How to Write Letters (Formerly The Book of Letters) - A Complete Guide to Correct Business and Personal Correspondence
by Mary Owens Crowther
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A Complete Guide to Correct Business and Personal Correspondence







The forms for engraved invitations, announcements, and the like, and the styles of notepapers, addresses, monograms, and crests are by courtesy of the Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company, Brentano's, and The Gorham Company. The Western Union Telegraph Company has been very helpful in the chapter on telegrams.
















PAGE In the business letterhead appear the name of the firm, its address, and the kind of business engaged in 11

Letterheads used by a life insurance company, a law firm, and three associations 13

In the case of widely known firms, or where the name of the firm itself indicates it, reference to the nature of the business is often omitted from letterheads 14

Specimens of letterheads used for official stationery 27

As to the use of the symbol "&" and the abbreviation of the word "Company," the safest plan in writing to a company is to spell its name exactly as it appears on its letterhead 42

Specimen of formal wedding invitation 48

Specimens of formal invitations to a wedding reception 51

Specimen of wedding announcement 54

Specimens of formal dinner invitations 60

Specimens of formal invitations "to meet" 63

Specimens of formal invitations to a dance 68

Specimens of business letterheads 140

Arrangement of a business letter (block form) 144

Arrangement of a business letter (indented form) 145

Specimens of business letterheads used by English firms 207

Specimens of addressed social stationery 259

Specimens of addressed social stationery 260

The monograms in the best taste are the small round ones, but many pleasing designs may be had in the diamond, square, and oblong shapes 262

Specimens of crested letter and notepaper 263

Specimens of monogrammed stationery 266

Specimens of business letterheads 267

Department stores and firms that write many letters to women often employ a notepaper size 270

Specimens of stationery used by men for personal business letters 271




It is not so long since most personal letters, after an extremely formal salutation, began "I take my pen in hand." We do not see that so much nowadays, but the spirit lingers. Pick up the average letter and you cannot fail to discover that the writer has grimly taken his pen in hand and, filled with one thought, has attacked the paper. That one thought is to get the thing over with.

And perhaps this attitude of getting the thing over with at all costs is not so bad after all. There are those who lament the passing of the ceremonious letter and others who regret that the "literary" letter—the kind of letter that can be published—is no longer with us. But the old letter of ceremony was not really more useful than a powdered wig, and as for the sort of letter that delights the heart and lightens the labor of the biographer—well, that is still being written by the kind of person who can write it. It is better that a letter should be written because the writer has something to say than as a token of culture. Some of the letters of our dead great do too often remind us that they were not forgetful of posterity.

The average writer of a letter might well forget culture and posterity and address himself to the task in hand, which, in other than the most exceptional sort of letter, is to say what he has to say in the shortest possible compass that will serve to convey the thought or the information that he wants to hand on. For a letter is a conveyance of thought; if it becomes a medium of expression it is less a letter than a diary fragment.

Most of our letters in these days relate to business affairs or to social affairs that, as far as personality is concerned, might as well be business. Our average letter has a rather narrow objective and is not designed to be literature. We may, it is true, write to cheer up a sick friend, we may write to tell about what we are doing, we may write that sort of missive which can be classified only as a love letter—but unless such letters come naturally it is better that they be not written. They are the exceptional letters. It is absurd to write them according to rule. In fact, it is absurd to write any letter according to rule. But one can learn the best usage in correspondence, and that is all that this book attempts to present.

The heyday of letter writing was in the eighteenth century in England. George Saintsbury, in his interesting "A Letter Book," says:

"By common consent of all opinion worth attention that century was, in the two European literatures which were equally free from crudity and decadence—French and English—the very palmiest day of the art. Everybody wrote letters, and a surprising number of people wrote letters well. Our own three most famous epistolers of the male sex, Horace Walpole, Gray, and Cowper—belong wholly to it; and 'Lady Mary'—our most famous she-ditto—belongs to it by all but her childhood; as does Chesterfield, whom some not bad judges would put not far if at all below the three men just mentioned. The rise of the novel in this century is hardly more remarkable than the way in which that novel almost wedded itself—certainly joined itself in the most frequent friendship—to the letter-form. But perhaps the excellence of the choicer examples in this time is not really more important than the abundance, variety, and popularity of its letters, whether good, indifferent, or bad. To use one of the informal superlatives sanctioned by familiar custom it was the 'letter-writingest' of ages from almost every point of view. In its least as in its most dignified moods it even overflowed into verse if not into poetry as a medium. Serious epistles had—of course on classical models—been written in verse for a long time. But now in England more modern patterns, and especially Anstey's New Bath Guide, started the fashion of actual correspondence in doggerel verse with no thought of print—a practice in which persons as different as Madame d'Arblay's good-natured but rather foolish father, and a poet and historian like Southey indulged; and which did not become obsolete till Victorian times, if then."

There is a wide distinction between a letter and an epistle. The letter is a substitute for a spoken conversation. It is spontaneous, private, and personal. It is non-literary and is not written for the eyes of the general public. The epistle is in the way of being a public speech—an audience is in mind. It is written with a view to permanence. The relation between an epistle and a letter has been compared to that between a Platonic dialogue and a talk between two friends. A great man's letters, on account of their value in setting forth the views of a school or a person, may, if produced after his death, become epistles. Some of these, genuine or forgeries, under some eminent name, have come down to us from the days of the early Roman Empire. Cicero, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, are the principal names to which these epistles, genuine and pseudonymous, are attached.

Some of the letters of Cicero are rather epistles, as they were intended for the general reader.

The ancient world—Babylonia, Assyria, Egypt, Rome, and Greece—figures in our inheritance of letters. In Egypt have been discovered genuine letters. The papyrus discoveries contain letters of unknowns who had no thought of being read by the general public.

During the Renaissance, Cicero's letters were used as models for one of the most common forms of literary effort. There is a whole literature of epistles from Petrarch to the Epistolae obscurorum virorum. These are, to some degree, similar to the Epistles of Martin Marprelate.

Later epistolary satires are Pascal's "Provincial Letters," Swift's "Drapier Letters," and the "Letters of Junius."

Pope, soon to be followed by Lady Mary Montagu, was the first Englishman who treated letter writing as an art upon a considerable scale.

Modern journalism uses a form known as the "open letter" which is really an epistle.

But we are not here concerned with the letter as literature.



No one can go far wrong in writing any sort of letter if first the trouble be taken to set out the exact object of the letter. A letter always has an object—otherwise why write it? But somehow, and particularly in the dictated letter, the object frequently gets lost in the words. A handwritten letter is not so apt to be wordy—it is too much trouble to write. But a man dictating may, especially if he be interrupted by telephone calls, ramble all around what he wants to say and in the end have used two pages for what ought to have been said in three lines. On the other hand, letters may be so brief as to produce an impression of abrupt discourtesy. It is a rare writer who can say all that need be said in one line and not seem rude. But it can be done.

The single purpose of a letter is to convey thought. That thought may have to do with facts, and the further purpose may be to have the thought produce action. But plainly the action depends solely upon how well the thought is transferred. Words as used in a letter are vehicles for thought, but every word is not a vehicle for thought, because it may not be the kind of word that goes to the place where you want your thought to go; or, to put it another way, there is a wide variation in the understanding of words. The average American vocabulary is quite limited, and where an exactly phrased letter might completely convey an exact thought to a person of education, that same letter might be meaningless to a person who understands but few words. Therefore, it is fatal in general letter writing to venture into unusual words or to go much beyond the vocabulary of, say, a grammar school graduate. Statistics show that the ordinary adult in the United States—that is, the great American public—has either no high school education or less than a year of it. You can assume in writing to a man whom you do not know and about whom you have no information that he has only a grammar school education and that in using other than commonplace words you run a double danger—first, that he will not know what you are talking about or will misinterpret it; and second, that he will think you are trying to be highfalutin and will resent your possibly quite innocent parade of language.

In a few very effective sales letters the writers have taken exactly the opposite tack. They have slung language in the fashion of a circus publicity agent, and by their verbal gymnastics have attracted attention. This sort of thing may do very well in some kinds of circular letters, but it is quite out of place in the common run of business correspondence, and a comparison of the sales letters of many companies with their day-to-day correspondence shows clearly the need for more attention to the day-to-day letter. A sales letter may be bought. A number of very competent men make a business of writing letters for special purposes. But a higher tone in general correspondence cannot be bought and paid for. It has to be developed. A good letter writer will neither insult the intelligence of his correspondent by making the letter too childish, nor will he make the mistake of going over his head. He will visualize who is going to receive his letter and use the kind of language that seems best to fit both the subject matter and the reader, and he will give the fitting of the words to the reader the first choice.

There is something of a feeling that letters should be elegant—that if one merely expresses oneself simply and clearly, it is because of some lack of erudition, and that true erudition breaks out in great, sonorous words and involved constructions. There could be no greater mistake. The man who really knows the language will write simply. The man who does not know the language and is affecting something which he thinks is culture has what might be called a sense of linguistic insecurity, which is akin to the sense of social insecurity. Now and again one meets a person who is dreadfully afraid of making a social error. He is afraid of getting hold of the wrong fork or of doing something else that is not done. Such people labor along frightfully. They have a perfectly vile time of it, but any one who knows social usage takes it as a matter of course. He observes the rules, not because they are rules, but because they are second nature to him, and he shamelessly violates the rules if the occasion seems to warrant it. It is quite the same with the letter. One should know his ground well enough to do what one likes, bearing in mind that there is no reason for writing a letter unless the objective is clearly defined. Writing a letter is like shooting at a target. The target may be hit by accident, but it is more apt to be hit if careful aim has been taken.



