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The Book of Business Etiquette Part 3

Among men, "picking up" acquaintances on a train or boat is allowable if it comes about in a natural way, but there are men who object to it. Many business men do not discontinue their work because they are traveling. Portable typewriters, secretaries, the telegraph and other means of swift communication have made it possible for them to accomplish almost as much as if they were in the office back home. Such men do not like to be interrupted, and if a garrulous or an intrusive person approaches it is within the bounds of courtesy to turn him aside. Generally, however, there is a comradery of the road, a sort of good fellowship among voyagers which lets down ordinary bars, and the men who like to rest as they travel find it highly diverting and interesting to talk with other men from various parts of the country. This holds true in hotels, especially in the commercial hotels, where traveling men foregather to meet their customers and transact their business, and in hotels in small places where the possibilities for amusement are limited and the people have to depend on one another for entertainment. But there are limits. No man should ever thrust himself upon another and it is almost an iron clad rule that he should never "pick up" women acquaintances when traveling. It is permissible to talk with them, but not to annoy them with personal attentions nor to place them under obligation by paying their bills. If a man and a woman who are traveling on the same train fall into conversation and go into the dining car together, each one should pay his or her own check, or if he insists upon paying at the table she should insist upon settling afterwards. In hotels also this is essentially true.

Hotels are judged more by the people who come to them than by anything else. The guests indicate the quality of the service, and for this reason, most hotels prefer that they be gentlemen. There is an atmosphere about a first-class hotel that frightens away second-rate people. Most places have standards and many a man has been turned away even when there was an empty room because the management did not like his looks.

Tipping is one of the most vexatious petty problems with which a traveler is confronted. It is an undemocratic custom which every sensible man deplores but sees no way around. Waiters, porters, and other functionaries who are in positions to receive tips draw very small salaries, if any. They depend upon the generosity of the public they serve. The system may be all wrong (we believe it is) but it means bread and butter to those who live by it, and it is only just, as matters are now arranged, for the traveler to pay. It is foolish to tip extravagantly or to tip every pirate who performs even the most trifling service, but a small fee, especially if the service has been good, is a courtesy not to be forgotten.

Tipping originally grew out of kindness. The knight who had received special attention at the hands of his squire expressed his gratitude by a special reward. The word "gratuity" itself indicates that the little gift was once simply a spontaneous act of thoughtfulness. It has degenerated into a perfunctory habit, but it should not be so. Excellent service deserves a recompense just as slip-shod service does not. And no one has a right to spoil a waiter (or any one else) by tipping him for inefficient work. In hotels and restaurants the standard fee is ten per cent of the bill.

Regular travelling of any kind even under favorable circumstances is a great wear and tear on the disposition. Commuters who go in and out of town every day are a notoriously hag-ridden lot, and the men who go on the road are not much better. But there is one enormous difference. It is the privilege of the commuter to growl as much as he likes about the discomforts of the road and the stupidity of the men who make up the time tables, but travelling men--we are speaking of salesmen especially--can never indulge in the luxury of a grouch. One of the biggest parts of his job is to keep cheerful all the time and that in itself is no small task. (Try it and see.) A farmer can wear a frown as heavy as a summer thunder cloud and the potatoes will grow just the same; a mechanic can swear at the automobile he is putting into shape (a very impolite thing to do even when there is no one but the machine to hear), and the bolts and screws will hold just as fast; a lawyer can knit his brows over his brief case and come to his solution just as quickly as if he sat grinning at it, but the salesman must smile, smile, smile. The season may be dull, the crops may be bad, there may be strikes, lockouts, depressions and deflations, unemployment--it makes no difference--he must keep cheerful. It is the courtesy of salesmanship, and it is this quality more than any other that makes selling a young man's job--we do not mean in years, but in spirit--an old one could not stand it.

In the good old days when the country was young and everybody, from all accounts we can gather, was happy, salesmen in the present sense of the term were almost unknown. There were peddlers, characters as picturesque as gipsies, who travelled about the country preying chiefly on the farmers. Often they spent the night--hotel accommodations were few and houses were far apart--and entertained the family with lively tales of life on the road. Next morning they gave the children trifling presents, swindled the farmer out of several dollars and made themselves generally agreeable. The farmer took it all in good part and looked forward with pleasure to the next visit. The peddlers came in pairs then, like snakes, but they were for the most part welcome and there was genuine regret when they became things of the past like top-buggies and Prince Albert coats.

After the peddler came the drummer, a rough, noisy chap, as his name indicates, harmless enough, but economically not much more significant than the peddler. He stayed in the business district where he was tolerated with good-natured indulgence. He was less objectionable than the man who followed him, the agent. He was (and is) a house-to-house and office-to-office canvasser and a general nuisance. He sold everything from books to life insurance, from patent potato peelers to opera glasses. He still survives, but not in large numbers, for his work, like that of the peddler and the drummer, has been swallowed up by the salesman.

