The Business Letter

A reporter was sent out on a big story—one of the biggest that had broken in many a day. He came back into the office about eight o'clock all afire with his story. He was going to make a reputation on the writing of it. He wanted to start off with a smashing first paragraph—the kind of lead that could not help being read. He knew just what he was going to say; the first half-dozen lines fairly wrote themselves on the typewriter. Then he read them over. They did not seem qui

e so clever and compelling as he had thought. He pulled the sheet out and started another. By half-past ten he was in the midst of a sea of copy paper—but he had not yet attained a first paragraph.

The City Editor—one of the famous old Sun school—grew anxious. The paper could not wait until inspiration had matured. He walked quietly over to the young man and touching him on the shoulder he said:

"Just one little word after another, son."

And that is a good thought to carry into the composition of a business or any other kind of letter. The letter is written to convey some sort of idea. It will not perfectly convey the idea. Words have their limitations. It will not invariably produce upon the reader the effect that the writer desires. You may have heard of "irresistible" letters—sales letters that would sell electric fans to Esquimaux or ice skates to Hawaiians, collection letters that make the thickest skinned debtor remit by return mail, and other kinds of resultful, masterful letters that pierce to the very soul. There may be such letters. I doubt it. And certainly it is not worth while trying to concoct them. They are the outpourings of genius. The average letter writer, trying to be a genius, deludes only himself—he just becomes queer, he takes to unusual words, constructions, and arrangements. He puts style before thought—he thinks that the way he writes is more important than what he writes. The writer of the business letter does well to avoid "cleverness"—to avoid it as a frightful and devastating disease.

The purpose of a business letter is to convey a thought that will lead to some kind of action—immediately or remotely. Therefore there are only two rules of importance in the composition of the business letter.

The first is: Know what you want to say.

The second is: Say it.

And the saying is not a complicated affair—it is a matter of "one little word after another."

Business letters may be divided into two general classes:

(1) Where it is assumed that the recipient will want to read the letter,

(2) Where it is assumed that the recipient will not want to read the letter.

The first class comprises the ordinary run of business correspondence. If I write to John Smith asking him for the price of a certain kind of chair, Smith can assume in his reply that I really want that information and hence he will give it to me courteously and concisely with whatever comment on the side may seem necessary, as, for instance, the fact that this particular type of chair is not one that Smith would care to recommend and that Style X, costing $12.00, would be better.

The ordinary business letter is either too wordy or too curt; it either loses the subject in a mass of words or loses the reader by offensive abruptness. Some letters gush upon the most ordinary of subjects; they are interspersed with friendly ejaculations such as "Now, my dear Mr. Jones," and give the impression that if one ever got face to face with the writer he would effervesce all over one's necktie. Many a man takes a page to say what ought to be said in four lines. On the other hand, there are letter writers so uncouth in the handling of words that they seem rude when really they only want to be brief. The only cure for a writer of this sort is for him to spend some months with any good English composition book trying to learn the language.

The second class of letters—those in which it is presumed that the recipient will not want to read—comprises all the circular letters. These are selling or announcement letters and it is hoped that they will play the part of a personal representative. The great bulk of these letters are sales letters. Their characteristic is that the writer and the reader are unknown to each other. It is not quite accurate to say that the reader will never want to read the letters—no one knows how many of the millions of circular letters sent out are read. A farmer will read practically every letter that comes to him; many business men will throw every circular letter into the waste basket unread. It is well to assume in this kind of letter, however, that the recipient does not want to read it but that he will open and glance at it. It is up to you to make such a good letter that the first glance will cause him to read more.

There is no way of catching the man who throws letters away unopened; any attempt to have the envelope tell what the letter should tell is apt to be unfortunate, because it will have no effect upon the inveterate tosser away and may deter even some of those who commonly do open circular mail. The best method is to make the letter look so much like a routine business letter that no one will dare to throw it away without investigation.

The cost of a sales letter is not to be reckoned otherwise than by results. The merit of a sales letter is to be judged solely by the results. Therefore it is not a question of what kind of letter one thinks ought to produce results. The single question is what kind of letter does produce results.

There is only one way to ascertain results, and that is by test. No considerable expenditure in direct mail solicitation and no form letter should be extensively used without an elaborate series of tests. Otherwise the money may be thrown away. The extent of the tests will depend upon the contemplated expenditure. Every concern that sends out many sales letters keeps a careful record of results. These records show the letter itself, the kind of envelope, the typing, the signature, and the kind of list to which it has been sent. Thus a considerable fund of information is obtained for future use. This information, however, has to be very carefully handled because it may easily become misinformation, for we cannot forget the appeal of the product itself. No one as yet has ever been able to gauge in advance the appeal of a product.

