how recommendations may be carried out of- 
ten prevents the receiver from accepting them. Thus 


the preliminary outline suggested in Section 3 seems 
to be a fairly good general arrangement for the final 
form of the report. In fact, this arrangement was 
used in a report for a wholesale house and a general 
outline of it is quoted in the following section. 

10. Specimen report. — The following, quotations 
are taken from a report which was based on an in- 
vestigation which covered a period of one year. The 
report is too long to quote as a whole, but enough of 
it is given to illustrate the main features of a good 
business report. The introduction to this report 
reads as follows: 

February 1, 1916. 
To the Board of Directors, 

The Company, 

Gentlemen : 

The following report was prepared at the request of the 

President of the Company, whose letter of request, 

dated January 10, 1915, reads as follows: 

My dear Mr. ; 

The Board of Directors of this company feels that we 
are not paying enough attention to our correspondence, 
that we could do many things to improve the letters that 
go out from this house without adding to the cost of 
them. We have no definite records of the cost of cor- 
respondence. But our main problem is to increase the 
efficiency of all letters that go out. 

From now on, therefore, will you please give all the 
time you can take for it to the solution of this problem. 
Get thoroly acquainted with the situation in all depart- 
ments and from all angles, and let us have a full report 
of present conditions and possible improvements, to- 
gether with definite recommendations. 
Yours very truly. 


This report includes the findings of an investigation which 
had extended over a period of twelve months, since January 
10, 1915. Careful records of cost have been kept in each 
department and numerous tests of efficiency have been ap- 
plied. The nature and results of these records and tests are 
set forth in the first part of this report. The second part 
of the report, beginning on page 28, suggests possible im- 
provements ; the third part, beginning on page 33, is a com- 
plete statement of the means of gaining those improvements, 
with careful estimates of costs and results; while the fourth 
part, beginning on page 45, is a statement of definite recom- 

The undersigned author of this report has secured the co- 
operation of the heads of all departments in its preparation, 
each one of whom has read and approved the recommenda- 
tions herein made. The report therefore represents the com- 
bined findings and judgment of all department heads, whose 
hearty cooperation in carrying out its recommendations is 

Respectfully yours. 

Then follows the title page, which bears a complete 
and definite statement of the subject of the report, 
carefully placed in the center of the page. It reads : 

A Report on the Present Conditions of the Cost and Effi- 
ciency of Correspondence in the Company; Recommen- 
dations of Improvements ; and Suggestions of the Means of 
Carrying Out These Recommendations, with Estimates of 
the Costs and Results. 

Submitted to the Board of Directors of the Com- 
pany, February 1, 1916. Prepared by . 

Pages 2 and 3 following this title page present a 
complete table of contents in outline form. The main 
divisions and subdivisions of this outline follow: 


Present Conditions (General) 
General estimate of efficiency 
Methods of judging efficiency 
General estimate of cost 
^lethods of finding cost 
What is being done to improve correspondence 

Present Conditions (by Departments) 
Order Department 
Traffic Department 
Complaint Department 
Credit Department 
Sales Department 

Merchandise-buying correspondence 
Interdepartment correspondence 

Improvements < 

What has been done in the past 
General supervision of correspondence 
Training correspondents 
Training stenographers 
Better systems 

Means of Gaining Improvements ; Their Cost and Results 
A manager of correspondence 

Type of man needed 

His functions 

Methods of training correspondents 





Methods of training stenographers and typists 






Cost-cutting mechanical system? and devices 
Cost-cutting methods 

Form paragraphs and letters 

Standardized methods 


Appoint a general manager or superintendent of corre- 
Define his duties. « 

As soon as consistent with good work, have him put thru 
as many of the improvements herein suggested as are 
deemed advisable; and let him suggest and put thru 
additional improvements which are approved by the 
President of this company. 
Let him supervise the employment and training of cor- 
respondents, stenographers and typists, in coopera- 
tion with the general office manager. 
Make him responsible to the President of this company 
for the cost and efficiency of correspondence thruout 
this business. 
Make an appropriation of at least $6,000, exclusive of the 
salary of the supervisor of correspondence, to be used 
in defraying the cost of improvements which require 
outside purchases. 