The rewards which modern salesmanship holds out to those who succeed at it are so large that the field has attracted all kinds of men, highly efficient ones who love the game for its own sake, grossly incompetent ones who, having failed at something else, have decided to try this, and adventurers who believe they see in it a chance to get rich quick. The teachers of salesmanship tell us that we are all selling something, even when there is no visible product. The worker, according to them, is selling his services just as the salesman is selling goods. It may be true, but we all could not (and it is a blessing) go out and sell things in the ordinary sense in which we use the word. Some of us have to be producers. But the salesman's work is important. We do not discredit it.

Salesmanship is built on faith. A man must believe in his product and then must make other people believe in it as firmly as he does. So devoted are some salesmen to their work that it is difficult to tell whether they consider their calling a trade, a profession, a science, or a religion. Sometimes it is all four. Sometimes it goes beyond them and becomes a kind of mesmerism in which the salesman uses a sort of hypnotic process (which is simply the result of being over-anxious to sell) to persuade the prospect that he cannot wait another day before buying the particular article that the salesman is distributing. The article may be stocks and bonds, wash cloths, soap, or hair nets. It makes no difference, but he must be filled with enthusiasm and must be able to pass it along. And this very virtue which is the foundation of successful salesmanship is likely to lead the salesman into gross rudeness. For the man who is selling is so eager and so earnest that he forgets that the man who is buying may have his own ideas on the subject.

The first step in salesmanship is to acquire a thorough knowledge of the product. The next is to gain access to the man who is to buy it. This is not always easy. Business men have been annoyed so much by agents that they have had to erect barriers, in many instances almost impenetrable ones. It is especially difficult in big cities where the pressure is heavy, but most worth while business men have learned the value of contact with the world outside and are willing to give almost any man an interview if he can show a valid reason why he should have it. Whether he gets a second interview or not depends upon how he handled the first one.

There are many ways of getting into an office. A salesman usually stands a much better chance if he writes ahead for an appointment. It is much more courteous to ask a man when he wants to see you than to drop in on him casually and trust to luck that the time is not inopportune. Some salesmen are afraid to write because they think the knowledge of what they have to sell will prejudice the prospect against it. At the same time they feel that if they can only get a chance to talk to him a few minutes they can over-ride the prejudice. A salesman may come into an office without letting the man know what his purpose is (though it is best to begin with cards on the table) but he will not come in (unless he is a crook) under false pretenses.

The friends of a salesman can sometimes be very useful to him in presenting him to valuable prospects, and when they feel that the meeting will result in mutual benefit they are glad to do it. Sometimes the friend will give a letter or a card of introduction. Sometimes he will telephone or speak for an appointment. It is best when these come unsolicited, though it is permissible to ask for them. No man should depend upon the help of his friends. A salesman should be able to stand on his own feet, and if he and his product together do not form a strong enough combination to break down all obstructions there is something wrong with one or the other of them.

The best card of admission at the door of a business office is a pleasing personal appearance coupled with a calm and assured manner. This is a universal standard of measuring a man's character and calibre. Until we have heard him speak we judge him by the way he looks. It is a dangerous practice, as the proverb warns us, but the percentage of hits is high enough to make us continue to use it.

A favorite device with a certain cheap type of salesman is to give his name to the girl at the entrance desk and ask her to tell Mr. Brown that Mr. Green has sent Mr. Smith to call. The Mr. Green is entirely fictitious, but since Mr. Brown has several business acquaintances of that name, he interrupts his work and comes out to see Mr. Smith and discovers that he is a life insurance agent who thinks that if he can once get inside he can "put it across." Most business men have no use for such practices and rarely allow the salesmen who employ them to stay in their offices any longer than it takes to get them out. Besides, the salesman places himself under a handicap to begin with. He will find it pretty hard to convince the man in the office that he is not dishonest about his goods just as he is about himself. He is the greatest enemy of his profession. And he makes the work of every one else engaged in it infinitely harder. It is something every business and profession has to fight against--the dishonest grafter who is using it as a means of swindling society.

Most salesmen give their names at the entrance desk instead of presenting their cards. Psychologists and experience have taught them that the card is distracting and that even if the interview is granted it is harder to get the attention of the other man if he has a card to twiddle between his fingers. It is more conventional to send in a card (a good card is a letter of introduction in itself) but if the salesman finds it a handicap, however slight, he should by all means dispense with it. If the card is cheap or flashy or offensive in any way it arouses prejudice against the man who bears it before he has had a chance to present his case in person. The business card may be the same as the personal card, simply a bit of pasteboard bearing the name and perhaps the address, or it may be larger than the ordinary personal card and bear the name of the firm for which the salesman is working, and in addition, if it is a very simple design, the trademark of the firm.

Whether to rise when a caller enters and shake hands is a question to be settled by each person according to the way he likes best. It is certainly more gracious to rise and ask him to be seated before resuming one's own place. But promiscuous handshaking is an American habit which Europeans as a rule frown upon and in which a number of Americans do not indulge, for they like the grasp of their hand to mean something more than a careless greeting and reserve it for their friends. In any case, the caller should not be the first to extend his hand.