Some apparently very bad letters have sold very good products. Some apparently very good letters have quite failed to sell what turned out to be bad products. Therefore, the information that is obtained in the circularizing and sale of one product has to be taken warily when applied to another product. It should be taken only for what it is worth, and that is as a general guide.

Specimens of business letterheads Specimens of business letterheads

Several concerns with a mind for statistical information have in the past so carefully compiled the effectiveness of their letters, but without regard to the product, that they have discovered an inordinately large number of things that cannot be done and extremely few things that can be done. This is the danger of placing too much faith in previous experience. One of these companies entirely discarded its records of what could not be done and started afresh. They found that several of the methods which they had previously used and discarded happened to do well under changed conditions and with different products.

If any large expenditure be contemplated then many tests should be made. The kind of envelope, the manner of addressing, the one cent as opposed to the two-cent stamp, the kind of letterhead, the comparative merits of printing, multigraphing, or electric typewriting, the length and composition of the letter, the effect of the return card, the effect of enclosing a stamped return card or a stamped return envelope, the method of signing, and so on, through each detail, must be tried out. No test is ever conclusive, but very little information of value is to be obtained by circularizing less than five hundred names. These names may be taken sectionally or at random. The sectional method is somewhat better, for then comparison of results in several sections may be made, and it may turn out that it would be well to phrase differently letters for different sections.

The returns on the letters are not of themselves conclusive. If one section responds and another does not, it is well to look into business conditions in the sections. It may be that in one section the people are working and that in another there is considerable unemployment. The main point about all of these statistics is to be sure that what one terms results are results, bearing in mind that it is the test and not what one thinks about a letter that counts.

It is distinctly harmful for any one to say that a letter should be long or short. It all depends on who is going to get the letter. The tendency in recent years has been toward the very long sales letter. This is because in a large number of cases the long letter has been singularly effective. However, the long letter can be overdone. It is the test that counts.

The exact purpose for which a letter is written is to be stated clearly before entering upon the composition. Very few letters will sell articles costing as much as fifty dollars unless perhaps the payments are on the installment plan. Many men of experience put the limit as low as five dollars. Others put it as high as one hundred dollars. It is safe to say that the effectiveness of a letter which is designed to achieve a sale decreases as the price of that which is offered for sale increases. Therefore, most of the letters written concerning more expensive articles are not intended to effect sales. They are designed to bring responses that will furnish leads for salesmen.

Other letters are more in the nature of announcements, by which it is hoped prospects may be brought into a store.

Where the article offered for sale is quite high in price, the letters sometimes may be very expensively prepared. On one occasion the late John H. Patterson, discovering that his salesmen could not get to the heads of several department stores, ordered some very fine leather portfolios. On each portfolio he had stamped the name of the man who was to receive it. They were gifts such as any one would welcome and which no one could possibly ignore. Inside each portfolio were contained a letter and a number of photographs showing exactly what he desired to have the agents demonstrate. Each gift cost about fifty dollars. He sent the portfolios with his compliments. The secretaries of the men that he wanted to interest could not possibly toss them away. They simply had to give them to their principals. My impression is that the entire expenditure ran to several thousand dollars, but as a result some two hundred thousand dollars in sales were effected, for in practically every case the photographs awakened an interest that led to an appointment with the salesman.

The following letters are intended to be suggestive. They cannot honestly be put forward as being more than that. They are all letters that have gained results under certain circumstances. That they will gain results under new and different circumstances is a matter on which no one can speak with any assurance. Every sales letter is a matter of cut and try. Some of these letters may produce results exactly as they stand. Others may better be used in combination.

Arrangement of a business letter (block form) Arrangement of a business letter (block form)

Arrangement of a business letter (indented form) Arrangement of a business letter (indented form)

Whether the letter should have a return card or envelope depends upon circumstances, as also does the inclusion of an illustrated folder. The return card is more valuable with a letter that goes to a home than with a letter that goes to an office. Very few men with stenographers will bother with return cards—their stenographers or secretaries will send a note. On the other hand, letter-writing facilities are not so easily available in the usual home and the card is likely to be used. The putting in of a folder sometimes takes away from the force of the letter. It is often better to reserve the folder for a second letter or for answering an inquiry. For once the prospect has written in for more information the whole purpose of the letter changes. The interest can be presumed, and the object of the letter is to give the greatest possible amount of clear information to the end of causing action. Saying too much in the first letter may give the reader an opportunity to reach a conclusion, when the purpose of the first letter is primarily to get a name—a prospective purchaser. Many a salesman kills a sale by talking too much; so does many a sales letter.

Sales and Announcement Letters

To charge customers selling and announcement letters are sent out before the public advertising. (They can also be used as general announcements by eliminating the portions referring particularly to the charge accounts.)

Announcing a sale




July 31, 1922.