The mechanical construction of a letter, whether social, friendly, or business, falls into six or seven parts. This arrangement has become established by the best custom. The divisions are as follows:

1. Heading 2. Inside address (Always used in business letters but omitted in social and friendly letters) 3. Salutation 4. Body 5. Complimentary close 6. Signature 7. Superscription


The heading of a letter contains the street address, city, state, and the date. The examples below will illustrate:

2018 Calumet Street or 1429 Eighth Avenue Chicago, Ill. New York, N.Y. May 12, 1921 March 8, 1922

When the heading is typewritten or written by hand, it is placed at the top of the first letter sheet close to the right-hand margin. It should begin about in the center, that is, it should extend no farther to the left than the center of the page. If a letter is short and therefore placed in the center of a page, the heading will of course be lower and farther in from the edge than in a longer letter. But it should never be less than an inch from the top and three quarters of an inch from the edge.

In the business letterhead appear the name of the firm, its address, and the kind of business engaged in. The last is often omitted in the case of widely known firms or where the nature of the business is indicated by the name of the firm.

In the case of a printed or engraved letterhead, the written heading should consist only of the date. The printed date-line is not good. To mix printed and written or typed characters detracts from the neat appearance of the letter.

In social stationery the address, when engraved, should be about three quarters of an inch from the top of the sheet, either in the center or at the right-hand corner. When the address is engraved, the date may be written at the end of the last sheet, from the left-hand corner, directly after the signature.


In social correspondence what is known as the inside address is omitted. In all business correspondence it is obviously necessary. The name and address of the person to whom a business letter is sent is placed at the left-hand side of the letter sheet below the heading, about an inch from the edge of the sheet, that is, leaving the same margin as in the body of the letter. The distance below the heading will be decided by the length and arrangement of the letter. The inside address consists of the name of the person or of the firm and the address. The address should comprise the street number, the city, and the state. The state may, in the case of certain very large cities, be omitted. Either of the following styles may be used—the straight edge or the diagonal:

Wharton & Whaley Co. Madison Avenue & Forty-Fifth Street New York, N. Y.


Wharton & Whaley Co. Madison Avenue & Forty-Fifth Street New York, N. Y.

Punctuation at the ends of the lines of the heading and the address may or may not be used. There is a growing tendency to omit it.

The inside address may be written at the end of the letter, from the left, below the signature. This is done in official letters, both formal and informal. These official letters are further described under the heading "Salutation" and in the chapter on stationery.


Social Letters

The salutation, or complimentary address to the person to whom the letter is written, in a social letter should begin at the left-hand side of the sheet about half an inch below the heading and an inch from the edge of the paper. The form "My dear" is considered in the United States more formal than "Dear." Thus, when we write to a woman who is simply an acquaintance, we should say "My dear Mrs. Evans." If we are writing to someone more intimate we should say "Dear Mrs. Evans." The opposite is true in England—that is, "My dear Mrs. Evans" would be written to a friend and "Dear Mrs. Evans" to a mere acquaintance. In writing to an absolute stranger, the full name should be written and then immediately under it, slightly to the right, "Dear Madam" or "Dear Sir." For example:

Mrs. John Evans, Dear Madam:


Mr. William Sykes, Dear Sir:

The salutation is followed by a colon or a comma.

Business Letters

In business letters the forms of salutation in common use are: "Dear Sir," "Gentlemen," "Dear Madam," and "Mesdames." In the still more formal "My dear Sir" and "My dear Madam" note that the second word is not capitalized. A woman, whether married or unmarried, is addressed "Dear Madam." If the writer of the letter is personally acquainted with the person addressed, or if they have had much correspondence, he may use the less formal address, as "My dear Mr. Sykes."

The salutation follows the inside address and preserves the same margin as does the first line of the address. The following are correct forms:

White Brothers Co. 591 Fifth Avenue New York



White Brothers Co. 591 Fifth Avenue New York


"Dear Sirs" is no longer much used—although in many ways it seems to be better taste.

In the case of a firm or corporation with a single name, as Daniel Davey, Inc., or of a firm or corporation consisting of men and women, the salutation is also "Gentlemen" (or "Dear Sirs"). In letters to or by government officials the extremely formal "Sir" or "Sirs" is used. These are known as formal official letters.

The informal official letter is used between business men and concerns things not in the regular routine of business affairs. These letters are decidedly informal and may be quite conversational in tone.

The use of a name alone as a salutation is not correct, as:

Mr. John Evans: I have your letter of—

Forms of salutation to be avoided are "Dear Miss," "Dear Friend," "Messrs."

In memoranda between members of a company the salutations are commonly omitted—but these memoranda are not letters. They are messages of a "telegraphic" nature.


In the matter of titles it has been established by long custom that a title of some kind be used with the name of the individual or firm. The more usual titles are:

"Mr.," "Mrs.," "Miss," "Messrs.," "Reverend," "Doctor," "Professor," and "Honorable." "Esquire," written "Esq." is used in England instead of the "Mr." in common use in the United States. Although still adhered to by some in this country, its use is rather restricted to social letters. Of course it is never used with "Mr." Write either "Mr. George L. Ashley" or "George L. Ashley, Esq."

The title "Messrs." is used in addressing two or more persons who are in business partnership, as "Messrs. Brown and Clark" or "Brown & Clark"; but The National Cash Register Company, for example, should not be addressed "Messrs. National Cash Register Company" but "The National Cash Register Company." The form "Messrs." is an abbreviation of "Messieurs" and should not be abbreviated in any way other than "Messrs." The title "Miss" is not recognized as an abbreviation and is not followed by a period.

Honorary degrees, such as "M.D.," "Ph.D.," "M.A.," "B.S.," "LL.D.," follow the name of the person addressed. The initials "M.D." must not be used in connection with "Doctor" as this would be a duplication. Write either "Dr. Herbert Reynolds" or "Herbert Reynolds, M.D." The titles of "Doctor," "Reverend," and "Professor" precede the name of the addressed, as: "Dr. Herbert Reynolds," "Rev. Philip Bentley," "Prof. Lucius Palmer." It will be observed that these titles are usually abbreviated on the envelope and in the inside address, but in the salutation they must be written out in full, as "My dear Doctor," or "My dear Professor." In formal notes one writes "My dear Doctor Reynolds" or "My dear Professor Palmer." In less formal notes, "Dear Doctor Reynolds" and "Dear Professor Palmer" may be used.

A question of taste arises in the use of "Doctor." The medical student completing the studies which would ordinarily lead to a bachelor's degree is known as "Doctor," and the term has become associated in the popular mind with medicine and surgery. The title "Doctor" is, however, an academic distinction, and although applied to all graduate medical practitioners is, in all other realms of learning, a degree awarded for graduate work, as Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), or for distinguished services that cause a collegiate institution to confer an honorary degree such as Doctor of Common Law (D.C.L.), Doctor of Law and Literature (LL.D.), Doctor of Science (Sc.D.), and so on. Every holder of a doctor's degree is entitled to be addressed as "Doctor," but in practice the salutation is rarely given to the holders of the honorary degrees—mostly because they do not care for it.

Do not use "Mr." or "Esq." with any of the titles mentioned above.

The President of the United States should be addressed formally as "Sir," informally as "My dear Mr. President."

Members of Congress and of the state legislatures, diplomatic representatives, judges, and justices are entitled "Honorable," as "Honorable Samuel Sloane," thus:

(Formal) Honorable (or Hon.) John Henley Sir:

(Informal) Honorable (or Hon.) John Henley My dear Mr. Henley:

Titles such as "Cashier," "Secretary," and "Agent" are in the nature of descriptions and follow the name; as "Mr. Charles Hamill, Cashier."

When such titles as "Honorable" and "Reverend" are used in the body of the letter they are preceded by the article "the." Thus, "The Honorable Samuel Sloane will address the meeting."

A woman should never be addressed by her husband's title. Thus the wife of a doctor is not "Mrs. Dr. Royce" but "Mrs. Paul Royce." The titles of "Judge," "General," and "Doctor" belong to the husband only. Of course, if a woman has a title of her own, she may use it. If she is an "M.D." she will be designated as "Dr. Elizabeth Ward." In this case her husband's Christian name would not be used.

In writing to the clergy, the following rules should be observed:

For a Cardinal the only salutation is "Your Eminence." The address on the envelope should read "His Eminence John Cardinal Farley."

To an Archbishop one should write "Most Rev. Patrick J. Hayes, D.D., Archbishop of New York." The salutation is usually "Your Grace," although it is quite admissible to use "Dear Archbishop." The former is preferable and of more common usage.

The correct form of address for a Bishop is "The Right Reverend John Jones, D.D., Bishop of ——." The salutation in a formal letter should be "Right Reverend and dear Sir," but this would be used only in a strictly formal communication. In this salutation "dear" is sometimes capitalized, so that it would read "Right Reverend and Dear Sir"; although the form in the text seems preferable, some bishops use the capitalized "Dear." The usual form is "My dear Bishop," with "The Right Reverend John Jones, D.D., Bishop of ——" written above it. In the Protestant Episcopal Church a Dean is addressed "The Very Reverend John Jones, D.D., Dean of ——." The informal salutation is "My dear Dean Jones" and the formal is "Very Reverend and dear Sir."