If a man is accustomed to see a great number of people he will find it too much of a strain on his vitality to shake hands with them all. Roosevelt used to surprise strangers with the laxness of his grasp, but the Colonel had learned to conserve his strength in small things so that he might give it to great ones. The President of the United States has more than once in the course of the history of our country come to the end of the day with his hands bleeding from the number of times people have pressed it during the day. Now the President ought to be willing to give his life for his country, but he ought not to be required to give it in this way. It probably meant a great deal to each one of the people in the throng to be able to say, "I once shook hands with the President," but how much more it would have meant if each one of them could have said, "One day I helped my President," even if the help was so small an act of thoughtfulness as forbearing to shake his hand.

But to get back to salesmen: Some of them have a way, especially the over-zealous ones, of getting as close to the prospect as is physically possible. They place their papers or their brief cases on the desk before which the prospect is sitting, hitch their chairs up as close as they can, and talk with their breath in his face. No one likes this and it is only a rude and thoughtless salesman who is guilty of it. One man who had been vexed by it over and over again had the visitor's chair nailed to the floor in his office some little distance from his own. And he never had a caller who didn't try to move it nearer to him!

For years it has been the habit for business men to receive their callers at their desks, but lately there has been a turning away from this. The desk is usually littered with papers and letters which the caller can hardly help reading, and there are constant interruptions from the telephone and the other members of the office. For these reasons a number of business men are going out to see their callers instead of bringing them in to see them, a practice which is much more cordial than the other if one can afford the time for it. One big business house abolished its large reception room and built in a number of smaller ones instead. In this way each visitor has privacy and there is a feeling of hospitality and coziness about the little room which the bigger one failed to give. Each room was fitted up with comfortable chairs, books, and magazines so that if the caller had to wait he would have the means of entertaining himself.

Once a man agrees to see a salesman or other visitor he should give, in so far as it is possible, his full attention to him. It is better to refuse an audience altogether than to give it grudgingly. A prominent man cannot possibly see all of the people, salesmen and whatnot, who want to talk with him or he would have no time left to keep himself prominent. A busy man has to protect himself against the cranks and idlers who try to gain access to him, and most men have to have devices by which they can rid themselves of objectionable or tiresome callers. One man who has a constant stream of visitors has only one chair in his office, and he sits in it. Another never allows a visitor to enter his office, but goes to the outer reception room and stands while he talks. One man stands up as a signal that the interview is at an end. Another begins to fumble with the papers on his desk, and the salesman does not live who is not familiar with the man who must hurry out to lunch or who has only five minutes to catch a train. One man has his secretary or his office boy interrupt him after a visitor has been in as much as ten minutes, to tell him that Mr. So-and-So is waiting outside. Another rises to his feet and walks slowly toward the door, the salesman following, until he has maneuvered him out. If the salesman is a man of sense none of these devices will be necessary. He knows that a courteous and prompt departure helps his cause much more than an annoying persistence, and the man who stays after his prospect's mind has lost every interest except to get him out of the way is lacking in one of the fundamentals of social good manners as well as business good manners. Rarely, perhaps never, does he succeed. For the successful salesman is the one who can put himself into his prospect's place and let him know that he has made a study of his needs and is there to help him.

Carefully prepared approaches and memorized speeches are worth much to the beginner, but an agility in adapting himself is much more important. Ludendorff failed to get to Paris because his original plan was upset and he could not think quickly enough to rally the German army and attack from a different angle. Most salesmen have to talk to men who are continually interrupted to attend to something else. And most business men know what they want, or think they do, and when they ask a direct question they want a direct answer. Many a young salesman has ruined himself so far as his career was concerned because he went out with instructions to keep the interview in his hands and every time the man he was "selling" asked a question he passed airily over it and kept stubbornly on the road he had mapped out for himself. The salesman cannot think in theoretical terms; he must think concretely and from the point of view of the man he is trying to convince. As one very excellent salesman has put it, he must get the prospect's own story and tell it to him in different words, and if he can actually show him a way to decrease expenses or to increase output he will win not only his attention, but his heart as well.

The salesman must be absorbed in his commodity, but not to the exclusion of the man he is trying to "sell." A beginner of this type went into a man's office some time ago and rattled off a speech he had memorized about some charts. The man listened until he came to the end--the boy was talking so rapidly and excitedly that it would have been hard to interrupt him except by shouting at him--and then quietly told him that he had not been able to understand a word of what he had said. "You have not been talking to me," he explained. "You have been talking at me."

Another salesman of the same general kind went into the office of a busy lawyer one morning recently in a building which happened to be owned by the lawyer.

"I am going to give you some books," he announced.

The lawyer asked him what they were, but the salesman refused to be diverted before he had led up to the dramatic moment in his carefully planned speech at which he thought it best to mention the name of the books. He went through the whole of his canvass and then thrust a paper under the lawyer's face with "Sign here" above the dotted line.

"I thought you were going to give them to me," the lawyer said.

The salesman began to explain that of course he could not give him the books outright and so on and on and on--everybody has heard this part of his speech. The lawyer laughed and the salesman lost his temper. Very angry, he started out of the room. Near the door which opened into the hall was another door which opened into a closet that contained a shelf which was a little more than five feet high. The salesman opened this door by mistake and struck his head smartly against the shelf. This made him angrier than ever. He jerked the other door open and slammed it behind him with a crash that nearly broke the glass out. This was more than the lawyer could stand. He sprang up and started in pursuit of the salesman, who by this time was on his way into another office in the same building. The lawyer asked him where he was going. The salesman told him.