Dear Madam:

As one of our regular patrons, we are telling you in advance of a coming big sale—The August Furniture Sale, which will begin Monday, August 7th. We should like our charge customers to have first choice of the interesting values before they are announced to the public. Therefore we shall have three Courtesy Days, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this week, when you may come in and make your selections at the Sale Prices.

Our guide in choosing furniture is our clientèle, so we feel sure you will find the type of furniture here that pleases you—and in greater variety than usual because we complete our collection for this event.

Prices this year are very attractive. They have been reduced far lower than you will anticipate. We should like you to have the advantage in these values soon, and hope you will come in one of the three Courtesy Days.

Very truly yours,

Brice & Haskell.

Following are letters of slightly different type:




April 26, 1920.

Mrs. Arthur Moore,

1317 Hillside Avenue,

Boston, Mass.

Dear Madam:

Our Spring Sale of Misses' Suits, Coats, Dresses, and Hats will begin Monday, April 30th, continuing throughout the week.

This sale presents an unusual opportunity to secure seasonable apparel at decided price concessions.

MISSES' SUITS: Smartly tailored suits of English navy serge, navy gabardine, tan covert cloth, imported mixtures, homespuns, and light-weight knit cloths—adapted for town or country usage. A splendid selection of all sizes from 14 to 18 years.

MISSES' COATS: Coats for motor, country club, or town wear, in soft velours, burella cloth, and imported coatings.

MISSES' DRESSES: Dresses of imported serges and gabardines, for street wear, and a number of exclusive knit cloth models in attractive colorings for sports wear—sizes 14 to 18 years.

MISSES' HATS: The balance of our stock of Trimmed Hats at one half their former prices.

On account of the greatly reduced prices, none of these goods will be sent on approval, nor can they be returned for credit.

Very truly yours,

S. Black Company.


To our charge customers is extended the privilege of making their selections on Friday and Saturday, April 27th and 28th.




January 16, 1922.

Dear Madam:

We enclose advance announcements of our Private Sales of Boys' Heatherweave Clothes and Ironhide Shoes, and we believe you will find the economies presented a great relief after your large Christmas outlays.

Of course, such reductions mean that the assortments will quickly be depleted, and we urge you to act promptly in order to secure the full benefit of the available selections. To enable you to do this we are telling you before the public announcement of these sales.

Yours very truly,

Swanson Sons & Company.

This letter encloses a proof of a newspaper advertisement.




September 10, 1922.

Dear Madam:

In appreciation of your patronage we wish to extend to you a personal invitation to attend a private sale of women's tailor-made fall suits (sizes 34 to 46) in some especially well-chosen models. These suits will be priced at the very low figure of $40.

Our regular patrons may have first selection before the sale is open to the public, and may thus avoid the discomforts of a public sale.

We have arranged to show these suits privately on Friday, October 3, in the fitting department on the sixth floor.

If you care to avail yourself of this special opportunity, please bring this letter with you and present it at the fitting department.

Very truly yours,

Callender & Crump.

(Note:—An excellent idea when a special offering of foreign goods is made is to have the letters mailed from Paris or London. The foreign stamp will usually attract attention.)




Paris, France,

September 1, 1922.

Dear Madam:

We wish to let you know in advance that our annual sale of Real French Kid gloves, at 89 cents a pair, takes place on Tuesday, October 9, 1922.

To insure a choice selection we suggest that you make your purchases early on that day.

Very truly yours,

Callender & Crump.

This is an excellent, matter-of-fact letter that sets out values:




May 11, 1922.

Mrs. John Williams,

19 Concourse Ave.,

Detroit, Mich.


On Monday and Tuesday, May 15th and 16th, we shall hold our annual spring clearance sale of seasonable apparel for boys, girls, and young ladies, offering exceptional values, and an unusual opportunity to secure regular Le Fevre productions at lower prices than we have been able to offer for several years. This sale will include other items which are not enumerated in this announcement.

boys' wool norfolk suits:

Sizes 7 to 15 years. Formerly up to $35.00 Sale Price $14.50, $18.50, and $23.50

boys' overcoats:

Sizes 3 to 7 years. Formerly up to $32.50 Sale Price $14.50 and $18.50

girls' coats and capes:

Sizes 3 to 16 years. Formerly up to $55.00 Sale Price $19.50 and $29.50

girls' wool dresses:

Sizes 4 to 14 years. Formerly up to $65.00 Sale Price $17.50 and $27.50

young ladies' suits:

Sizes 14 to 18 years. Formerly up to $85.00 Sale Price $24.50 and $39.50

young ladies' dresses:

Sizes 14 to 18 years. Formerly up to $70.00 Sale Price $22.50 and $37.50

young ladies' coats and capes:

Sizes 14 to 18 years. Formerly up to $75.00 Sale Price $29.50 and $42.50

girls' and young ladies' trimmed and tailored hats:

Formerly up to $30.00 Sale Price $7.50 and $12.50

Sale goods will not be sent on approval, exchanged, nor can they be returned for credit.

