Vintage Writing Paper

[…] As letter-writing is the most generally practiced, so also is it the most important, practically considered, of all kinds of composition.Take pains; write as plainly and neatly as possible — rapidly if you can, slowly if you must.Westlake offers several examples, including ones by famous historical figures, of what is known as the “complimentary close”:: letters admit of an almost infinite variety of forms of complimentary close.

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Willis Westlake, an English Literature professor at the State Normal School in Millersville, Pennsylvania.

From how to address the recipient and sign your name to the conventions of business vs. personal letters to the most elegant way to fold the sheet, Westlake presents a guide not only to the craft of writing letters, but also to the conceptual elements of composition and the role of letters as social currency.

At one time purple ink was used in the War Department at Washington; but the discovery was afterwards made that this color would fade, and an order was issued that all the records that had been made with purple ink should be recopied with black ink.

Even today, we read a great deal into email sign-offs — their warmth or coldness, the degree of familiarity they connote, the expectation they imply.

— , most gratefully and faithfully yours (Miss Mitford); I am, my dearest friend, most affectionately and kindly yours (John Adams to his wife); Believe me always your affectionate father (Sir Walter Scott); Yours very sincerely (Hannah Moore); Your obliged and affectionate friend (Bishop Heber); Sincerely and entirely yours.

There is no other kind of writing that possesses for us such a living, human interest, as letters; for there is no other that comes so near to the private lives, ‘to the business and bosoms,’ of the writers.At once delightfully dated in many of its cultural assumptions — particularly the epistolary norms for the sexes — and charmingly urbane in its practical prescriptions, this tiny treasure tells us as much about the long-lost era of its origin as it does about the standards we’ve chosen, and chosen to leave behind, in our own.Above all, it reminds us that sentiment lives not only in Nearly all the writing of most persons is in the form of letters; and yet in many of our schools this kind of composition is almost entirely neglected.Ladies may use delicately tinted and perfumed paper if they choose, but for a man to use it is, to say the least, in very bad taste.For business letters, no color is allowable but pure or bluish white.It is certainly a noble thing to have great thoughts, but without the power of expressing them the finest sentiments are unavailable.Invention includes two operations : (1.) The collection of materials; and (2.) their proper and orderly arrangement.For a social letter, even if you write only a line or two, use a whole sheet.To use part of a sheet looks mean and stingy, and is disrespectful to the receiver. — No color is more elegant and tasteful than white, for any kind of letter, and gentlemen should use no other.In fact, bad letters are like store bills: the fewer and the shorter they are, the better pleased is the recipient. Invention is the action of the mind that precedes writing.A separate chapter explores the rhetoric of letters, “the art of expressing thought and feeling in letters with clearness, force, and elegance,” emphasizing the importance of an incubation period for ideas and the organization of knowledge, and stressing the curatorial element of composition: The general principles applicable to the composition of letters will be discussed under two heads : 1. In all kinds of composition, there are two things necessary: first, to have something to say; second, to say it. It is the most difficult part of composition, as it is a purely intellectual process, requiring originality, talent, judgment, and information; while expression is to some extent a matter of mechanical detail, and subject to rules that can be easily understood and applied.

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