"Not in my building," the lawyer said. "I can't have the men who have offices here disturbed by people who act like this. Now go on," he added kindly but firmly, "and let's forget that you ever came here."

And the salesman went.

Salesmanship is service, and the man who persuades another to buy something he knows he does not want, does not need, and cannot use, is a scoundrel. "Good salesmanship," and this is the only sort that any self-respecting man will engage in, "is selling goods that won't come back to customers that will." It is cumulative in its effect, and the man who sells another something that really fills a want wins his eternal gratitude and friendship. He tells his friends about it, they come to the same salesman and the product begins almost to sell itself. But it takes patience and courtesy to bring it up to this point.

Some salesmen kill a territory on their first trip. Bad manners can do it very easily. Sometimes they make themselves so objectionable that the customer will buy to get rid of them, especially if the purchase does not involve more than a dollar or two. Sometimes they carry the customer along so smoothly with plausible arguments that they persuade him to buy something that he knows he does not want. It is all right so long as the salesman is present, but discontent follows in his trail. Sometimes--stocks and bonds salesmen are guilty here--they wheedle the customer into buying more than he can afford, beginning on the premise that since their stocks are good (and the men who sell fraudulent ones use the same methods) a man should if he has a hundred dollars buy a hundred dollars' worth, if he has a million he should buy a million dollars' worth, if he has a home he must mortgage it, if he has an automobile he must sell it. No good salesman works like this. People are very gullible and it takes little argument to persuade them to invest nearly all they have in something that will make them rich in a hurry, but the fact that they are foolish is not quite sufficient justification for fooling them. Even if the stocks and bonds are all the salesman believes and represents them to be, no man has a right to risk his home or his happiness for them. A worth while salesman leaves his customer satisfied and comes back a year later and finds him still satisfied. And this sort of customer is the best advertisement and the best friend any business can have.

Bad salesmen create violent prejudices against the firms they represent. For the average customer, like the average man, judges the whole of a thing by the part that he sees. To most of us the word Chinaman calls up the picture of the laundryman around the corner in spite of the fact that there are some three hundred million Chinamen in the world engaged in other occupations. Salesmen who are consumed with their own importance do their firms more harm than good. They usually are men in positions too big for them (they may not be very big at that) and are for the most part of not much more real consequence than the gnat which sat on the tip of the bull's horn and cried, "See what a dust I raise!" Glum and sullen salesmen--there are not many of them--are of little genuine value to their firms. It is not true that when you weep you weep alone. Gloomy moods are as contagious as pleasant ones, and a happy man radiates happiness.

It is not easy to look pleasant when one's nerves are bruised from miscellaneous contacts with all sorts of people, but it is an actual fact that assuming the gestures of a mood will often induce the mood itself. The man who forces himself to look cheerful (we are not talking about the one who takes on an idiotic grin) may find himself after a while beginning to feel cheerful. After he has greeted the elevator boy with a smile (it may be a very crooked one) and the hotel clerk and the waitress and the bootblack and the paper boy he is likely to find that the smile has straightened out into a genuine one. It does not always work--it is like counting to a hundred when one is angry--but it is worth trying.

Salesmen find their greatest difficulties among people of little education. It is the people with fewest ideas that cling to them most tenaciously. Scholars and scientists and business men who have learned to employ scientific methods are constantly watching for something new. They welcome new discoveries and new ideas, but the man in the backwoods of ignorance has a fence around the limits of his mind and it is hard for anything to get inside it. He is open to conviction, but like the Scotsman, he would like to see the person who could "convict" him. It is hard work to get a new idea into the mind of a man who is encased in a shell of ignorance or prejudice, but the salesman is worse than bad-mannered who lets another man, whoever he is, know that he thinks his religion is no good, that his political party is rotten, that his country is not worth a cancelled postage stamp, and that the people of his race are "frogs," "square-heads," "dagos," "wops," or "kikes."

Salesmen who are themselves courteous usually meet with courtesy. The people who move graciously through life find comparatively little rudeness in the world. And a good salesman is courteous to all men alike. With him overalls command as much respect as broadcloth. It pays--not only in money, but in other things that are worth more.

A salesman should be especially careful of his attitude toward the representatives of rival houses and their products. His eagerness to advance his own cause should never lead him into belittling them. He need not go out of his way to praise them nor should he speak of them insincerely in glowing terms; but an honest word of commendation shows that he is not afraid of his rivals in spite of the fact that they too have excellent goods, and when it is impossible to speak well of them it is best to stay silent.

It is not hard to see why business men spend so much time and effort in selecting their salesmen. They know that one who is ill-mannered or offensive in any way indicates either a lack of breeding or a lack of judgment on the part of the parent concern. And one is about as bad as the other.

VIII.

THE BUSINESS OF WRITING.