In addressing a priest, the formal salutation is "Reverend and dear Sir," or "Reverend dear Father." The envelope reads simply: "The Rev. Joseph J. Smith," followed by any titles the priest may enjoy.

The form used in addressing the other clergy is "The Reverend John Jones," and the letter, if strictly formal, would commence with "Reverend and Dear Sir." The more usual form, however, is "My dear Mr. Brown" (or "Dr. Brown," as the case may be). The use of the title "Reverend" with the surname only is wholly inadmissible.

In general usage the salutation in addressing formal correspondence to a foreign ambassador is "His Excellency," to a Minister or Charge d'Affaires, "Sir." In informal correspondence the general form is "My dear Mr. Ambassador," "My dear Mr. Minister," or "My dear Mr. Charge d'Affaires."


In the placing of a formal note it must be arranged so that the complete note appears on the first page only. The social letter is either formal or informal. The formal letter must be written according to certain established practice. It is the letter used for invitations to formal affairs, for announcements, and for the acknowledgment of these letters. The third person must always be used. If one receives a letter written in the third person one must answer in kind. It would be obviously incongruous to write

Mr. and Mrs. John Evans regret that we are unable to accept Mrs. Elliott's kind invitation for the theatre on Thursday, May the fourth as we have a previous engagement

It should read

Mr. and Mrs. John Evans regret that they are unable to accept Mrs. Elliott's kind invitation for the theatre on Thursday, May the fourth as they have a previous engagement

In these notes, the hour and date are never written numerically but are spelled out.

If the family has a coat-of-arms or crest it may be used in the centre of the engraved invitation at the top, but monograms or stamped addresses are never so used.

For the informal letter there are no set rules except that of courtesy, which requires that we have our thought distinctly in mind before putting it on paper. It may be necessary to pause a few moments before writing, to think out just what we want to say. A rambling, incoherent letter is not in good taste any more than careless, dishevelled clothing. Spelling should be correct. If there is any difficulty in spelling, a small dictionary kept in the desk drawer is easily consulted. Begin each sentence with a capital. Start a new paragraph when you change to a new subject. Put periods (or interrogation points as required) at the ends of the sentences. It is neater to preserve a margin on both sides of the letter sheet.

In the body of a business letter the opening sentence is in an important position, and this is obviously the place for an important fact. It ought in some way to state or refer to the subject of or reason for the letter, so as to get the attention of the reader immediately to the subject.

It ought also to suggest a courteous personal interest in the recipient's business, to give the impression of having to do with his interests. For instance, a reader might be antagonized by

Yours of the 14th regarding the shortage in your last order received.

How much more tactful is

We regret to learn from your letter of March 14th that there was a shortage in your last order.

Paragraphs should show the division of the thought of the letter. If you can arrange and group your subjects and your thoughts on them logically in your mind, you will have no trouble in putting them on paper. It is easier for the reader to grasp your thought if in each paragraph are contained only one thought and the ideas pertaining to it.

The appearance of a business letter is a matter to which all too little concern has been given. A firm or business which would not tolerate an unkempt salesman sometimes will think nothing of sending out badly typed, badly placed, badly spelled letters.

The first step toward a good-looking letter is proper stationery, though a carefully typed and placed letter on poor stationery is far better than one on good stationery with a good letterhead but poor typing and placing.

The matter of correct spelling is merely a case of the will to consult a dictionary when in doubt.

The proper placing of a letter is something which well rewards the care necessary at first. Estimate the matter to go on the page with regard to the size of the page and arrange so that the centre of the letter will be slightly above the centre of the letter sheet. The margins should act as a frame or setting for the letter. The left-hand space should be at least an inch and the right-hand at least a half inch. Of course if the letter is short the margins will be wider. The top and bottom margins should be wider than the side margins.

The body of the letter should begin at the same distance from the edge as the first line of the inside address and the salutation.

All paragraphing should be indicated by indenting the same distances from the margin—about an inch—or if the block system is used no paragraph indentation is made but double or triple spacing between the paragraphs indicates the divisions. If the letter is handwritten, the spacing between the paragraphs should be noticeably greater than that between other lines.

Never write on both sides of a sheet. In writing a business letter, if the letter requires more than one page, use plain sheets of the same size and quality without the letterhead. These additional sheets should be numbered at the top. The name or initials of the firm or person to whom the letter is going should also appear at the top of the sheets. This letter should never run over to a second sheet if there are less than three lines of the body of the letter left over from the first page.

In the formal official letter, that is, in letters to or by government officials, members of Congress, and other dignitaries, the most rigid formality in language is observed. No colloquialisms are allowed and no abbreviations.


The complimentary close follows the body of the letter, about two or three spaces below it. It begins about in the center of the page under the body of the letter. Only the first word should be capitalized and a comma is placed at the end. The wording may vary according to the degree of cordiality or friendship. In business letters the forms are usually restricted to the following:

Yours truly (or) Truly yours (not good form) Yours very truly (or) Very truly yours Yours respectfully (or) Respectfully yours Yours very respectfully.

If the correspondents are on a more intimate basis they may use

Faithfully yours Cordially yours Sincerely yours.

In formal official letters the complimentary close is

Respectfully yours Yours respectfully.

The informal social letter may close with

Yours sincerely Yours very sincerely Yours cordially Yours faithfully Yours gratefully (if a favor has been done) Yours affectionately Very affectionately yours Yours lovingly Lovingly yours.

The position of "yours" may be at the beginning or at the end, but it must never be abbreviated or omitted.

If a touch of formal courtesy is desired, the forms "I am" or "I remain" may be used before the complimentary closing. These words keep the same margin as the paragraph indenting. But in business letters they are not used.


The signature is written below the complimentary close and a little to the right, so that it ends about at the right-hand margin. In signing a social letter a married woman signs herself as "Evelyn Rundell," not "Mrs. James Rundell" nor "Mrs. Evelyn Rundell." The form "Mrs. James Rundell" is used in business letters when the recipient might be in doubt as to whether to address her as "Mrs." or "Miss." Thus a married woman would sign such a business letter:

Yours very truly, Evelyn Rundell (Mrs. James Rundell).

An unmarried woman signs as "Ruth Evans," excepting in the case of a business letter where she might be mistaken for a widow. She then prefixes "Miss" in parentheses, as (Miss) Ruth Evans.

A woman should not sign only her given name in a letter to a man unless he is her fiance or a relative or an old family friend.

A widow signs her name with "Mrs." in parentheses before it, as (Mrs.) Susan Briggs Geer.

A divorced woman, if she retains her husband's name, signs her letters with her given name and her own surname followed by her husband's name, thus:

Janet Hawkins Carr.

and in a business communication:

Janet Hawkins Carr (Mrs. Janet Hawkins Carr).

A signature should always be made by hand and in ink. The signature to a business letter may be simply the name of the writer. Business firms or corporations have the name of the firm typed above the written signature of the writer of the letter. Then in type below comes his official position. Thus:

Hall, Haines & Company (typewritten) Alfred Jennings (handwritten) Cashier (typewritten).

If he is not an official, his signature is preceded by the word "By."

In the case of form letters or routine correspondence the name of the person directly responsible for the letter may be signed by a clerk with his initials just below it. Some business firms have the name of the person responsible for the letter typed immediately under the name of the firm and then his signature below that. This custom counteracts illegibility in signatures.

In circular letters the matter of a personal signature is a very important one. Some good points on this subject may be gathered from the following extract from Printers' Ink.

Who shall sign a circular letter depends largely on circumstances entering individual cases. Generally speaking, every letter should be tested on a trial list before it is sent out in large quantities. It is inadvisable to hazard an uncertain letter idea on a large list until the value of the plan, as applied to that particular business, has been tried out.

There are certain things about letter procedure, however, that experience has demonstrated to be fundamental. One of these platforms is that it is best to sign the letter with some individual's name. Covering up the responsibility for the letter with such a general term as "sales department" or "advertising department" takes all personality out of the missive and to that extent weakens the power of the message. But even in this we should be chary of following inflexible rules. We can conceive of circumstances where it would be advisable to have the letter come from a department rather than from an individual.

Of course the management of many business organizations still holds that all letters should be signed by the company only. If the personal touch is permitted at all, the extent of it is to allow the writer of the letter to subscribe his initials. This idea, however, is pretty generally regarded as old-fashioned and is fast dying out.

Most companies favor the plan of having the head of the department sign the circular letters emanating from his department. If he doesn't actually dictate the letter himself, no tell-tale signs such as the initials of the actual dictator should be made. If it is a sales matter, the letter would bear the signature of the sales manager. If the communication pertained to advertising, it would be signed by the advertising manager. Where it is desired to give unusual emphasis to the letter, it might occasionally be attributed to the president or to some other official higher up. The big name idea should not be overdone. People will soon catch on that the president would not have time to answer all of the company's correspondence. If he has, it is evident that a very small business must be done.