Yours very truly,

Le Fevre Brothers.

Our charge customers will have the privilege of making their purchases from this sale on Friday and Saturday, May 12th and 13th.

On opening a store

This form for the opening of a new store in a town may be used with variations for a reopening after improvements.



April 14, 1922.

Mrs. Henry Jerome,

29 Water St.,

Wichita, Kan.

Dear Madam:

This is a sale to win friends for a new store. We want you to see our values. Our store is but six weeks old. Our stock is just the same age. Everything that we have is fresh and new. We want you to compare our qualities and prices. We are out to prove to the women of Wichita that we can give style and service at prices they will like.

Will you give us the chance to get acquainted?

Yours very truly,

James Bonner & Co.,

(Handwritten) L. Jones,


Selling home-made articles

19 Waverly Place,

Bridgetown, N. J.,

April 5, 1922.

Dear Madam:

Have you ever counted the cost of making your pickles, jams, and jellies at home? If you have, and are satisfied that yours is the cheapest way, considering time, labor, and the use of the best materials, then my product will not appeal to you. But before you decide, may I ask you to make a comparison?

I make at home in large quantities and according to the best recipes gathered over years of experience, all kinds of pickles and relishes—sweet, sour, dill, chow-chow, piccalilli.

My special jams are raspberry, strawberry, plum, peach, and quince.

Crabapple is my best liked jelly, and red currant a close second.

A very special conserve is a grape and walnut, for which I have a large call, for teas.

The peaches I put up in pint and quart jars.

I use only the very best vinegar and spices.

My products are made only to order and at the lowest possible cost. To do this I must get my orders some time in advance so that I may take advantage of attractive prices on fruits and other ingredients.

I append a list of prices which I charged last year. This year they will be no higher and in all probability less.

May I get a small trial order from you?

Very truly yours,

Martha Walker.

(Mrs. William Walker)

A letter to recently married people in moderate circumstances




May 8, 1922.

Dear Madam:

This store is for sensible, saving people who want to make every dollar buy its utmost. But sometimes being sensible and saving seems to mean just being commonplace and dowdy. Ours is not that sort of a store.

We believe that useful articles ought also to be good looking, and our buying has been so skillful that we believe we are safe in saying that our goods are not only absolutely dependable but also will compare in appearance with any goods anywhere, regardless of price. We think that this statement will mean something to you, for in furnishing a home, although appearance may not be everything, it is certainly a good deal. Between two articles of the same durability the better-looking one is the better.

It is our aim not merely to make home furnishing easy but to make a beautiful home at the price of an ugly one. Our experience has been that it does not pay to put into a household any article which in a few years you will get so tired of looking at that you will want to smash it with a hatchet. We have the values and also we have terms that are as good as the values.

We enclose a little booklet that will give you a hint of what you can find here. We cannot give you more than a hint. The best way is to come to the store. Tell us your problems, and let us aid you with our experience.

Very truly yours,

J. L. Bascom Company.

Introducing the mail order department:



April 4, 1922.

Mrs. Benjamin Brown,

29 Shadyside Vine Avenue,

St. Louis, Mo.

Dear Madam:

This Spring brings to us many new ideas in merchandise that our buyers have picked up in their travels. In many ways we have now the most interesting stock we have ever been able to show. It is indeed so large and varied that we shall hardly be able to give you more than a suggestion of it in our public advertising.

We feel sure that we have something which you have been looking for among the splendid values in both personal and household necessities.

You will find that through our individual shopping service purchasing by mail is made most convenient and entirely personal.

May we look forward to having again the pleasure of serving you?

Very truly yours,

L. Girard & Co.

Announcement of overcoats




October 19, 1921.

Mr. Charles Reid,

Winnetka, Ill.

My dear Sir:

In a couple of weeks you are going to think a good deal about your overcoat. Why not start thinking now?

We are offering this year the most complete line of overcoats that we have ever been able to buy. We have found that we could buy absolutely first-class coats at absolutely fair prices. We are selling them on the basis on which we bought them, and we bought a lot because we think the values will sell them.

The prices are surprisingly low. They range from $20 to $70. At the lowest price we are selling a coat which, if you saw it on the back of a friend, you would think cost at least $50. The highest priced coat is as good as money can buy. If you expected to spend $50 for a coat, you may find that you can get what you want for $20 or $25, or you may find that you will want an even better coat than you had expected to buy.

We think that it would be worth your while to look at this stock.

Very truly yours,

The Barbour Clothing Co.

Selling a farm product (can be used for vegetables, eggs, hams, and bacon or any farm product)



June 1, 1922.