Half the business letters which are written should never be written at all, and of the other half so many are incomplete or incoherent that a transaction which could be finished and filed away in two letters frequently requires six or eight.

A good letter is the result of clear thinking and careful planning. In the case of the sales-letter it sometimes takes several weeks to write one, but for ordinary correspondence a few minutes is usually all that is necessary. The length of time does not matter--it is the sort of letter which is produced at the end of it.

Books of commercial correspondence give a number of rules and standards by which a letter can be measured. But all rules of thumb are dangerous, and there are only two items which are essential. The others are valuable only as they contribute to them. The letter must succeed in getting its idea across and it must build up good will for its firm. And the best one is the one which accomplishes this most courteously and most completely in the briefest space of time (and paper).

There should be a reason back of every letter if it is only to say "Thank you" to a customer. Too much of our national energy goes up in waste effort, in aimless advertising, worthless salesmanship, ineffective letter writing, and in a thousand and one other ways. A lot of it is hammered out on the typewriters transcribing perfectly useless letters to paper which might really be worth something if it were given over to a different purpose.

A good letter never attracts the mind of the reader to itself as a thing apart from its contents. Last year a publishing house sent out a hundred test letters advertising one of their books. Three answers came back, none of them ordering the book, but all three praising the letter. One was from a teacher of commercial English who declared that he was going to use it as a model in his classes, and the other two congratulated the firm on having so excellent a correspondent. The physical make-up of the letter was attractive, it was written by a college graduate and couched in clear, correct, and colorful English. And yet it was no good. No letter and no advertisement is any good which calls attention to itself instead of the message it is trying to deliver.

There is not much room for individuality in the make-up of a letter. Custom has standardized it, and startling variations from the conventional format indicates freakishness rather than originality. They are like that astonishing gentleman who walks up Fifth Avenue on the coldest mornings in the year, bareheaded, coatless, sockless, clad in white flannels and tennis slippers. He attracts attention, but he makes us shiver.

Plain white paper of good quality is always in good taste. Certain dull-tinted papers are not bad, but gaudy colors, flashy designs, and ornate letter heads are taboo in all high types of business. Simple headings giving explicit and useful information are best. The name and address of the firm (and "New York" or "Chicago" is not sufficient in spite of the fact that a good many places go into no more detail than this), the cable address if it has one, the telephone number and the trademark if it is an inconspicuous one (there is a difference between conspicuous and distinctive) are all that any business house needs.

Hotels are often pictured on their own stationery in a way that is anything but modest, but there is a very good reason for it. The first thing most people want to know about a hotel is what sort of looking place it is. All right, here you are. Some factories, especially those that are proud of their appearance, carry their own picture on their stationery. There is nothing to say against it, but one of the most beautiful factories in America has on its letter head only the name of the firm, the address, and a small trademark engraved in black. Sometimes a picture, in a sales letter, for instance, supplements the written matter in a most effective way. And whenever any kind of device is really helpful it should by all means be used, subject only to the limits of good taste.

It is more practical in business to use standard size envelopes. If window envelopes are used the window should be clear, the paper white or nearly so, and the typewritten address a good honest black. The enclosure should fit snugly and should be placed so that the address is in plain view without having to be jiggled around in the envelope first. A letter passes through the hands of several postal clerks before it reaches the person to whom it is addressed, and if each one of them has to stop to play with it awhile an appreciable amount of time is lost, not to mention the strain it puts on their respective tempers. The paper of which an envelope is made should always be opaque enough to conceal the contents of the letter.

Practically all business letters are typewritten. Occasionally a "Help Wanted" advertisement requests that the answer be in the applicant's own handwriting, but even this is rare. In most places the typing is taken care of by girls who have been trained for the purpose, but most young girls just entering business are highly irresponsible, and it is necessary for the men and women who dictate the letters to know what constitutes a pleasing make-up so that they can point out the flaws and give suggestions for doing away with them.

The letter should be arranged symmetrically on the page with ample margins all around. Nothing but experience in copying her own notes will teach a stenographer to estimate them correctly so that she will not have to rewrite badly placed letters. It is a little point, but an important one.

Each subject considered in a letter should be treated in a separate paragraph, and each paragraph should be set off from the others by a wider space than that between the lines, double space between the paragraphs when there is single space between the lines, triple space between the paragraphs when there is a double space between the lines, and so on.

A business letter should handle only one subject. Two letters should be dispatched if two subjects are to be covered. This enables the house receiving the letter to file it so that it can be found when it is needed.

When a letter is addressed to an individual it is better to begin "Dear Mr. Brown" or "My dear Mr. Brown" than "Dear Sir" or "My dear Sir." "Gentlemen" or "Ladies" is sometime used in salutation when a letter is addressed to a group. "Dear Friend" is permissible in general letters sent out to persons of both sexes. Honorary titles should be used in the address when they take the place of "Mr.," such titles as Reverend, Doctor, Honorable (abbreviated to Rev., Dr., Hon.,) and the like. Titles should not be dropped except in the case of personal letters.

