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[(The Art of the Personal Letter: A Guide to Connecting Through the Written Word)] [Author: Margaret Shepherd] published on (December, 2008) (Anglais) Relié – 15 décembre 2008
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Now the personal letter, as this work quickly points out, is different than business letters, memos, notes and such. I have been writing business letters since I was sixteen years old. As a matter of fact I have spent a life time writing business letters, directives, orders, instructions, etc. I can honestly say that I did not truly enjoy writing even on of the thousands upon thousands I churned out over the decades. Not so the personal letter!
The author of this undersized and well designed book, Margaret Shepherd has given us a true delight; a read that needs to be cherished and read again and again. This is not some stuffy English Book filled with directions in grammar and punctuation; no, this is a book that helps you become a crafter, a designer, an artist via the written word. Yet, it does give sound advice...more about that later.
This work begins with the discussion of the various writing instruments available to us today. Of course the pencil and ball point pen are at the bottom of the food chain here with the luxury fountain pen being at the top. I remember my grandmother, a fine lady who was raised in a strict Victorian family. She always felt that the arrival of the ballpoint pen was one of the first harbingers of the downfall of civilization. In her own lady like way, she was rather harsh when speaking of these "awful things." Perhaps she may have been correct. I know that I have been, and am fortunate enough to have two old fountain pens of very high quality (translate that to extremely expensive). The difference in writing with one of these fine instruments versus a ballpoint pen is like the difference in riding a mule with an attitude versus riding a perfectly gated horse. I dearly love mules and they are indeed serviceable, but.....
The author then goes on to discuss the various kinds of stationary that is available, the pros and cons of each, and what is appropriate and what is not. This is a wonderful little mini lesson on paper; its qualities, shortfalls and appropriate usage.
Pretty much the first half of this book addresses tools and various formats. The second half discusses how to write various letters for various purposes. Here the author gives advice on choosing the correct word for the correct emotion and how to turn a phrase for the proper occasion. She explains how to avoid the many pitfalls encountered with personal correspondence and the "proper" way to do it correctly.
Please do not be misled by the comments of others here. This work does NOT ignore emails and typed communications. As a matter of fact the author goes to great lengths in giving good and useful tips as to how to personalize this form of communication, and all of the writing tips she offers can apply to both the written word, the typed word or the emailed word...I am not too sure about texting. I dare say that the communication skills of anyone reading this work will dramatically improve; if for not other reason that this book causes you to stop and think before you put any ink on paper.
I think one of my favorite sections of the book is when the author goes into detail as to the setting up to write a good letter, the process of preparing pen and paper, the location, the desk, the mental images to be placed in ones head and the attitude. Actually, it sort of reminded me of an oriental tea ceremony. Each step has meaning and each step introduces the next until the end of the journey. I liked that.
Give yourself a treat and find a copy of this one and give it a hard read. I promise you that you will enjoy every word and will, like me, quite likely learn a few things you thought you knew, but didn't. Recommend this one for any one that loves communications in any form but especially those who love writing.
But I feel compelled to read books about writing so I picked up this book. And it turns out I was wrong about personal letters. As I read through this delightful book, I realized that most of us don't know how to write personal letters that communicate effectively.
Shepherd walks the reader through the steps to writing a personal letter. She even gives advice -- good advice -- on choosing a pen and improving your handwriting.
Most important, she shares good advice about dealing with specific situations, including the break-up letter (establish some distance) the advice letter and the letter to someone "who is away." If anything I wish these sections had been longer. I especially liked the advice on writing to someone in the military: don't use flowery notepaper when writing to someone in Marine Corps boot camp. I've heard stories of recruits who had to eat some of those letters (literally).
I am tempted to give this book to friends who send me a holiday letter every Christmas season. I always dread opening that letter and now I know why. Shepherd advises us to make those letters interesting. Don't just brag about accomplishments of yourself and your kids; tell us the downside, too.
The only areas where I disagree with Shepherd are related to appearance of the letter. I vote for black ink on white or cream paper, no matter how offbeat your own personality may be. If it's too hard too read, I won't get beyond the first line. I would rather have a nice word-processed letter that's easy to read than a hand-written scrawl.
The book was published by a division of Random House, a very good start. I wish the editors had suggested a catchier title and I wish the author had launched a stronger publicity campaign. The book "Eats Shoots Leaves" created a market for grammar books by presenting a good title and PR campaign. This book should have followed suit.
After having read Ms. Shepherd's book, I knew it would be the perfect instructional tool. She has been extremely supportive and I truly apprecicate her help and encouragement.
The workshop begins in the beginning of March. I know it will be a great success because I have the perfect guide.