Dear Madam:

Do you like perfectly fresh vegetables—right off the farm?

What kind of vegetables are you getting? Do you know how long ago they were picked?

Perhaps you think that you cannot have absolutely fresh vegetables for your table or that it really makes no difference?

Did you ever taste Golden Bantam corn the same day or the day after it was picked? Do you know Golden Bantam or is corn just corn? Do you think that string beans are just string beans? And do you know about stringless string beans?

I grow only the thoroughbred varieties. I pick them when they are tender—just right for the palate. And I send them to you the same day that they are picked.

I arrange hampers according to the size of the family. The prices, quantities, and selections are on the enclosed card.

I will deliver at your door (or send by parcel post) every day, every second day, or as often as you like. You can have the best that is grown in its best season and as fresh as though you were living on a farm.

Try a hamper and know what vegetables are!

Very truly yours,

Henry Raynor.

Storage service



May 2, 1922.

Dear Madam:

Have you ever taken your best coat to an "invisible mender" and paid him ten dollars to have him mend two moth holes?

Have you ever gone to your trunk to take out your furs and found that the moths had got into them? Sometimes they are so badly eaten that they are utterly hopeless and must be thrown away.

All this trouble, disappointment, and expense can be avoided if you will only take the precaution this spring to put away your clothing and furs in the Howard Moth Proof Garment Bags. Strongly constructed of a heavy and durable cedar paper, and made absolutely moth-proof by our patented closing device, the Howard bag provides absolute protection against moths.

As the Howard bag comes in several sizes, from the suit size, ranging through the overcoat, ulster, and automobile sizes, and as each bag has room for several garments, you can surely have protection for all your clothing at small cost. The hook by which the bag is hung up is securely stapled in place by brass rivets. This bag is so strong and so well designed for service that it will with care last for several years.

Very truly yours,

The Howard Moth-Proof Bag Co.

A type of Christmas sales letter




November 28, 1922.

Dear Madam:

This is your opportunity to get a lot of fine Christmas stockings at very low cost—if you order at once.

The "Camille" is made of beautiful thread silk richly hand embroidered. It comes in black or white, all silk.

The "Diana" is a silk stocking with lisle top and soles. It is a fine wearing stocking and comes in all street shades.

The "Juliet" is especially attractive as a gift for a girl friend. These stockings are clocked and have all silk feet and lisle tops. The colors are black, beige, and taupe. They are especially good looking worn with saddle pumps.

The "Evening Mist" is a fascinating stocking for evening wear. It is sheer, almost cobwebby, and will enhance any evening gown. The colors are gold, silver, light blue, corn, pale green, black, and white. It is splendid for a gift stocking.

The "Priscilla" is an excellent stocking for everyday hard wear. It is of heavy lisle, full fashioned and fast color—black or tan.

Send your order off now. You will have the advantage of an early selection. Attractive prices are quoted in the circular enclosed. The big holiday rush will soon be on.

Make up your order for stockings for Christmas giving, attach remittance for amount and mail to-day. Your order will be filled promptly and if everything does not fully satisfy you, you may return it and get your money back.

Yours very truly,

The Pink Shop.

An automobile announcement




March 16, 1924.

Dear Sir:

Just a few weeks and spring will be here. That means pleasure motoring.

When you are getting ready for this new season, you may find that you will need certain things for your car—perhaps a new tire, or a pair of pliers, or an inner tube. But whatever it is, remember that our new stock of accessories is here and we believe that we can supply you with anything you will need.

In inviting you to give us part of your trade, we give you this assurance: If any article you buy from us is not entirely right, we will return your money.

We hope to see you soon.

Yours very truly,

Memphis Auto Supply Co.

Changing from a credit to a cash plan (Should be in the nature of a personal letter)




February 1, 1922.

Mrs. John Troy,

14 Ocean Ave.,

Portland, Me.

Dear Madam:

When this store was opened ten years ago, we believed that our service would be the most effective if we operated on a credit basis. Therefore we solicited charge accounts, of course taking extreme care that only people of known integrity and substance should be on our books. We have had the privilege of serving you through such an account.

There are two fundamental methods of conducting a retail business. The one is on the cash and the other is on the credit plan. In the cash plan all goods are either paid for at the time of purchase or at the time of delivery. In the credit plan, those who have not credit or do not care to use credit pay cash; those who have credit rating charge their purchases and bills are rendered monthly. Credit was not extended by the store as a favor; it formed part of a way of doing business. The favor is on the part of the customer. The charge system has many advantages, principally in the way of permitting the store to know its customers better than it could otherwise. The disadvantage of the credit basis is the expense of bookkeeping which, of course, has to be added into the price of the goods sold. Our losses through unpaid bills have been negligible. Our customers are honest. But it has seemed unfair that the customer who pays cash should have to bear the cost of the credit accounts.