Special care should be taken with the outside address. State abbreviations should be used sparingly when there is a chance of confusion as in the case of Ga., Va., La., and Pa. "City" is not sufficient and should never be used. Nor should the name of the state ever be omitted even when the letter is addressed to some other point in the same state, as from New York to Brooklyn. And postage should be complete. A letter on which there is two cents due has placed itself under a pretty severe handicap before it is opened.

It is astonishing how many letters go out every day unsigned, lacking enclosures, carrying the wrong addresses, bearing insufficient postage, and showing other evidences of carelessness and thoughtlessness. In a town in New England last year one of the specialty shops received at Christmas time twenty different lots of money--money orders, stamps, and cash--by mail, not one of which bore the slightest clue to the identity of the sender. Countless times during the year this happens in every mail order house.

The initials of the dictator and of the stenographer in the lower left-hand corner of a letter serve not only to identify the carbon, but often to place the letter itself if it has gone out without signature. The signature should be legible, or if the one who writes it enjoys making flourishes he may do so if he will have the name neatly typed either just below the name or just above it. It should be written in ink (black or blue ink), not in pencil or colored crayon, and it should be blotted before the page is folded. The dictator himself should sign the letter whenever possible. "Dictated but not read" bears the mark of discourtesy and sometimes brings back a letter with "Received but not read" written across it. When it is necessary to leave the office before signing his letters, a business man should deputize his stenographer to do it, in which case she writes his name in full with her initials just below it. A better plan is to have another person take care of the entire letter, beginning it something like, "Since Mr. Blake is away from the office to-day he has asked me to let you know----"

The complimentary close to a business letter should be "Yours truly," "Yours sincerely" or something of the kind, and not "Yours cordially," "Yours faithfully" or "Yours gratefully" unless the circumstances warrant it.

In writing a letter as a part of a large organization one should use "We" instead of "I." A firm acts collectively, no one except the president has a right to the pronoun of the first person, and he (if he is wise) seldom avails himself of it. If the matter is so near personal as to make "We" somewhat ridiculous "I" should, of course, be used instead. But one should be consistent. If "I" is used at the beginning it should be continued throughout.

Similarly a letter should be addressed to a firm rather than to a person, for if the person happens to be absent some one else can then take charge of it. But the address should also include the name of the addressee (whenever possible) or "Advertising Manager," "Personnel Manager" or whatever the designation of his position may be. The name may be placed in the lower left-hand corner of the letter "Attention Mr. Green" or "Attention Advertising Manager," and it may also be placed just above the salutation inside the letter. Sometimes the subject of the letter is indicated in the same way, Re Montana shipment, Re Smythe manuscript, etc. These lines may be typed in red or in capital letters so as to catch the attention of the reader at once. If a letter is more than two pages long this line is often added to the succeeding pages, a very convenient device, for letters are sometimes misplaced in the files and this helps to locate them.

A business letter should never be longer than necessary. If three lines are enough it is absurd to use more, especially if the letter is going to a firm which handles a big correspondence. Some one has said with more truth than exaggeration that no man south of Fourteenth Street in New York reads a letter more than three lines long. But there is danger that the too brief letter will sound brusque. Mail order houses which serve the small towns and the rural districts say that, all other things being equal, it is the long sales letter which brings in the best results. Farmers have more leisure and they are quite willing to read long letters if (and this if is worth taking note of) they are interesting.

All unnecessary words and all stilted phrases should be stripped from a letter. "Replying to your esteemed favor," "Yours of the 11th inst. to hand, contents noted," "Yours of the 24th ult. received. In reply would say," "Awaiting a favorable reply," "We beg to remain" are dead weights. "Prox" might be added to the list, and "In reply to same." "Per diem" and other Latin expressions should likewise be thrown into the discard. "As per our agreement of the 17th" should give place to "According to our agreement of the 17th," and, wherever possible, simplified expression should be employed. Legal phraseology should be restricted to the profession to which it belongs. Wills, deeds, and other documents likely to be haled into court need "whereas's" and "wherefores" and "said's" and "same's" without end, but ordinary business letters do not. It is perfectly possible to express oneself clearly in the language of conversation (which is also the language of business) without burying the meaning in tiresome verbiage. And yet reputable business houses every day send out letters which are almost ridiculous because of the stiff and pompous way they are written.

The following letter was sent recently by one of the oldest furniture houses in America: DEAR MADAM: Herewith please find receipt for full payment of your bill. Please accept our thanks for same.

Relative to the commission due Mrs. Robinson would say that if she will call at our office at her convenience we shall be glad to pay same to her.

Thanking you for past favors, we beg to remain, Yours very truly, Contrast that with this: DEAR MRS. BROWN: We are returning herewith your receipted bill. Thank you very much.

If you will have Mrs. Robinson call at our office at her convenience we shall take pleasure in paying her the commission due her.

Yours very truly, Here is another letter so typical of the kind that carelessness produces: DEAR SIR: I have your letter of the 27th inst. and I have forwarded it to Mr. Stubbs and will see him in a few days and talk the matter over.

I remain Yours sincerely, Would it not have been just as easy to write: DEAR MR. THOMPSON: Thank you for your letter of the 27th. I have forwarded it to Mr. Stubbs and will see him in a few days to talk the matter over.