Thus the recommendations for action are definite, 
few, and simple, and they follow the reasons why they 
should be carried out. From the standpoint of good 
salesmanship, it is possible that if "results" had been 
placed before "cost" the section on Improvements 
might have been better. 

In the body of this report as it was written, all divi- 
sions were clearly marked off by headings, which were 
so worded that they clearly indicated the subject mat- 


ter of the division. Page numbers followed the divi- 
sions of the foregoing outline. 


Explain the fundamental purpose of a business report and the 
most important requirements in gathering data. 

What is the purpose of the preliminary outline ? 

How are the contents of a report selected.^ What point of 
view controls the analysis of data ? 

Why and how revise the final outline ? 

What, in general, constitutes good form and expression in the 
introduction and in the body of the report? 

In general, what constitutes a good business report and what 
is the chief factor in its success .'' 


AdjQstment Iietters, 138-57 

Relation to salesmanship, 138-39; 
Right attitude toward addressee, 
139-40; Complaint letters wel- 
comed. 140-42; Mistaken mean- 
ing of courtesy, 142—44; Over- 
anxiety to please, 144—46; Length 
of. 146-47; " Educational " ex 
ample, 147-49: Fair adjustments 
should prevail. 149-51; Building 
of. 151-52; Classifications, 152- 
54; Simple cases, 154—56; List 
of pointers. 156 

Advance Letters, 

Function of. 250 ; Requests for 
salesman, 251 

Beginning of Letter, 

Example of successful, 38; Unsuc- 
cessful, 39 ; Poor introduction, 
44—45 ; Naturalness, 64 ; Busi- 
nesslike openings, 83 ; Personal 
element attracts, 98; Opening of 
a successful letter, 101; Impress- 
ing the reader, 210-12; Selling 
value of, 219-20; Commanding 
belief. 221; Abrupt opening best, 
222-23; Indirect, 223-24; Prob- 
lem of. 225-26; Division of the 
whole, 236 

Building the Letter, 199-236 

Knowledge of principles, 199-200; 
Business experience a fundamen- 
tal requirement, 200-01; Value 
of facts, 202-03, 220; Routine 
letters. 203 ; Forcing impressions, 
204-05; Form letters aided by 
question chart, 205-07, 217; 
Opening paragraphs, 210-12 ; 
Determining arrangement, 212- 
15; Effective closing. 216-17 
Relative values, 219-20; Success 
ful openings, 220-21, 222-23 
Unsuccessful opening, 221-22 
Abrupt opening best, 222-23 
Indirect opening, 223-25; Arous 
ing interest. 225 ; Body of let 
ter, 226—27: Example of success 
ful letter, 227-29; Belief, 229- 
30; Authority, 230-33; Confl- 

Building the Letter — continued 

dence, 233-34; Pitfalls in clos- 
ing, 235-36 

Businesslike Letters, 

Conciseness, and conservative state- 
ments, 49-50; cordial tone, 83- 

Business Reports, 298-316 

Purpose, 298-99; Gathering data, 
considerations in, 299-301 ; Divi- 
sions of preliminarj' outline, 301- 
03; Questionnaire method, 302- 
03: Data analysis, 383-05; Main 
subdivisions, 304—05 ; Contents, 
and revision of outline, 305-06; 
Adaptation of form and expres- 
sion, 306-07; Introduction, 307- 
08; Body detail, 308-09; Recom- 
mendations and resistance to, 
309-11; Specimen report, 312- 

Butler Brothers, 

Suggestions for retail collections, 

Buying Letters, 

Selling attitude in, 128-29; Essen- 
tial details, 129; Difficulty of 
writing, 130-31 


Business letters, 7; Mailing lists, 
22 ; Main divisions of corre- 
spondence, 103—04 ; Difficult 
types, 120; Adjustment of com- 
plaints, 152—54 