A better idea that is coming into wide vogue is to have the letter signed by the man in the company who comes into occasional personal contact with the addressee. One concern has the house salesman who waits on customers coming from that section of the country when they visit headquarters sign all promotion letters going to them. The house salesman is the only one in the firm whom the customer knows. It is reasoned that the latter will give greater heed to a letter coming from a man with whom he is on friendly terms. Another company has its branch managers take the responsibility for circular letters sent to the trade in that territory. Another manufacturer has his salesmen bunched in crews of six. Each crew is headed by a leader. This man has to sell, just as his men do, but in addition he acts as a sort of district sales manager. All trade letters going out in his district carry the crew leader's signature.

There is much to be said in favor of this vogue. Personal contact is so valuable in all business transactions that its influence should be used in letters, in so far as it is practicable to do so.

The signature should not vary. Do not sign "G. Smith" to one letter, "George Smith" to another, and "G. B. Smith" to a third.

A man should never prefix to his signature any title, as "Mr.," "Prof.," or "Dr."

A postscript is sometimes appended to a business letter, but the letters "P.S." do not appear. It is not, however, used as formerly—to express some thought which the writer forgot to include in the letter, or an afterthought. But on account of its unique position in the letter, it is used to place special emphasis on an important thought.


In the outside address or superscription of a letter the following forms are observed:

A letter to a woman must always address her as either "Mrs." or "Miss," unless she is a professional woman with a title such as "Dr." But this title is used only if the letter is a professional one. It is not employed in social correspondence. A woman is never addressed by her husband's title, as "Mrs. Captain Bartlett."

A married woman is addressed with "Mrs." prefixed to her husband's name, as "Mrs. David Greene." This holds even if her husband is dead.

A divorced woman is addressed (unless she is allowed by the courts to use her maiden name) as "Mrs." followed by her maiden name and her former husband's surname, as: "Mrs. Edna Boyce Blair," "Edna Boyce" being her maiden name.

A man should be given his title if he possess one. Otherwise he must be addressed as "Mr." or "Esq."

Titles of those holding public office, of physicians, of the clergy, and of professors, are generally abbreviated on the envelope except in formal letters.

It is rather customary to address social letters to "Edward Beech, Esq.," business letters to "Mr. Edward Beech," and a tradesman's letter to "Peter Moore." A servant is addressed as "William White."

The idea has arisen, and it would seem erroneous, that if the man addressed had also "Sr." or "Jr." attached, the title "Mr." or "Esq." should not be used. There is neither rhyme nor reason for this, as "Sr." and "Jr." are certainly not titles and using "Mr." or "Esq." would not be a duplication. So the proper mode of address would be

Mr. John Evans, Jr.


John Evans, Jr., Esq.

The "Sr." is not always necessary as it may be understood.

Business envelopes should have the address of the writer printed in the upper left-hand corner as a return address. This space should not be used for advertising.

In addressing children's letters, it should be remembered that a letter to a girl child is addressed to "Miss Jane Green," regardless of the age of the child. But a little boy should be addressed as "Master Joseph Green."

The address when completed should be slightly below the middle of the envelope and equidistant from right and left edges. The slanting or the straight-edge form may be used, to agree with the indented or the block style of paragraphing respectively.

Punctuation at the ends of the lines in the envelope address is not generally used.

The post office prefers the slanting edge form of address, thus:

(not) ———————— ———————— ———————— ———————— ———————— ————————

If there is a special address, such as "General Delivery," "Personal," or "Please forward," it should be placed at the lower left-hand corner of the envelope.




Under this head are grouped a few of the more common offenses against good form in letter writing; some of these have been touched on in other chapters.

Never use ruled paper for any correspondence.

Never use tinted paper for business letters.

Do not have date lines on printed letterheads. This of course has to do with business stationery.

Do not use simplified spelling, if for no other reason than that it detracts from the reader's absorption of the contents of the letter itself.

"Enthuse" is not a word—do not use it.

Avoid blots, fingermarks, and erasures.

Do not use two one-cent stamps in place of a two-cent stamp. Somehow one-cent stamps are not dignified.

Never use "Dear Friend," "Friend Jack," "My dear Friend," or "Friend Bliss" as a form of salutation. In the case of a business letter where a salutation for both sexes may be necessary, use "Gentlemen."

Never cross the writing in a letter with more writing.

Never use "oblige" in the place of the complimentary close.

Do not double titles, as "Mr. John Walker, Esq." Write either "Mr. John Walker" or "John Walker, Esq."

A woman should never sign herself "Mrs." or "Miss" to a social letter. In business letters (See Chapter 3) it may be necessary to prefix "Mrs." or "Miss" in parentheses to show how an answer should be addressed to her.

Never omit "Yours" in the complimentary close. Always write "Yours sincerely," "Yours truly," or whatever it may be. Never write a letter in the heat of anger. Sleep on it if you do and the next morning will not see you so anxious to send it.

In some business offices it has become the custom to have typed at the bottom of a letter, or sometimes even rubber-stamped, such expressions as:

Dictated but not read.

Dictated by but signed in the absence of ——.

Dictated by Mr. Jones, but, as Mr. Jones was called away, signed by Miss Walker.

While these may be the circumstances under which the letter was written and may be necessary for the identification of the letter, they are no less discourtesies to the reader. And it cannot improve the situation to call them to the reader's attention.

In the matter of abbreviations of titles and the like a safe rule is "When in doubt do not abbreviate."

Sentences like "Dictated by Mr. Henry Pearson to Miss Oliver" are in bad form, not to speak of their being bad business. They intrude the mechanics of the letter on the reader and in so doing they take his interest from the actual object of the communication. All necessary identification can be made by initials, as: L. S. B.—T.

Do not write a sales letter that gives the same impression as a strident, raucous-voiced salesman. If the idea is to attract attention by shouting louder than all the rest, it might be well to remember that the limit of screeching and of words that hit one in the eye has probably been reached. The tack to take, even from a result-producing standpoint and aside from the question of good taste, is to have the tone of the letter quiet but forceful—the firm, even tone of a voice heard through a yelling mob.

Do not attempt to put anything on paper without first thinking out and arranging what you want to say.

Complimentary closings in business letters, such as "Yours for more business," should be avoided as the plague.


There are certain expressions, certain stock phrases, which have in the past been considered absolutely necessary to a proper knowledge of so-called business English. But it is gratifying to notice the emphasis that professors and teachers of business English are placing on the avoidance of these horrors and on the adoption of a method of writing in which one says exactly what one means and says it gracefully and without stiltedness or intimacy. Their aim seems to be the ability to write a business letter which may be easily read, easily understood, and with the important facts in the attention-compelling places. But for the sake of those who still cling to these hackneyed improprieties (which most of them are), let us line them up for inspection. Many of them are inaccurate, and a moment's thought will give a better method of conveying the ideas.

"We beg to state," "We beg to advise," "We beg to remain." There is a cringing touch about these. A courteous letter may be written without begging.

"Your letter has come to hand" or "is at hand" belongs to a past age. Say "We have your letter of ——" or "We have received your letter."

"We shall advise you of ——" This is a legal expression. Say "We shall let you know" or "We shall inform you."

"As per your letter." Also of legal connotation. Say "according to" or "in agreement with."

"Your esteemed favor" is another relic. This is a form of courtesy, but is obsolete. "Favor," used to mean "communication" or "letter," is obviously inaccurate.

"Replying to your letter, would say," or "wish to say." Why not say it at once and abolish the wordiness?

"State" gives the unpleasant suggestion of a cross-examination. Use "say."

"And oblige" adds nothing to the letter. If the reader is not already influenced by its contents, "and oblige" will not induce him to be.

The telegraphic brevity caused by omitting pronouns and all words not necessary to the sense makes for discourtesy and brusqueness, as:

Answering yours of the 21st inst., order has been delayed, but will ship goods at once.

How much better to say:

We have your letter of 21st October concerning the delay in filling your order. We greatly regret the delay, but we can now ship the goods at once.

"Same" is not a pronoun. It is used as such in legal documents, but it is incorrect to employ it in business letters as other than an adjective. Use instead "they," "them," or "it."


We have received your order and same will be forwarded.


We have received your order and it will be forwarded.

"Kindly"—as in: "We kindly request that you will send your subscription." There is nothing kind in your request and if there were, you would not so allude to it. "Kindly" in this case belongs to "send," as "We request that you will kindly send your subscription."

The word "kind" to describe a business letter—as "your kind favor"—is obviously misapplied. There is no element of "kindness" on either side of an ordinary business transaction.

The months are no longer alluded to as "inst.," "ult.," or "prox." [abbreviations of the Latin "instant" (present), "ultimo" (past), and "proximo" (next)] as "Yours of the 10th inst." Call the months by name, as "I have your letter of 10th May."

"Contents carefully noted" is superfluous and its impression on the reader is a blank.

"I enclose herewith." "Herewith" in this sense means in the envelope. This fact is already expressed in the word "enclose."

Avoid abbreviations of ordinary words in the body or the closing of a letter, as "Resp. Yrs." instead of "Respectfully yours."

The word "Company" should not be abbreviated unless the symbol "&" is used. But the safest plan in writing to a company is to write the name exactly as they write it themselves or as it appears on their letterheads.

Names of months and names of states may be abbreviated in the heading of the letter but not in the body. But it is better form not to do so. Names of states should never be abbreviated on the envelope. For instance, "California" and "Colorado," if written "Cal." and "Col.," may easily be mistaken for each other.

The participial closing of a letter, that is, ending a letter with a participial phrase, weakens the entire effect of the letter. This is particularly true of a business letter. Close with a clear-cut idea. The following endings will illustrate the ineffective participle:

Hoping to hear from you on this matter by return mail.