Your sincerely, In the preparation of this volume a letter of inquiry was sent out to a number of representative business houses all over the country. It was a pleasure to read the excellent replies that came in response to it. One letter reached its destination in the midst of a strike, but the publicity manager of the firm sent a cordial answer, which began: Your very courteous letter to Mr. Jennings came at a time when his mind is pretty well occupied with thoughts concerning the employment situation in our various plants.

We shall endeavor, therefore, to give you such information as comes to mind with regard to matters undertaken by the company which have contributed to the standard of courtesy which exists in the departments here.

We select another at random: It pleases us very much to know that our company has been described to you as one which practises courtesy in business. We should like nothing better than to have all our employees live up to the reputation credited to them by Mr. Haight.

As for our methods of obtaining it---- Contrast these two excellent beginnings with (and this one is authentic, too): In reply to yours of the 6th inst. relative to what part courtesy plays in business and office management would say that it is very important.

Routine letters must be standardized--a house must conserve its own time as well as that of its customers--but a routine letter must never be used unless it adequately covers the situation. There is no excuse for a poor routine letter, for there is plenty of time to think it out, and there is no excuse for sending a routine letter when it does not thoroughly answer the correspondent's question. The man who is answering a letter must put himself in the place of the one who wrote it.

This is a fair sample of what happens when a letter is written by a person who either has no imagination at all, or does not use what he has.

A woman who had just moved to New York lost the key to her apartment and wrote to her landlord for another. This answer came: Replying to your letter, will say am sorry but it is not the custom of the landlord to furnish more than one key for an apartment. Should the tenant lose or misplace the key it is up to them to replace same.

The woman felt a justifiable sense of irritation. She was new to the city and thought she was taking the most direct method of replacing "same." Perhaps she should have known better, but she did not. Buying a key is not so simple as buying a box of matches and to a newcomer it is a matter of some little difficulty. She was at least entitled to a bit more information and to more courteous treatment than is shown in the letter signed by his landlordly hand. She went to see him and found him most suave and polite (which was his habit face to face with a woman). He explained the heavy expense of furnishing careless tenants with new keys (which she understood perfectly to begin with) and was most apologetic when he discovered that she had intended all the time to pay for it. It would have been just as easy for him in the beginning to write: I am sorry that I cannot send you a key, but we have had so many similar requests that we have had to discontinue complying with them.

You will find an excellent locksmith at 45 West 119 St. His telephone number is Main 3480.

Or: I am sending you the key herewith. There is a nominal charge for it which will be added to your bill at the end of the month. I hope it will reach you safely. It is a nuisance to be without one.

Imagination is indispensable to good letter writing, but it is going rather far when one sends thanks in advance for a favor which he expects to be conferred. Even those who take pleasure in granting favors like to feel that they do so of their own free will. It takes away the pleasure of doing it when some one asks a favor and then assumes the thing done. Royalty alone are so highly privileged as to have simply to voice their wishes to have them complied with, and royalty has gone out of fashion.

At one point in their journey all the travellers in "Pilgrim's Progress" exchanged burdens, but they did not go far before each one begged to have back his original load. That is what would happen if the man who dictates a letter were to exchange places with his stenographer. Each would then appreciate the position of the other, and if they were once in a while to make the transfer in their minds (imagination in business again) they would come nearer the sympathetic understanding that is the basis of good teamwork.

The responsibility for a letter is divided between them, and it is important that the circumstances under which it is written should be favorable. The girl should be placed in a comfortable position so that she can hear without difficulty. The dictator should not smoke whether she objects to it or not. He should have in mind what he wants to say before he begins speaking, and then he should pronounce his words evenly and distinctly. He should not bang on the desk with his fist, flourish his arms in the air, talk in rhetorical rushes with long pauses between the phrases, or raise his voice to a thunderous pitch and then let it sink to a cooing murmur. These things have not the slightest effect on the typewritten page, and they make it very hard for the girl to take correct notes. No one should write a letter while he is angry, or if he writes it (and it is sometimes a relief to write a scorching letter) he should not mail it.

It is said that Roosevelt used to write very angry letters to people who deserved them, drawing liberally upon his very expressive supply of abusive words for the occasion. Each time his secretary quietly stopped the letter. Each time the Colonel came in the day after and asked if the letter had been sent. Each time the secretary said, "No, that one did not get off." And each time the Colonel exclaimed, "Good! We won't send it!" It came to be a regular part of the day's routine.

Inexperienced dictators will find it good practice to have their stenographers read back their letters so they can recast awkward sentences and make other improvements. It can usually be discontinued after a while, for dictating, like nearly everything else, becomes easier with habit.

A considerate man will show special forbearance in breaking in a new girl. Different voices are hard to grow accustomed to, and a girl who is perfectly capable of taking dictation from one man will find it very difficult to follow another until she has grown used to the sound of his voice. It is like learning a foreign language. The pupil understands his teacher, but he does not understand any one else until he has got "the hang of it."