As our business has worked out more than fifty per cent. of our whole trade is on the cash basis. After careful consideration we have finally decided to go entirely upon a cash footing in order that we may further reduce our costs of doing business and hence our prices to you. We think that in such fashion we can better serve you. Therefore, on July 1st, which marks the end of our fiscal year, we shall go upon an exclusively cash basis and no longer maintain charge accounts.

We think that you will agree when you see the savings reflected in lower prices for the highest grade of goods that the change in policy is a wise one and that you will continue to favor us with your patronage.

Very truly yours,

Pelletier & Co.,

(Handwritten) C. Brown,

Credit Manager.

Keeping the Customer

Thanking a new customer



October 4, 1923.

Mrs. Lee White,

29 Main Street,

St. Louis, Mo.

Dear Madam:

The purchase which you made yesterday is the first that we have had the pleasure of recording for your account and we want to take this opportunity to thank you for the confidence that you repose in us and to hope that it will be the beginning of a long and happy relation.

We shall, from time to time, send you bulletins of our special offerings and we believe that you will be interested in them.

Very truly yours,

(Handwritten) J. M. Briggs,

Credit Manager,

Larue Brothers.

Where a charge account has been inactive




February 5, 1921.

Mr. Tudor Sweet,

24 Commonwealth Ave.,

Boston, Mass.

Dear Sir:

We have just been looking over our books and are sorry to learn that you have not given us your patronage for some time past.

We feel that something may have gone wrong to have caused you to discontinue trading at our store.

If you are not fully satisfied with anything you bought from us, remember that we are always eager and ready to adjust the matter to your satisfaction. We shall certainly appreciate it if you will write to us and tell us frankly just what the trouble has been. Will you use the inclosed envelope to let us know?

Yours truly,

S. Black Company,

(Handwritten) George Sims,

Credit Manager.




June 8, 1922.

Mrs. Arthur Thomas,

25 Spruce Avenue,

Columbus, O.

Dear Madam:

Does our store please you? Sometime ago it probably did and you had an account with us, but we find with regret that you have not used it lately. If we disappointed you, or if something went wrong and possibly your complaint was not properly attended to, we are extremely anxious to know about it.

Perhaps there was some lack of courtesy, some annoying error in your bill which we were exasperatingly obtuse in rectifying? Were we stupid in filling some order or did we delay in delivery? Perhaps we did not have just what you were looking for, or our prices seemed higher than elsewhere.

Whatever the difficulty, we do want you to know that we try to stand for good service—to supply promptly what you want at the price you want to pay, and always to conduct our business with an unfailing courtesy which will make your shopping a pleasure.

Being a woman I may understand your point of view a little better. Will you be quite frank and tell me why you do not buy from Sweetser's now? Either write or call me on the telephone; or, better still, if you are in our neighborhood, can you come in to see me?

The information booth is at the door and I can be found in a minute. It might help to talk things over.

Sincerely yours,

(Handwritten) Mrs. Margaret B. Williams,

Courtesy Manager,

A. B. Sweetser & Co.




March 8, 1923.

Mrs. Bruce Wells,

19 Dwight Ave.,

Bloomfield, Ill.

Dear Madam:

We very much regret that you do not use more often your charge account at our store, and we hope it is not due to any lack on our part of prompt and intelligent service.

We know that with our large and well-assorted stocks of merchandise and competent organization we ought to be able to supply your needs to your complete satisfaction. One of five stores, we have great opportunities for advantageous buying and we can continually undersell others.

In this connection permit us to call your attention to our newly installed telephone order department. This department is in charge of competent house shoppers, whose duty it is to satisfy your every want, thus enabling our charge patrons to shop by telephone with perfect certainty.

We feel that these advantages may appeal to you and result in our receiving your orders more often.

Very truly yours,

(Handwritten) T. Hunter,

Credit Manager,

Meyer, Haskell & Co.

Selling Real Estate

There are two phases in the writing of letters concerning the sale of real estate. The first phase has to do with the

presentation of the proposal in order to arouse sufficient interest in the mind of the prospect to cause him to inspect the property. Comparatively little real estate is sold without personal inspection. The exceptions are offerings of low-priced building sites in distant sections of the country. These are sold sight unseen—else, as a rule, they would never be sold at all. But such real estate selling is more apt to be in the class with fake mining stock than with legitimate buying and selling, and therefore has no place here.