Assuring you of our wish to be of service to you in the future.

Thanking you for your order and hoping we shall be able to please you.

Trusting that you will start an investigation as soon as possible.

More effective endings would be:

Please send a remittance by return mail.

If we can be of use to you in the future, will you let us know?

We thank you for your order and hope we shall fill it to your satisfaction.

Please investigate the delay at once.

The participial ending is merely a sort of habit. A letter used to be considered lacking in ease if it ended with an emphatic sentence or ended with something that had really to do with the subject of the letter.

It might be well in concluding a letter, as in a personal leavetaking, to "Stand not on the order of your going." Good-byes should be short.




General Directions

The format of an invitation is not so important as its taste. Some of the more formal sorts of invitations—as to weddings—have become rather fixed, and the set wordings are carried through regardless of the means at hand for proper presentation. For instance, one often sees a wedding invitation in impeccable form but badly printed on cheap paper. It would be far better, if it is impossible to get good engraving or if first-class work proves to be too expensive, to buy good white notepaper and write the invitations. A typewriter is, of course, out of the question either for sending or answering any sort of social invitation. Probably some time in the future the typewriter will be used, but at present it is associated with business correspondence and is supposed to lack the implied leisure of hand writing.

The forms of many invitations, as I have said, are fairly fixed. But they are not hallowed. One may vary them within the limits of good taste, but on the whole it is considerably easier to accept the forms in use and not try to be different. If the function itself is going to be very different from usual then the invitation itself may be as freakish as one likes—it may be written or printed on anything from a postcard to a paper bag. The sole question is one of appropriateness. But there is a distinct danger in trying to be ever so unconventional and all that. One is more apt than not to make a fool of one's self. And then, too, being always clever is dreadfully hard on the innocent by-standers. Here are things to be avoided:

Do not have an invitation printed or badly engraved. Hand writing is better than bad mechanical work.

Do not use colored or fancy papers.

Do not use single sheets.

Do not use a very large or a very small sheet—either is inappropriate.

Do not have a formal phraseology for an informal affair.

Do not abbreviate anything—initials may be used in informal invitations and acceptances, but, in the formal, "H. E. Jones" invariably has to become "Horatio Etherington Jones."

Do not send an answer to a formal invitation in the first person.

A formal invitation is written in the third person and must be so answered.

Do not use visiting cards either for acceptances or regrets even though they are sometimes used for invitations. The practice of sending a card with "Accepts" or "Regrets" written on it is discourteous.

Do not seek to be decorative in handwriting—the flourishing Spencerian is impossible.

Do not overdo either the formality or the informality.

Do not use "R.S.V.P." (the initials of the French words "Repondez, s'il vous plait," meaning "Answer, if you please") unless the information is really necessary for the making of arrangements. It ought to be presumed that those whom you take the trouble to invite will have the sense and the courtesy to answer.

In sending an evening invitation where there are husband and wife, both must be included, unless, of course, the occasion is "stag." If the invitation is to be extended to a daughter, then her name is included in the invitation. In the case of more than one daughter, they will receive a separate invitation addressed to "The Misses Smith." Each male member of the family other than husband should receive a separately mailed invitation.

An invitation, even the most informal, should always be acknowledged within a week of its receipt. It is the height of discourtesy to leave the hostess in doubt either through a tardy answer or through the undecided character of your reply. The acknowledgment must state definitely whether or not you accept.

The acknowledgment of an invitation sent to husband and wife must include both names but is answered by the wife only. The name of a daughter also must appear if it appears in the invitation. If Mr. and Mrs. Smith receive an invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Jones, their acknowledgment must include the names of both Mr. and Mrs. Jones, but the envelope should be addressed to Mrs. Jones only.


Wedding invitations should be sent about three weeks—certainly not later than fifteen days—before the wedding. Two envelopes should be used, the name and address appearing on the outside envelope, but only the name on the inside one. The following are correct for formal invitations:

For a church wedding


Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Request the Honour of —— (Name written in) Presence at the Marriage of Their Daughter Dorothy and Mr. Philip Brewster On the Evening of Monday, the Eighth of June at Six o'Clock At The Church of the Heavenly Rest Fifth Avenue, New York City


Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Request the Honour of Your Presence at The Marriage of Their Daughter Dorothy and Mr. Philip Brewster On Monday, June the Eighth At Six o'Clock At the Church of the Heavenly Rest Fifth Avenue, New York

For a home wedding

Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Request the Pleasure of —— (Name written in) Company at the Marriage of Their Daughter Dorothy and Mr. Philip Brewster On Wednesday, June the Tenth At Twelve o'Clock Five Hundred Park Avenue

Or either of the forms A and B for a church wedding may be used. "Honour of your presence" is more formal than "pleasure of your company" and hence is more appropriate for a church wedding.

It is presumed that an invitation to a home wedding includes the wedding breakfast or reception, but an invitation to a church wedding does not. A card inviting to the wedding breakfast or reception is enclosed with the wedding invitation. Good forms are:

For a wedding breakfast

Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Request the Pleasure of —— (Name written in) At Breakfast on Tuesday, June the Fourth at Twelve o'Clock 500 Park Avenue

For a wedding reception

Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Request the Pleasure of Your Company At the Wedding Reception of Their Daughter Dorothy and Mr. Philip Brewster On Monday Afternoon, June the Third At Four o'Clock Five Hundred Park Avenue

For a second marriage

The forms followed in a second marriage—either of a widow or a divorcee—are quite the same as above. The divorcee uses whatever name she has taken after the divorce—the name of her ex-husband or her maiden name if she has resumed it. The widow sometimes uses simply Mrs. Philip Brewster or a combination, as Mrs. Dorothy Evans Brewster. The invitations are issued in the name of the nearest relative—the parent or parents, of course, if living. The forms are:


Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Request the Honour of Your Presence At the Marriage of Their Daughter Dorothy (Mrs. Philip Brewster) to Mr. Leonard Duncan On Thursday, April the Third At Six o'Clock Trinity Chapel


Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Request the Honour of Your Presence At the Marriage of Their Daughter Mrs. Dorothy Evans Brewster to Mr. Leonard Duncan On Thursday, April the Third At Six o'Clock Trinity Chapel

If there are no near relatives, the form may be:


The Honour of Your Presence is Requested At the Marriage of Mrs. Dorothy Evans Brewster and Mr. Leonard Duncan On Thursday, April the Third At Six o'Clock Trinity Chapel

In formal invitations "honour" is spelled with a "u."

Recalling an Invitation

The wedding may have to be postponed or solemnized privately, owing to illness or death, or it may be put off altogether. In such an event the invitations will have to be recalled. The card recalling may or may not give a reason, according to circumstances. The cards should be engraved if time permits, but they may have to be written.

Convenient forms are:


Owing to the Death of Mr. Philip Brewster's Mother, Mr. and Mrs. Evans beg to Recall the Invitations for Their Daughter's Wedding on Monday, June the Eighth.


Mr. and Mrs. John Evans beg to Recall The Invitations for the Marriage of Their Daughter, Dorothy, and Mr. Philip Brewster, on Monday, June the Eighth

Wedding announcements

If a wedding is private, no formal invitations are sent out; they are unnecessary, for only a few relatives or intimate friends will be present and they will be asked by word of mouth or by a friendly note. The wedding may be formally announced by cards mailed on the day of the wedding. The announcement will be made by whoever would have sent out wedding invitations—by parents, a near relative, or by the bride and groom, according to circumstances. The custom with the bride's name in the case of a widow or divorcee follows that of wedding invitations. An engraved announcement is not acknowledged (although a letter of congratulations—see page 101—may often be sent). A card is sent to the bride's parents or whoever has sent the announcements. The announcement may be in the following form:

Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Announce the Marriage of Their Daughter Dorothy to Mr. Philip Brewster On Monday, June the Tenth One Thousand Nineteen Hundred and Twenty-Two

Replying to the invitation

The acceptance or the declination of a formal invitation is necessarily formal but naturally has to be written by hand. It is better to use double notepaper than a correspondence card and it is not necessary to give a reason for being unable to be present—although one may be given. It is impolite to accept or regret only a day or two before the function—the letter should be written as soon as possible after the receipt of the invitation. The letter may be indented as is the engraved invitation, but this is not at all necessary. The forms are:


Mr. and Mrs. Frothingham Smith accept with pleasure Mr. and Mrs. Evans's kind invitation to be present at the marriage of their daughter Dorothy and Mr. Philip Brewster on Monday, June the twelfth at twelve o'clock (and afterward at the wedding breakfast)

Or it may be written out:

Mr. and Mrs. Frothingham Smith accept with pleasure Mr. and Mrs. Evans's kind invitation to be present at the marriage of their daughter Dorothy and Mr. Philip Brewster on Monday, June the twelfth at twelve o'clock (and afterward at the wedding breakfast).


Mr. and Mrs. Frothingham Smith regret exceedingly that they are unable to accept Mr. and Mrs. Evans's kind invitation to be present at the marriage of their daughter Dorothy and Mr. Philip Brewster on Monday, June the twelfth (and afterward at the wedding breakfast)

Or this also may be written out. The portion in parentheses will be omitted if one has not been asked to the wedding breakfast or reception.