The training of a good stenographer does not end when she leaves school. She should be able not only to take down and transcribe notes neatly and correctly. She should be able to spell and punctuate correctly and to make the minor changes in phrasing and diction that so often can make a good letter of a poor one. The most fatal disease that can overtake a stenographer (or any one else) is the habit of slavishly following a routine.

"Many young fellows," this is from Henry Ford, "especially those employed in offices, fall into a routine way of doing their work that eventually makes it become like a treadmill. They do not get a broad view of the entire business. Sometimes that is the fault of the employer, but that does not excuse the young man. Those who command attention are the ones who are actually pushing the boss.... It pays to be ahead of your immediate job, and to do more than that for which you are paid. A mere clock watcher never gets anywhere. Forget the clock and become absorbed in your job. Learn to love it."

The position of secretary is a responsible one. Frequently she knows almost as much about his business as her employer himself (and sometimes even more). He depends upon her quite as much as she depends upon him, though in a somewhat different way. It takes personal effort together with native ability to raise any one to a position of importance, but personal effort often needs supplementing, and many business houses have taken special measures to help their employees to become good correspondents.

In some places there are supervisors who give talks and discuss the actual letters, good ones and bad, which have been written. They go over the carbons and hold conferences with the correspondents who need help. In other places courtesy campaigns for a higher standard of correspondence are held, while in others the matter is placed in the hands of the heads of the various departments, acting on the assumption that these heads are men of experience and ability or they would never have attained the position they hold.

The president of a bank which has branches in London and Paris and other big foreign cities used every now and then to stop the boy who was carrying a basket of carbons to the file clerk and look them over. If he found a letter he did not like, or one that he did like a great deal, he sent for the person who wrote it and talked with him. It was not necessary for him to go over the letters often. The fact that the people in the office knew that it was likely to happen kept them on the alert and nearly every letter that left the organization was better because the person who wrote it knew that the man at the head was interested in it and that there was a strong chance that he might see it.

What is effective in one place may not be so in another. Each house must work out its own system. But one thing must be understood in the beginning, and that is that the spirit of courtesy must first abide in the home office before the people who work there can hope to send it out through the mail.

Roughly speaking there are eight types of business letters which nearly every business man at one time or another has to write or to consider.

The first is the letter of application. The applicant should state simply his qualifications for the place he wants. He should not make an appeal to sympathy (sob stuff) nor should he beg or cringe. He should not demand a certain salary, though he may state what salary he would like, and he should not say "Salary no object." It would probably not be true. There are comparatively few people with whom money is no object. If it is the first time the applicant has ever tried for a position he should say so; if not, he should give his reason for leaving his last place. It should not be a long letter. A direct statement of the essential facts (age, education, experiences, etc.) is all that is necessary.

Many times the letter of application is accompanied by, or calls for, a letter of recommendation.

No man should allow himself to recommend another for qualities which he knows he does not possess. If he is asked for a recommendation he should speak as favorably of the person under consideration as he honestly can, and if his opinion of him is disapproving he should give it with reservations.

At one time during the cleaning up of Panama there was considerable talk about displacing General Gorgas and a committee waited on Roosevelt to suggest another man for the job. He listened and then asked them to get a letter about him from Dr. William H. Welsh of Johns Hopkins. Dr. Welsh wrote a letter praising the man very highly, but ended by saying that while it was true that he would be a good man for the place, he did not think he would be as good as the one they already had--General Gorgas. The Colonel acted upon the letter confident (because he had great faith in Dr. Welsh) that he was taking the wise course, which subsequent events proved it to be. "Would to heaven," he said, "that every one would write such honest letters of recommendation!"

The general letter of recommendation beginning "To whom it may concern" is rarely given now. It has little weight. Usually a man waits until he has applied for a position and then gives the name of his reference, the person to whom he is applying writes to the one to whom he has been referred, and the entire correspondence is carried on between these two. In this way the letter of recommendation can be sincere, something almost impossible in the open letter. It is needless to add that all such correspondence should be confidential.

The letter of introduction is, in a measure, a letter of recommendation. The one who writes it stands sponsor for the one who bears it. It should make no extravagant claims for the one who is introduced. He should simply be given a chance to make good on his own responsibility. But it should give the reason for the presentation and suggest a way of following it up that will result in mutual pleasure or benefit. It should be in an unsealed envelope and the envelope should bear, in addition to the address, the words, "Introducing Mr. Blank" on the lower left-hand corner. This does away with an embarrassing moment when the letter is presented in person and enables the host to greet his guest by name and ask him to be seated while he reads it.

Letters of introduction should not be given promiscuously. Some men permit themselves to be persuaded into giving letters of introduction to people who are absolute nuisances (it is hard to refuse any one who asks for this sort of letter, but often kindest for all concerned) and then they send in secret another letter explaining how the first one came about. This really throws the burden on the person who least of all ought to bear it, the innocent man whom the first one wanted to meet. No letter of presentation is justified unless there is good reason behind it, such, as for instance, in the following: This is Mr. Franklin B. Nesbitt. He has been in Texas for several months studying economic conditions, and I believe can give you some valuable information which has resulted from his research there. He is a man upon whom you can rely. I have known him for years, and I am sure that whatever he tells you will be trustworthy.

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