Reader's point of view, 53—54; How 
to gain, 54—55 ; In dictating, .66— 

Pitfalls to avoid, 235-36; Compli- 
mentary closings, 278—79 
Collection Letter, 

Example of successful, 27 
See also Credit and Collection Let- 

Adjustment letters and sales, 138— 
39 ; Right attitude, 139-40 ; Rea- 
sons for welcoming, 140-41; 




Complaints — continued 

Courteous replies, illustration, 
142—46; "Customer always 

right," 150-51: Points in an- 
swering, 151-52; Classifications, 
152-54; Delay in transit, 153; 
Adjusting losses, 153; Examples 
of skilful answers, 154—56; Prac- 
tical pointers, 156 


"Down to business," 49-50; Good- 
natured confidence, 84-85 

Concrete Expression, 

Letters to illustrate, 56-60; An- 
ticipating resistance, 59—60; 
Cautious buyers want facts, 70- 
71; Successful example, 91; De- 
layed shipment, 111—12 

Contract Letters, 

Difficult types, 133; Revocation of 
offer, 133-34; Libel laws, 134 
/ Cordiality, 

Favorable returns from, 82-83 


Classification of letters, 7-8; Busi- 
ness and literary English, 52— 
53; Judgment based on, 66; Me- 
chanical form, 267 

Crane Company, 

Booklet for training correspondents, 
180-81, 193 


Relative importance, 40-41; Tell- 
ing the truth, 41-42; Exaggera- 
tion of facts, 42; Commanding 
belief, 42—43 ; Introductions not 
credible, 44—45 ; General state- 
ments, 45 ; Lack of, apparent, 
45-47; Example of lack of, 71- 
73; Building a sales letter, 229- 

Credit and Collection Letters, 158- 
Primary aims of, 159; Diplomacy, 
how effective, 160-63; General' 
requirements for, 163-64; Edu- 
cational influence of, 164-65; 
Discounts, 165-67; Collection 
letters, 167-69; Debtors classi- 
fied, 168-69; Form letters, 169- 
70; Retail accounts, instructions 
for, 171-73; Examples of collec- 
tion letters, with comments, 174- 


Relation to clearness, '47—48; Im- 
portance of, 54-55 ; Example of 
direct presentation, 57-58 

Delayed Shipments, 

Answers illustrated, 110-12; Dif- 
ficult to treat, 120; Hurrying the 
order, examples of, 131-32; Ad- 
justment replies, 143-44, 153; 
Building the letter, 151-52 

Description a Sales Asset, 241-42 


Fundamental requirements, 66-67 

Difficult Letters, 

Classification, 120; Problem of 
handling solved, 120-21 ; Execu- 
tive correspondence, fine exam- 
ple of, 122-23; Instructions to 
employes, 122, 123-25; Inter- 
department and inter-house, 125- 
27; Contract letters, 133-34; 
Form letters for collections, 169— 
See also Adjustment Letters 

Educational Principles, 

Qualifications involved, 190-92 
See also Grammar and Rhetoric 

Effective Letters, 1-15 

Salesmanship influence, 1-3 ; Read- 
er' s point of view, 3-6, 14; 
Business letters classified, 7-8; 
Selling sense, 8; Information 
needed by writer, 9-11; Human 
nature basis, 11—12; Market and 
product, 12—13; Writer's men- 
tal attitude, 13-14; Correspond- 
ents classified, 14 

Effective Letters, Cbaracteristics of, 
Principles applied, 32; Interesting 
the reader, 32-35; Repetition 
dulls effect, 35-36; Timeliness 
more important than routine, 36- 
37; Contents rather than style, 
38; Beginning of letter, 38-39 
Logical connection, 39—40; Credi 
bility secures interest, 40-41 
Gaining the reader's belief 
41-42, 43; Exaggerated state 
ments. 42; The "you" attitude, 
44: Credibility lacking, 44-47 
Definiteness valuable, 47-48 
Courtesy and tact. 48-49; Down 
to business, 49—50 

Effective Presentation, 51-67 

Secondary to the thought, 51; Na- 
ture of, 51-52: Business and lit- 
erary English. 52-53; Clearness, 
rules of arrangement, 53-55; Di- 
rect and simple statements, 55- 
56; Concreteness, 56—60; Per- 