For the formal dinner

Formal dinner invitations are usually engraved, as in the following example. In case they are written, they may follow the same form or the letter form. If addressed paper is used the address is omitted from the end. The acknowledgment should follow the wording of the invitation.


Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Request the Pleasure of Mr. and Mrs. Trent's Company at Dinner On Thursday, October the First at Seven o'Clock and Afterward for the Play (or Opera, etc.) 500 Park Avenue


Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Request the Pleasure of Mr. and Mrs. Trent's Company for Dinner and Opera on Thursday, October the First at Seven o'Clock


Mr. and Mrs. George Trent accept with much pleasure Mr. and Mrs. Evans's kind invitation for dinner on Thursday, October the first, at seven o'clock and afterward for the opera 788 East Forty-Sixth Street


Mr. and Mrs. George Trent regret that they are unable to accept the kind invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Evans for dinner and opera on Thursday, October the first, owing to a previous engagement. 788 East Forty-Sixth Street

For a dinner not at home

Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Request the Pleasure of Mrs. and Miss Pearson's Company at Dinner At Sherry's on Friday, March the Thirtieth At Quarter Past Seven o'Clock 500 Park Avenue


Mrs. Richard Pearson and Miss Pearson accept with much pleasure Mr. and Mrs. Evans's very kind invitation for dinner at Sherry's on Friday, March the thirtieth at quarter past seven o'clock 640 West Seventy-Second Street


Mrs. Richard Pearson and Miss Pearson regret exceedingly that they are unable to accept Mr. and Mrs. Evans's very kind invitation for dinner at Sherry's on Friday, March the thirtieth owing to a previous engagement to dine with Mr. and Mrs. Spencer 640 West Seventy-Second Street

Or the reply may follow the letter form:


640 West Seventy-Second Street, March 16, 1920.

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Pearson accept with pleasure Mrs. John Evans's kind invitation for Friday evening, March the thirtieth.


640 West Seventy-Second Street March 16, 1920.

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Pearson regret sincerely their inability to accept Mrs. John Evans's kind invitation for Friday evening, March the thirtieth.

These acknowledgments, being formal, are written in the third person and must be sent within twenty-four hours.

Dinner "to meet"

If the dinner or luncheon is given to meet a person of importance or a friend from out of town, the purpose should appear in the body of the invitation, thus:

Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Request the Pleasure of Mr. and Mrs. Trent's Company at Dinner on Thursday, November the Ninth at Eight o'Clock to Meet Mr. William H. Allen

To a formal luncheon

Mrs. John Evans Requests the Pleasure of Miss Blake's Company at Luncheon To meet Miss Grace Flint on Tuesday, March the Fourth at One o'Clock and Afterward to the Matinee 500 Park Avenue


Miss Blake accepts with pleasure Mrs. Evans's very kind invitation for luncheon on Tuesday, March the fourth at one o'clock to meet Miss Flint and to go afterward to the matinee 232 West Thirty-First Street


Miss Blake regrets that a previous engagement prevents her from accepting Mrs. Evans's very kind invitation for luncheon on Tuesday, March the fourth at one o'clock to meet Miss Flint and to go afterward to the matinee 832 West Thirty-First Street

For the reception

Afternoon receptions and "At Homes" for which engraved invitations are sent out are practically the same as formal "teas."

An invitation is engraved as follows:

Mr. and Mrs. John Evans At Home Wednesday Afternoon, September Fourth from Four until Half-Past Seven o'Clock Five Hundred Park Avenue

These cards are sent out by mail in a single envelope about two weeks or ten days before the event.

The recipient of such a card is not required to send either a written acceptance or regret. One accepts by attending the "At Home." If one does not accept, the visiting card should be sent by mail so that it will reach the hostess on the day of the reception.

Where an answer is explicitly required, then the reply may be as follows:


Mrs. John Evans accepts with pleasure Mrs. Emerson's kind invitation for Wednesday afternoon November the twenty-eighth


Mrs. John Evans regrets that she is unable to accept Mrs. Emerson's kind invitation for Wednesday afternoon November the twenty-eighth

Mrs. John Evans regrets that she is unable to be present at Mrs. Emerson's At home on Wednesday afternoon November the twenty-eighth

Reception "to meet"


Mrs. Bruce Wellington Requests the Pleasure of Mrs. Evans's Presence on Thursday Afternoon, April Fifth to Meet the Board of Governors of the Door-of-Hope Society from Four-Thirty to Seven o'Clock


Mrs. John Evans accepts with pleasure Mrs. Wellington's kind invitation to meet The Board of Governors of the Door-of-Hope Society On Thursday afternoon, April fifth


Mrs. John Evans regrets that a previous engagement prevents her from accepting Mrs. Wellington's kind invitation to meet The Board of Governors of the Door-of-Hope Society On Thursday afternoon, April fifth

Mr. and Mrs. John Evans Request the Pleasure of Your Company to Meet General and Mrs. Robert E. Lee on Thursday Afternoon, February Fourth from Four until Seven o'Clock Five Hundred Park Avenue

If one accepts this invitation, one acknowledges simply by attending. If one is unable to attend, then the visiting card is mailed. If unforeseen circumstances should prevent attending, then a messenger is sent with a card in an envelope to the hostess, to reach her during the reception.

Invitations for afternoon affairs

For afternoon affairs—at homes, teas, garden parties—the invitations are sent out in the name of the hostess alone, or if there be a daughter, or daughters, in society, their names will appear immediately below the name of the hostess.

Mrs. John Evans The Misses Evans At Home Thursday Afternoon, January Eleventh from Four until Seven o'Clock Five Hundred Park Avenue

If the purpose of the reception is to introduce a daughter, her name would appear immediately below that of the hostess, as "Miss Evans," without Christian name or initial. If a second daughter is to be introduced at the tea, her name in full is added beneath that of the hostess:

Mrs. John Evans Miss Ruth Evans Miss Evans At Home Friday Afternoon, January Twentieth from Four until Seven o'Clock Five Hundred Park Avenue

For balls and dances

The word "ball" is used for an assembly or a charity dance, never otherwise. An invitation to a private house bears "Dancing" or "Cotillion" in one corner of the card. This ball or formal dance invitation is engraved on a white card, sometimes with a blank space so that the guest's name may be written in by the hostess. It would read thus:


Mr. and Mrs. Charles Elliott Request the Pleasure of Mr. and Mrs. Evans's Company at a Cotillion to Be Held at the Hotel Ritz-Carlton on Saturday, December the Third at Ten o'Clock Please Address Reply to 347 Madison Avenue


_Mr. and Mrs. Charles Elliott Request the Pleasure of

Company on Saturday Evening January the Sixth, at Ten o'Clock Dancing 347 Madison Avenue

An older style of invitation—without the blank for the written name, but instead the word "your" engraved upon the card—is in perfectly good form. The invitation would be like this:


Mr. and Mrs. Charles Elliott Request the Pleasure of Your Company on Saturday Evening, January the Sixth at Ten o'Clock Dancing 347 Madison Avenue


Mr. and Mrs. John Evans accept with pleasure Mr. and Mrs. Elliott's very kind invitation to a cotillion to be held at the Hotel Ritz-Carlton On Saturday, December the third at ten o'clock


Mr. and Mrs. John Evans regret exceedingly that they are unable to accept Mr. and Mrs. Elliott's kind invitation to attend a dance on Saturday, January the sixth

In sending a regret the hour is omitted, as, since the recipient will not be present, the time is unimportant.


The Honour of Your Presence Is Requested at the Lincoln's Birthday Eve Ball of the Dark Hollow Country Club on Monday Evening, February Eleventh at Half-Past Ten o'Clock 1922


Miss Evans accepts with pleasure the kind invitation of the Dark Hollow Country Club for Monday evening, February eleventh at half-past ten o'clock

For christenings

Christenings are sometimes made formal. In such case engraved cards are sent out two or three weeks ahead. A good form is:

Mr. and Mrs. Philip Brewster Request the Pleasure of Your Company at the Christening of Their Son on Sunday Afternoon, April Seventeenth At Three o'clock at the Church of the Redeemer


Mr. and Mrs. Charles Elliot accept with pleasure Mr. and Mrs. Brewster's kind invitation to attend the christening of their son on Sunday afternoon, April seventeenth at three o'clock

A reason for not accepting may or may not be given—it is better to put in a reason if you have one.


Mr. and Mrs. Charles Elliott regret that a previous engagement prevents their accepting Mr. and Mrs. Brewster's kind invitation to the christening of their son on Sunday afternoon, April seventeenth


For a wedding

An engraved invitation always implies a somewhat large or elaborate formal function. An informal affair requires simply a written invitation in the first person.

The informal wedding is one to which are invited only the immediate family and intimate friends. The reason may be simply the desire for a small, quiet affair or it may be a recent bereavement. The bride-to-be generally writes these invitations. The form may be something like this:


June 2, 1922.

Dear Mrs. Smith,

On Wednesday, June the twelfth, at three o'clock Mr. Brewster and I are to be married. The ceremony will be at home and we are asking only a few close friends. I hope that you and Mr. Smith will be able to come.

Yours very sincerely, Dorothy Evans.


June 16, 1922.

Dear Mary,

Owing to the recent death of my sister, Mr. Brewster and I are to be married quietly at home. The wedding will be on Wednesday, June the twentieth, at eleven o'clock. We are asking only a few intimate friends and I shall be so glad if you will come.

