Replying to letters.
It is impolite to leave letters unanswered for several days, especially if the writers are ladies, or, if men, superior in age or station. Notes of invitation should be replied to within twenty-four hours. Plain white cream-laid notepaper and envelopes should be used, the latter either square or wallet-shaped, but never of the oblong, narrow shape peculiar to business correspondence. The address on the notepaper should be embossed or printed in simple characters, over-ornament being in the worst taste. If the writer is entitled to use a crest, it should be produced as simply as possible, with or without the family motto, and free from the glow of varied colour in which some men and women delight. There are letters whose devices in scarlet and gold are strangely in contrast with the meagre and disappointing character of their contents. They make one think of fried sprats served up on a gold entrée dish.
The addressees name.
The writing should be clear, neat and legible, the ink black. In beginning a letter with Sir or Madam, the omission of the name is remedied by inscribing it in the left-hand corner at the bottom of the note. In commercial correspondence it seems to be the rule to put the name of the addressee just above Dear Sir or Madam.
Enclosing reply envelopes.
Should it be advisable to enclose in any letter an envelope for a reply, ready addressed, it is not good form to put Esq. after ones own name in addressing it.
Addressing married women.
Married women and widows are not addressed by their own Christian names, but by those of their husbands. For instance, no one versed in social forms would write Mrs. Mary Smith, but Mrs. John Smith. Widows of titled men have their Christian name put before their surname, thus, Laura Lady Ledding, Maria Marchioness of Adesbury, Georgina Viscountess Medway, Mary Duchess of Blankton. The unmarried daughters of dukes, marquises, and earls have their Christian name invariably inserted between their courtesy title and surname, as: Lady Mary Baker. When married they retain this form, only substituting the husbands surname for their own, as Lady Mary Garth. But if their husband should be a peer, they merge their courtesy title in his.
Use of the third person.
The third person in correspondence is falling considerably into disuse, and presenting compliments is almost obsolete. Invitations of a formal kind, and their replies, are couched in the third person, but for purposes of correspondence with strangers it is almost always better to use the first person. The exception is in replying to a letter written in the third person, when it is in better taste to reply in the same way. The third person is also used in writing to tradespeople: Mr. Edlicott will feel obliged if Mr. Jones will kindly call on Thursday morning with reference to some repairs. In this case the reply would be written in the first person.
Letters of introduction.
A call must precede invitations.
Letters of introduction, says La Fontaine, are drafts that must be cashed at sight. They are sometimes difficult to write, especially if they have been asked for, not volunteered. They are always left unsealed, but should there be circumstances about the person introduced which the other party should know, it is well to communicate them in a private letter, which should be despatched so as to arrive before the
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