Effective Presentation — continued 

sonality, 60-61; Individuality. 
61-63; Natural expression, 64- 
65 ; Economic use of words, 65— 
66; Correctness, 66; Ability to 
dictate, 66-67 

£xecutive Correspondence, 

Good illustration of, 122-23; With 
employes, 122, 123-25; Formal 
instructions, 127-28 

Heading and Address, 

Punctuation, omission of, 272—73 ; 
When name is obscure, 274 
Human Nature, 

Basis of selling principles, 11—12; 
Psychology, 19; Facts better than 
argument, 70—71; Fundamental 
requirement, 79 ; Knowledge of 
experience, 80 


Forcing interest, 38; Presentation, 
51—52; Increasing use of, 70—71; 
Clear statement of, 77—78; Build- 
ing a letter, 202-03, 220 
Filing Systems, 

Information booklets, 271 
Finding and Following Leads, 237- 

"Quality" defined, 237; Over- 
eagerness not advised, 237-38; 
Form letters, 238-39; Voluntary 
expression of interest, 239—40; 
Securing the order, 240 ; De- 
scriptions that sell, 241—42; 
Sales literature and letters, 242— 
45 ; Inclosures, 246—47 ; Meeting 
obstacles, 248—49 ; Personal sales 
and mail orders, 249—50; Ad- 
vance letters, 250-51; Follow-up 
letters, 251-53; Definite leads, 
Pollow-Up Letters, 

Power of repetition, 251—52; 
Adaptation to classes, 253 ; Mail- 
ing systems for, 263—65 
Foreign Correspondence, 

Importance, 198 
Form Letters, 

Credit standing sought, 160-63 ; 
Collection correspondence, 169— 
71; Suggestions for retail ac- 
counts, 171-78; Finding leads, 
238-40, 254; How regarded, 
246; Advance letters, 250-51; 
Follow-up, 251-53 

Grammar and Rhetoric, 281-297 
Correct English an asset, 281—82 
Errors, technical and non-tech 
nical, 282 ; Words, choice of, 
283-84; Diction, 284-86; Sen 
tence structure, 286—87 ; Unity, 
examples of, 288—89 ; Coherence, 
illustrations of, 289-92 ; Empha 
sis, 292—94; Paragraph strue 
ture, 294—95 ; Specialized sub 
gects, 296-97 


Supplement letters, 241; Selection 
of, 242; Arrangement, 242-43 


Successful answers, 113—14; Sell- 
ing principle involved, 115—18; 
Description that sells, 236-37 

Interesting the Header, 

In case of inquiries, 33 ; Beginning 
of the letter, 34-35, 38-39 ; 
Timely sales letters, 36-37; Log- 
ical connection, 39—40 ; Special 
inducements, 94—98; Human in- 
terest appeal and merchandise, 
97—99; Beginnings of letters at- 
tract, 222-23, 224, 227, 239; 
Description a sales asset, 241— 
42; Real estate letter, 248-49 

Keystone Principle, 

Reader's point of view, 3—7, 12, 


Design and purpose, 270-72 


Methods of handling, 251-53; 
Promptness essential, 252 ; Ex- 
pert assorters, 253 

Mailing Lists, 

Classification principles, 22; Out- 
lining form letters, 69; Knowl- 
edge of list, 262-63 

Manuals of Correspondence, 

Crane Company's booklet, 180—81; 
Conference methods, 186; Educa- 
tional principles, 192—95; Na- 
tional Cloak and Suit Company's 
textbook, 193-97 ; Excerpts from, 
194—95 ; Technical information, 



Market and Product, 

Knowledge of, necessary, 9—10, 12; 
Recognizing addressee's ability, 
Mechanical Form, 267-280 

Correctness valuable, 267; Stand- 
ardization, 268; Originality, 268- 
69; Custom, 269; Letterhead, 
270-72; Heading and address, 
272-74; Title, 274-76; Saluta- 
tion, 276-77; Official business, 
277-78; Close of letter, 278-79 
Merchandise Letters, 