Sincerely yours, Dorothy Evans.


June 7, 1922.

Dear Dorothy,

We shall be delighted to attend your wedding on Wednesday, June the twelfth, at three o'clock.

We wish you and Mr. Brewster every happiness.

Sincerely yours, Helen Gray Smith.


June 4, 1922.

Dear Dorothy,

I am so sorry that I shall be unable to attend your wedding. The "Adriatic" is sailing on the tenth and Father and I have engaged passage.

Let me wish you and Mr. Brewster every happiness.

Sincerely yours, Mary Lyman.

For dinners and luncheons

An informal invitation to dinner is sent by the wife, for her husband and herself, to the wife. This invitation must include the latter's husband. It is simply a friendly note. The wife signs her Christian name, her maiden name (or more usually the initial of her maiden name), and her married name.

Five Hundred Park Avenue, December 5th, 1922.

My dear Mrs. Trent,

Will you and Mr. Trent give us the pleasure of your company at a small dinner on Tuesday, December the twelfth, at seven o'clock?

I hope you will not be otherwise engaged on that evening as we are looking forward to seeing you.

Very sincerely yours, Katherine G. Evans.

To cancel an informal dinner invitation

My dear Mrs. Trent,

On account of the sudden death of my brother, I regret to be obliged to recall the invitation for our dinner on Tuesday, December the twelfth.

Sincerely yours, Katherine G. Evans. December 8, 1922.


788 East Forty-Sixth Street, December 7th, 1922.

My dear Mrs. Evans,

Mr. Trent and I will be very glad to dine with you on Tuesday, December the twelfth, at seven o'clock.

With kind regards, I am

Very sincerely yours, Charlotte B. Trent


788 East Forty-Sixth Street, December 7th, 1922.

My dear Mrs. Evans,

We regret deeply that we cannot accept your kind invitation to dine with you on Tuesday, December the twelfth. Mr. Trent and I, unfortunately, have a previous engagement for that evening.

With cordial regards, I am

Yours very sincerely, Charlotte B. Trent.

The daughter as hostess

When a daughter must act as hostess in her father's home, she includes his name in every dinner invitation she issues, as in the following:

340 Madison Avenue, January 2, 1921.

My dear Mrs. Evans,

Father wishes me to ask whether you and Mr. Evans will give us the pleasure of dining with us on Wednesday, January the fifteenth, at quarter past seven o'clock. We do hope you can come.

Very sincerely yours, Edith Haines.

The answer to this invitation of a daughter-hostess must be sent to the daughter, not to the father.


My dear Miss Haines,

We shall be delighted to accept your father's kind invitation to dine with you on Wednesday, January the fifteenth, at quarter past seven o'clock.

With most cordial wishes, I am

Very sincerely yours, Katherine G. Evans. January 5, 1922


My dear Miss Haines,

We regret exceedingly that we cannot accept your father's kind invitation to dine with you on Wednesday, January the fifteenth. A previous engagement of Mr. Evans prevents it. Will you convey to him our thanks?

Very sincerely yours, Katherine Gerard Evans. January 5, 1922.

Adding additional details

The invitation to an informal dinner may necessarily include some additional details. For example:

Five Hundred Park Avenue, September 16, 1920.

My dear Mr. Allen,

Mr. Evans and I have just returned from Canada and we hear that you are in New York for a short visit. We should like to have you take dinner with us on Friday, the twentieth, at half-past seven o'clock, if your time will permit. We hope you can arrange to come as there are many things back home in old Sharon that we are anxious to hear about.

Yours very sincerely, Katherine Gerard Evans.

Mr. Roger Allen Hotel Gotham New York


Hotel Gotham, September 17, 1920.

My dear Mrs. Evans,

I shall be very glad to accept your kind invitation to dinner on Friday, September the twentieth, at half-past seven o'clock.

The prospect of seeing you and Mr. Evans again is very delightful and I am sure I have several interesting things to tell you.

Yours very sincerely, Roger Allen.

Mrs. John Evans 500 Park Avenue New York


Hotel Gotham, September 16, 1920.

My dear Mrs. Evans,

I am sorry to miss the pleasure of accepting your kind invitation to dinner on Friday, September the twentieth.

A business engagement compels me to leave New York to-morrow. There are indeed many interesting bits of news, but I shall have to wait for a chat until my next visit.

With kindest regards to you both, I am

Very sincerely yours, Roger Allen.

Mrs. John Evans 500 Park Avenue New York

A last-moment vacancy:

A last-moment vacancy may occur in a dinner party. To send an invitation to fill such a vacancy is a matter requiring tact, and the recipient should be made to feel that you are asking him to fill in as a special courtesy. Frankly explain the situation in a short note. It might be something like this:

500 Park Avenue, February 16, 1922.

My dear Mr. Jarrett,

Will you help me out? I am giving a little dinner party to-morrow evening and one of my guests, Harry Talbot, has just told me that on account of a sudden death he cannot be present. It is an awkward situation. If you can possibly come, I shall be very grateful.

Cordially yours, Katherine G. Evans.

Mr. Harold Jarrett 628 Washington Square South New York


628 Washington Square South, February 16, 1922.

My dear Mrs. Evans,

It is indeed a fortunate circumstance for me that Harry Talbot will not be able to attend your dinner. Let me thank you for thinking of me and I shall be delighted to accept.

Yours very sincerely, Harold Jarrett.

If the recipient of such an invitation cannot accept, he should, in his acknowledgment, give a good reason for declining. It is more considerate to do so.

For an informal luncheon

An informal luncheon invitation is a short note sent about five to seven days before the affair.

500 Park Avenue, April 30,1922.

My dear Mrs. Emerson,

Will you come to luncheon on Friday, May the fifth, at half-past one o'clock? The Misses Irving will be here and they want so much to meet you.

Cordially yours, Katherine G. Evans.


911 Sutton Place, May 2, 1922.

My dear Mrs. Evans,

I shall be very glad to take luncheon with you on Friday, May the fifth, at half-past one o'clock. It will be a great pleasure to meet the Misses Irving.

With best wishes, I am Yours sincerely, Grace Emerson.


911 Sutton Place, May 2, 1922.

My dear Mrs. Evans,

Thank you for your very kind invitation to luncheon on Friday, May the fifth, but I am compelled, with great regret, to decline it.

My mother and aunt are sailing for Europe on Friday and their ship is scheduled to sail at one. I have arranged to see them off. It was good of you to ask me.

Very sincerely yours, Grace Emerson.

For an informal tea

My dear Miss Harcourt,

Will you come to tea with me on Tuesday afternoon, April the fourth, at four o'clock? I have asked a few of our friends.

Cordially yours, Katherine Gerard Evans. April first

Telephone invitations are not good form and may be used only for the most informal occasions.

Invitations to the theatre, concert, and garden party, are mostly informal affairs and are sent as brief letters.

A garden party is a sort of out-of-doors at home.

To a garden party which is not formal or elaborate

Locust Lawn, June 29, 1922.

My dear Miss Burton,

Will you come to tea with me informally on the lawn on Thursday afternoon, July the fourth, at four o'clock? I know you always enjoy tennis and I have asked a few enthusiasts. Do try to come.

Cordially yours, Ruth L. Anson.

Such an invitation is acknowledged in kind—by an informal note.

It may be of interest to read a letter or two from distinguished persons along these lines. Here, for example, is the delightfully informal way in which Thomas Bailey Aldrich invited his friend William H. Rideing to dinner on one occasion:[1]

April 6, 1882.

Dear Rideing:

Will you come and take an informal bite with me to-morrow (Friday) at 6 P. M. at my hamlet, No. 131 Charles Street? Mrs. Aldrich and the twins are away from home, and the thing is to be sans ceremonie. Costume prescribed: Sack coat, paper collar, and celluloid sleeve buttons. We shall be quite alone, unless Henry James should drop in, as he promises to do if he gets out of an earlier engagement.

Suppose you drop in at my office to-morrow afternoon about 5 o'clock and I act as pilot to Charles Street.

Yours very truly, T. B. Aldrich.

[1] From "Many Celebrities and a Few Others—A Bundle of Reminiscences," by William H. Rideing. Copyright, 1912, by Doubleday, Page & Co.

And one from James Russell Lowell to Henry W. Longfellow:[2]

Elmwood, May 3, 1876.

Dear Longfellow:

Will you dine with me on Saturday at six? I have a Baltimore friend coming, and depend on you.

I had such a pleasure yesterday that I should like to share it with you to whom I owed it. J. R. Osgood & Co. sent me a copy of your Household Edition to show me what it was, as they propose one of me. I had been reading over with dismay my own poems to weed out the misprints, and was awfully disheartened to find how bad they (the poems) were. Then I took your book to see what the type was, and before I knew it I had been reading two hours and more. I never wondered at your popularity, nor thought it wicked in you; but if I had wondered, I should no longer, for you sang me out of all my worries. To be sure they came back when I opened my own book again—but that was no fault of yours.

If not Saturday, will you say Sunday? My friend is a Mrs. ——, and a very nice person indeed.

Yours always, J. R. L.

[2] From "Letters of James Russell Lowell," edited by C. E. Norton. Copyright, 1893, by Harper & Bros.

George Meredith ("Robin") accepting an informal dinner invitation from his friend, William Hardman ("Tuck"):[3]

Jan'y 28, 1863.