The second phase of letters on real estate comprehends the closing of the sale. For instance, let us say that John Hope has gone so far as to look at a property. He apparently wants to buy the property or is at least interested, but the price and conditions of sale do not exactly suit him. He is so situated that he does not want to talk personally with an agent, or perhaps lives too far away. At any rate, the sale has to be closed by mail. The fact which most concerns the buyer of real estate, provided he is otherwise satisfied with a property, is the title. The title is the legal term by which is denoted the exact character of the ownership. Quite frequently an owner may believe that he has a clear title when, as a matter of fact, his title is derived through some testamentary instrument which gives him a holding only for life, or perhaps trusts have been set up in the will which are a charge upon the property, although all of the beneficiaries of the trust have been long since dead. There are many hundreds of possible legal complications affecting the validity of the title and it is usual to-day to have titles insured and, in agreeing to buy, to specify that the "title must be marketable and insurable by a reputable title insurance company." The word "marketable" as here used means a title which is unquestionable. The prospective buyer must also be careful to specify that the title shall be "free and clear" and that all taxes shall be apportioned to the day of settlement. Otherwise the buyer would have to take title subject to a lien of any judgments or other liens of record and also subject to unpaid taxes.

A real estate transaction may be very complicated indeed, and it is wise for a buyer to take precautions to the end of seeing that he purchases a piece of real property rather than a right to a lawsuit. Most letters offering real estate for sale are written in response to inquiries generated by an advertisement. The letter offering the property is designed to bring forth a visit from the inquirer. Therefore only the information which seems best adapted to bring about that visit should go into the letter. The temptation is to tell too much, and the danger of telling too much is that one may inadvertently force a negative conclusion. It is better to keep down to the bare, although complete, description rather than to attempt any word painting. The description is best supplemented by one or several photographs.

The important points to be summarized are the situation of the house, the architectural style, the material of which it is constructed, the number of rooms, and the size of the lot, with of course a description of any stable, garage, or other substantial out-buildings. These are the elementary points of the description. One may then summarize the number and size of the rooms, including the bathrooms, laundry, and kitchen, the closet spaces, fireplaces, the lighting, the roofing, the floors, the porches, and the decorating. The most effective letter is always the one that catalogues the features rather than describes them.

An agent asking for a list of property



April 3, 1924.

Mr. James Renwick,

126 Pelham Road,

Westville, Pa.

My dear Sir:

I am constantly having inquiries from people who want to buy property in your immediate vicinity, and I am writing to learn whether you would give me the opportunity to dispose of your property for you, if I can obtain an entirely satisfactory price. If you will name the price and the terms at which you would sell, I should be glad to put the property on my list and I believe that I can make a sale.

It would be helpful if I had a good description of the property and also one or two good photographs. Of course if you list the property with me that will not bar you from listing it with any other broker unless you might care to put it exclusively in my hands for disposal. My commission is 2-1/2%, the same as charged by other brokers in this vicinity, and I know from experience that I can give you satisfactory service.

Very truly yours,

Henry Jones.

From an owner instructing an agent to list property

126 Pelham Road,

Westville, Pa.,

May 6, 1922.

Mr. Henry Jones,

Jones Realty Co.,

Harrisburg, Pa.

My dear Sir:

I have your letter of May 3rd and I am entirely willing that you should list my property for sale, although I do not want a "For Sale" sign displayed nor do I want the property inspected while I am in it unless by a previously arranged appointment.

I enclose a description and a photograph. I will take $25,000 for the place, of which $10,000 has to be paid in cash. I am willing to hold a second mortgage of $5,000 and there is $10,000 already ready against the place, which can remain.

Very truly yours,

James Renwick.

Selling a property by mail

1437 Lawrence Street,

Greenville, N. Y.,

April 20, 1921.

Mr. George A. Allen,

789 Fourth Avenue,

Hillside, N. Y.

My dear Sir:

I have your letter of April 17th asking for further particulars on the property which I advertised for sale in last Sunday's Republic. I think that by inspecting this property you can gain a much clearer idea of its desirability than I can possibly convey to you in a letter. If you will telephone to me, I will arrange any appointment that suits your convenience.

The house is ten years old—that is, it was built when materials and workmanship were first-class. It has been kept up by the owner, has never been rented, and is to-day a more valuable house than when it was originally constructed. It is three stories in height, contains fifteen rooms, four bathrooms, breakfast porch, sun porch, children's breakfast porch, a laundry, butler's pantry, a storage pantry, and a refrigerator pantry. It stands on a plot of ground 150 x 200 feet, which has been laid out in lawn and gardens, and in fact there are several thousand dollars' worth of well-chosen and well-placed plants, including many evergreens and rhododendrons. The trim of the house, including the floors, is hard wood throughout, and the decorations are such that nothing whatsoever would have to be done before occupancy.

I enclose two photographs. The owner's price is $60,000, and I know that he would be willing to arrange terms.

Very truly yours,

R. A. Smith.

(Note—Essentially the same letter could be written offering the house for rental, furnished or unfurnished, as the case might be.)