Human interest appeal, 97-98; In- 
y fluencing repeat orders, 99-100; 
Opening paragraph, 101 

Reader's Point of View — continued 

26-27; How to acquire, 28-29; 
Between the lines, 29-30 

Retail Accounts, 

Collection letters for, 171-78; Sug- 
gestions by Butler Brothers, 172- 

Routine Letters, 

Repetition dulls effect, 35-36; What 
constitutes, 104—05; Form para- 
graph principle, 106; Freshness 
of thought, 106-108; Effective 
examples of, 109-10; Miscellane- 
ous types, 118—19 ; Facts to be 
presented, 198 ; Self-question 
chart aids, 200-03 

National Cloak and Suit Company, 
Manual of correspondence, 193—97 

Obvious Conclusions, 

Credibility important, 71—74 

Order Department, 

Routine letters and freshness of 
thought, 108-09 ; Acknowledg- 
ment of order, examples, 109—10; 
Delayed shipments, examples of, 
110—12; Inquiries and answers, 
113-18; Buying letters, 128- 
31 ; Hurrying shipment, 131-32 

Paragraph Structure, 

Importance of, 294-95 ; Literary 
standards, 295 

Salesmanship principles, 61 ; Orig- 
inal presentation, 63 ; Natural 
expression, 64-65, 66; Training 
correspondents, 181—82 
Point of Contact, 

Sustaining interest, 220—21; Exam- 
ple of, 224-25 
Practical Pointers, 

Adjustments, 156 

When to talk, 74-75, 77 

Reader's Point of View, 16-31 

Fundamental to success, 16—17; 
Causes of failure, 17 ; Conditions 
surrounding addressee, 19 ; Letter 
that failed, 20-21; Classified 
mailing list, 22 ; Ideal com- 
binations, 22—24; . Manufacturer 
adopts, 23—24; Successful sales 
letter, 24-26; Collection letter, 

Salesmanship Principles, 

Effect on reader, 1-7, 14; Oral and 
written, 2 ; Selling sense may be 
developed, 8; Human nature, 11- 
12; Based upon service, 17, 18- 
19; Personality of vital signifi 
cance, 61 ; Planning the outline, 
68-69 ; Timely service, 69 ; Facts 
not argument, 70-71; Price talks 
74-75; Examples of, 77-79; Ad 
justment letters, 138 et seq. 


Degrees of formality, 276-77 ; Offi- 
cial letters, 277-78 

Self-Question Chart, 

Plan and illustration, 200-12 ; Use 
of, increases results, 203, 212 

Sentence Structure, 

Relationship of ideas, 286-87 ; 
Clear thinking necessary, 287 ; 
Unity illustrated, 288-89; Co- 
herence, rule and examples, 289- 
91; Revisions, 291-92; Empha- 
sis, how secured, 292—94 

Successful Letters, 

Knowledge necessary, 9—11; Funda- 
mental requirements, 14 ; Em- 
ploye's statement of case, 18—19; 
Sales letter that suggests, 24—25; 
Collection letter, 27 ; Timely let- 
ter, 36—37 ; First paragraph wins, 
38; Sustaining interest, 40; Win- 
ning confidence, 42—43 ; Simple 
and direct statement, 56; Con- 
creteness illustrated, 57-60; Ex- 
ample of originality, 63 ; Natural 
expression, 64, 66; Statement of 
facts wins sales, 77—78; Exam- 
ples of cordiality, 83 ; Concise 
and good-natured, 84—85 ; Defer- 
ential, 86 ; Right degree of hu- 
mility, 87; Appeal that stimulates. 