Dear "at any price" Tuck:

I come. Dinner you give me at half-past five, I presume. A note to Foakesden, if earlier. Let us have 5 ms. for a pipe, before we go. You know we are always better tempered when this is the case. I come in full dress. And do the honour to the Duke's motto. I saw my little man off on Monday, after expedition over Bank and Tower. Thence to Pym's, Poultry: oysters consumed by dozings. Thence to Purcell's: great devastation of pastry. Thence to Shoreditch, where Sons calmly said: "Never mind, Papa; it is no use minding it. I shall soon be back to you," and so administered comfort to his forlorn Dad.—My salute to the Conquered One, and I am your loving, hard-druv, much be-bullied


[3] From "The Letters of George Meredith." Copyright, 1912, by Charles Scribner's Sons. By permission of the publishers.

To a theatre

347 Madison Avenue, December 8, 1919.

My dear Miss Evans,

Mr. Smith and I are planning a small party of friends to see "The Mikado" on Thursday evening, December the eighteenth, and we hope that you will be among our guests.

We have arranged to meet in the lobby of the Garrick Theatre at quarter after eight o'clock. I do hope you have no other engagement.

Very cordially yours, Gertrude Ellison Smith.


My dear Mrs. Smith,

I shall be delighted to come to your theatre party on Thursday evening, December the eighteenth. I shall be in the lobby of the Garrick Theatre at a quarter past eight o'clock.

It is so kind of you to ask me.

Sincerely yours, Ruth Evans. December 12,1919.


My dear Mrs. Smith,

With great regret I must write that I shall be unable to join your theatre party on Thursday evening, December the eighteenth. My two cousins are visiting me and we had planned to go to the Hippodrome.

I much appreciate your thinking of me.

Very sincerely yours, Ruth Evans.

For an informal affair, if at all in doubt as to what kind of invitation to issue, it is safe to write a brief note in the first person.

Two or more sisters may receive one invitation addressed "The Misses Evans." But two bachelor brothers must receive separate invitations. A whole family should never be included in one invitation. It is decidedly not proper to address one envelope to "Mr. and Mrs. Elliott and family."

To an informal dance

Invitations to smaller and more informal dances may be short notes. Or a visiting card is sometimes sent with a notation written in ink below the hostess's name and toward the left, as shown below:


Mrs. John Evans At Home

Dancing at half after nine 500 Park Avenue January the eighteenth R.S.V.P.

If the visiting card is used "R.S.V.P." is necessary, because usually invitations on visiting cards do not presuppose answers. The reply to the above may be either formal, in the third person, or may be an informal note.


500 Park Avenue, January 4, 1920.

My dear Mrs. Elliott,

Will you and Mr. Elliott give us the pleasure of your company on Thursday, January the eighteenth, at ten o'clock? We are planning an informal dance and we should be so glad to have you with us.

Cordially yours, Katherine G. Evans.

An acknowledgment should be sent within a week. Never acknowledge a visiting-card invitation by a visiting card. An informal note of acceptance or regret is proper.


347 Madison Avenue, January 10, 1920.

My dear Mrs. Evans,

Both Mr. Elliott and I shall be delighted to go to your dance on Thursday, January the eighteenth, at ten o'clock. Thank you so much for asking us.

Very sincerely yours, Jane S. Elliott.


347 Madison Avenue, January 10, 1920.

My dear Mrs. Evans,

Thank you for your kind invitation for Thursday, January the eighteenth; I am so sorry that Mr. Elliott and I shall not be able to accept. Mr. Elliott has been suddenly called out of town and will not be back for two weeks.

With most cordial regards, I am

Very sincerely yours, Jane S. Elliott.

A young girl sends invitations to men in the name of her mother or the person under whose guardianship she is. The invitation would say that her mother, or Mrs. Burton, or whoever it may be, wishes her to extend the invitation.

To a house-party

An invitation to a house-party, which may imply a visit of several days' duration (a week, ten days, or perhaps two weeks) must state exactly the dates of the beginning and end of the visit. The hostess's letter should mention the most convenient trains, indicating them on a timetable. The guest at a week-end party knows he is to arrive on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning and leave on the following Monday morning. It is thoughtful for the hostess to give an idea of the activities or sports planned. The letter might be somewhat in the following manner:


Glory View, August 1, 1922.

Dear Miss Evans,

Will you be one of our guests at a house-party we are planning? We shall be glad if you can arrange to come out to Glory View on August eighth and stay until the seventeenth. I have asked several of your friends, among them Mary Elliott and her brother.

The swimming is wonderful and there is a new float at the Yacht Club. Be sure to bring your tennis racquet and also hiking togs.

I enclose a timetable with the best trains marked. If you take the 4:29 on Thursday you can be here in time for dinner. Let me know what train you expect to get and I will have Jones meet you.

Most cordially yours, Myra T. Maxwell.


500 Park Avenue, August 3, 1922.

Dear Mrs. Maxwell,

Let me thank you and Mr. Maxwell for the invitation to your house-party. I shall be very glad to come.

The 4:29 train which you suggest is the most convenient. I am looking forward to seeing you again.

Very sincerely yours, Ruth Evans.


Hawthorne Hill, January 10, 1920.

My dear Anne,

We are asking some of Dorothy's friends for this week-end and we should be glad to have you join us. Some of them you already know, and I am sure you will enjoy meeting the others as they are all congenial.

Mr. Maxwell has just bought a new flexible flyer and we expect some fine coasting. Be sure to bring your skates. Goldfish Pond is like glass.

The best afternoon train on Friday is the 3:12, and the best Saturday morning train is the 9:30.

I hope you can come.

Very sincerely yours, Myra T. Maxwell.

A letter of thanks for hospitality received at a week-end party or a house-party would seem to be obviously necessary. A cordial note should be written to your hostess thanking her for the hospitality received and telling her of your safe arrival home. This sort of letter has come into the title of the "Bread-and-Butter-Letter."

500 Park Avenue, August 18, 1922.

Dear Mrs. Maxwell,

Having arrived home safely I must tell you how much I appreciate the thoroughly good time I had. I very much enjoyed meeting your charming guests.

Let me thank you and Mr. Maxwell most heartily, and with kindest regards I am

Sincerely yours, Ruth Evans.

To a christening

Most christenings are informal affairs. The invitation may run like this:

September 8, 1920.

My dear Mary,

On next Sunday at three o'clock, at St. Michael's Church, the baby will be christened. Philip and I should be pleased to have you there.

Sincerely yours, Dorothy Evans Brewster.

To bring a friend

Often in the case of a dance or an at home we may wish to bring a friend who we think would be enjoyed by the hostess. We might request her permission thus:

600 Riverside Drive, April 25, 1922.

My dear Mrs. Dean,

May I ask you the favor of bringing with me on Wednesday evening, May the second, my old classmate, Mr. Arthur Price? He is an old friend of mine and I am sure you will like him.

If this would not be entirely agreeable to you, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Yours very sincerely, Herbert Page.

For a card party

500 Park Avenue

My dear Mrs. King,

Will you and Mr. King join us on Thursday evening next at bridge?[4] We expect to have several tables, and we do hope you can be with us.

Cordially yours, Katherine Gerard Evans. March the eighteenth

[4] Or whatever the game may be.

Sometimes the visiting card is used with the date and the word "Cards" written in the lower corner as in the visiting-card invitation to a dance. This custom is more often used for the more elaborate affairs.

Miscellaneous invitations

The following are variations of informal party and other invitations:

83 Woodlawn Avenue, November 4, 1921.

My dear Alice,

I am having a little party on Thursday evening next and I want very much to have you come. If you wish me to arrange for an escort, let me know if you have any preference.

Sincerely yours, Helen Westley.

500 Park Avenue, May 12, 1922.

My dear Alice,

On Saturday next I am giving a small party for my niece, Miss Edith Rice of Albany, and I should like very much to have her meet you. I hope you can come.

Very sincerely yours, Katherine G. Evans.


A letter of condolence may be written to relatives, close friends, and to those whom we know well. When the recipient of the condolatory message is simply an acquaintance, it is in better taste to send a visiting card with "sincere sympathy." Flowers may or may not accompany the card.

But in any case the letter should not be long, nor should it be crammed with sad quotations and mushy sentiment. Of course, at best, writing a condolence is a nice problem. Do not harrow feelings by too-familiar allusions to the deceased. The letter should be sent immediately upon receiving news of death.

When a card is received, the bereaved family acknowledge it a few weeks later with an engraved acknowledgment on a black-bordered card. A condolatory letter may be acknowledged by the recipient or by a relative or friend who wishes to relieve the bereaved one of this task.

Formal acknowledgment engraved on card

Mrs. Gordon Burroughs and Family Gratefully acknowledge Your kind expression of sympathy

The cards, however, may be engraved with a space for the name to be filled in:

Gratefully acknowledge

Kind expression of sympathy

When the letter of condolence is sent from a distance, it is acknowledged by a note from a member of the bereaved family. When the writer of the condolence makes the customary call afterward, the family usually makes a verbal acknowledgment and no written reply is required.

Letters of condolence


My dear Mrs. Burroughs,

May every consolation be given you in your great loss. Kindly accept my deepest sympathy.

Sincerely yours, Jane Everett. October 4, 1921


My dear Mrs. Burroughs,

It is with the deepest regret that we learn of your bereavement. Please accept our united and heartfelt sympathies.

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