Two Kinds of E-Mail
The message was not only in serious need of copy editing, but also was mostly gibberish.
A hand-written signature would have helped.
But Olliver Southgate’s e-mail made me wonder: Whatever happened to carefully crafted correspondence from one writer to one reader? I was reminded of Thomas Jefferson who, in his lifetime, authored more than 20,000 letters and received many more. So proud of his correspondence was Jefferson that he painstakingly made copies of every letter he wrote by using a cumbersome polygraph machine patented by John Henry Hawkins in 1803. Jefferson called it “the finest invention of the present age.” (See illustration below.)
Two hundred years later, after 40 years of carefully creating direct mail letters, I have become an epistolatory slob—slamming out short, snappy e-mail notes rather than long, thoughtful letters. I seldom use a salutation, starting instead with body copy. I almost always spell “thanks” as “thanx.”
I personally reply to every letter that comes into this e-zine on an individual basis, using the down-‘n’-dirty format described above.
But what about serious letters that you expect to be downloaded and passed around?
Some examples: The cover letter that accompanies a contract, agreement or resume, any of which may be attached as a PDF?
“A letter should look and feel like a letter,” said the late direct mail guru Dick Benson.
It seems to me that this holds true for e-letters as well as traditional mail—the kind that is delivered by the Postal Service to every address in America five or six days a week.
Rethinking the E-Mail Letter
After completing the paragraph above, I clicked on my Yahoo! in-box and found an e-letter that began “Dear Denny.” Being personalized, with my name, it got my attention.
I looked at the signature block to see from whom it came and it ended, “Sincerely, Shep.”