Successful Letters — continued 

88-89; Letter to "dead ac- 
lounts," 89-90; Lively interest, 
91; Example of long letter, 94— 
97; Merchandise, and personal 
element in, 98-99 ; After the sale, 
100; Answers to inquiry, 113— 
16; Adjusting complaints, 143— 
44, 146, 154—55; Losses adjusted, 
148-49; Credit letter, 162-62; 
Collection form, 170; Forcing im- 
pressions, 204—05 ; Building a 
successful letter, 211—17; Open- 
ing compels interest, 220, 222— 
23, 224; Brings exceptional re- 
turns, 226-29; Illustrating credi- 
bility, 231-34; Description sells 
goods, 241—42 ; Securing interest, 
243—45 ; Resistance overcomtf, 

See also EfFective Letters 

See also Why Letters Make Good 
Superintendent of Correspondence, 

Business program of, 184-85 ; Con- 
ference methods, 185-88; Execu- 
tive supervision, 188-89 
Systems, 256-66 

Handling the mail, 256-57 ; Assort- 
ing, 258; Letter and paragraph 
forms, 259-62; Mailing lists, 
classifications of, 262-63; Follow- 
up systems, 263-66; Filing, 266 

Telegrams, Cablegrams and Wireless 
Messages, Transmission rules gov- 
erning, 134-37 


Successful sales letter, 36-37 ; Co- 
ordinating supply and demand, 
69-70; Naming cost, 74-75; 
Making the appeal, 77; And the 
thought, 92; Answering com- 
plaints, 152 


Use and omission of, 274-75 ; Firm 
names, 275—76 

Training Correspondents, 179-98 
Practice and profit of, 179-81; 
Crane Company's booklet, 180— 
81; Personal note essential, 181- 
82; Standardization, 182-83; 
Qualifications needed, 183—84; 
Program of supervision, 184—85; 
Conference system, 185—88; 
Coaching, 188-89; Reading 
method, 189-90; Educational 
bases for, 190-92; Manuals of in- 
XII— 22 

Training Correspondents — continued 
struction, 192—97 ; Foreign cor- 
respondence, 198 


Gaining the reader's belief, 41-42; 
Example of letter, 42-43 

Types of Letters, 103-37 

General classifications, 103-04; 
Routine letters, 104-08, 119; 
Form paragraphs, 105, 106; Order 
department examples, 108—10; 
Covering delayed shipment, 110— 
12, 131; Exceptions to rules, 
112; Inquiry and answer, 113-^ 
16 ; Concerning delayed ship- 
ments, 120; Problem of difficult 
cases, 120—21; Executive cor- 
respondence, 122-23: Instruc- 
tions to employes, 123—25; Inter- 
departmental and intercompany, 
125-27; Buyers' letters, 128-31; 
Contract letters, 133-34; Tele- 
grams and messages, 134-37 

Unsuccessful Letters, 

Selling plan ineffective, 4; Real 
cause of failure, 17 ; Example of, 
20 ; Wrong beginnings, 39 ; Credi- 
bility lacking, 45—47, 72 ; Lack 
of concreteness illustrated, 56— 
57; Originality essential, 62; Too 
brief, 65 ; Selling rules lacking 
in, 77 ; Efifect of long sentences, 
90—91; Adjustments illustrated, 
145 ; Collection diplomacy, 160— 
61; Lack of credibility, 221 
See also Why Letters Fail 


Accurate thinking, 283 ; Essentials 
in choosing words, 283-84; Cur- 
rent significance of, 284; Sim- 
plicity of diction, 284-86; Modi- 
fying rules, 291 
Why Letters Fail, 68-81 

Salesmanship lacking, 68; Plan, 
definition of, 68-69; Relation of 
demand to supply, 69—70; Cau- 
tious buyers want facts, "70—71; 
Stating conclusions. 71—74; Talk- 
ing price, 74-75; Readers' view- 
point, 75-77 ; Selling rules, 77- 
78; Human nature requirement, 
79, 80 ; Adjustment to reader, ' $ 
Why Letters Make Good, 82-102 

Cordial tone appreciated, 82—84; 
Concise and good-natured letters. 

322 INDEX 

Why Letters Make Good — continued Why Letters Make Good — continued 

84—85; Deference to reader, 85- planning, example of, 93, 94-97; 

87; Recognition of addressee's Merchandise letter and the human 

knowledge, 87; "Vivid expression, appeal, 97—99; Influencing repeat 

87-90; Liveliness, 90-91; orders, 99-100; Effective letters 

Thoughts employed, 92-93; Good an art, 101-02 















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