49 Main Street,

Albany, N. Y.,

October 8, 1924.

Mr. Henry Grimes,

Catskill, N. Y.

Dear Sir:

The business property that I offered for sale in yesterday's Republic and concerning which I have a letter from you this morning is particularly well suited for a specialty shop or any kind of a store that would be benefited by the passing of large numbers of people before its show windows. It is located at the corner of Third and Main Streets with a frontage of thirty feet on Main Street and runs back seventy feet on Third Street. There is one large show window on Main Street and two on Third Street.

It is a three-story brick structure, solidly built, and the upper floors, if they could not be used for your own purposes, will as they stand bring a rental of $200 a month each, and with a few changes could probably be leased at a higher amount. They are at present leased at the above figures, but the leases will expire on January 1st. Both tenants are willing to renew. By actual count this property is on the third busiest corner in town.

If you are interested, I should like to discuss the price and terms with you.

Very truly yours,

Henry Eltinge.

Offering a farm for sale

Goschen, Ohio,

R. F. D. 5,

May 5, 1922.

Mr. Harry More,

Bridgeton, Ohio.

Dear Sir:

I am glad to get your letter inquiring about my farm. I am acting as my own agent because I think it is a farm that will sell itself on inspection and I would rather split the commission with the buyer than with a middle-man.

The farmhouse, barns, and dairy are good, substantial frame buildings, and they have been well painted every second season. There is nothing to be done to them. The house has six rooms and a large, dry cellar. The water is soft and there is plenty of it. The barn is 60 by 50; the poultry house is a big one that I built myself. The sheds are all in first-class condition.

This farm contains 240 acres, two miles from Goschen, Ohio, and there is a state road leading into town and to the railroad. We have rural delivery and telephone. The land is high and in first-class cultivation. The orchard has been kept up and there are well-established strawberry and asparagus beds.

You will not find a better farm of its kind than this one. I have made a living off it for twelve years and anybody else can, but the only way for you really to find out what the place amounts to is to come down yourself and look it over. If you will let me know when you expect to come I will meet you at the station in my automobile.

The price is ten thousand dollars. There is a mortgage of $2,500 that can remain, and, other things being satisfactory, we can arrange the down payment and the terms for the balance.

Very truly yours,

John Hope.

Accepting an offer

340 Chestnut Street,

Philadelphia, Pa.,

Dec. 15, 1922.

Mr. Joseph Barlow,

Haines Crossing,


Dear Sir:

I have your letter of December 12th offering to sell to me the property that we have been discussing for $15,000 of which $3,000 is to be in cash, $5,000 to remain on three-year mortgage at six per cent., and the remaining $7,000 to be cared for by the present mortgage in that amount and which I understand has four years yet to run.

I accept your offer as stated by you, with the provision of course that I shall receive a clear and marketable title, insurable by a real estate title company, and that all taxes shall be adjusted as of the day of settlement, which settlement is to take place three months from to-day. If you will have a contract of sale drawn, I shall execute it and at the same time hand you my check for five hundred dollars as the consideration for the contract of purchase.

This letter is written in the assumption that the dimensions of the property are such as have been represented to me.

I am

Very truly yours,

Martin Fields.

(Note—The above letter replying to an offer to sell would of itself close the contract and the formal contract of sale is unnecessary. A contract is, however, advisable because it includes all the terms within a single sheet of paper and therefore makes for security.)

Letter inquiring as to what may be had

534 Gramercy Park,

February 8, 1923.

Home Development Co.,

Hastings, N. Y.

Dear Sir:

I am writing to learn what property you have listed in your vicinity that would seem to meet my particular requirements. I want a house of not less than ten rooms, with some ground around it and not more than fifteen minutes from the railroad station. The house must contain at least two bathrooms, have a good heating plant, and either be in first-class condition or offered at a price that would permit me to put it in first-class condition without running into a great deal of money. I am willing to pay between ten and fifteen thousand dollars.

Will you send me a list of properties that you can suggest as possibly being suitable?

Very truly yours,

Julian Henderson.

Renting apartments




May 15, 1923.

Mr. Robert Pardee,

29 Prentiss Place,

Brooklyn, N. Y.

Dear Sir:

Your name has been handed to me as one who might be interested in leasing one of the extremely attractive apartments in the Iroquois at Number 20 East Third Street, which will be ready for occupancy on September 15th.

I enclose a descriptive folder which will give you an idea of the grounds that we have for basing our claim that this is the most convenient apartment house that has ever been erected. The apartments vary in size, as you will see on the plan, and for long leases we can arrange any combination of rooms that may be desired. These features are common to all of the apartments. Every bedroom has a private bathroom. Every living and dining room contains an open fireplace, and every apartment, no matter what its size, is connected with a central kitchen so that service may be had equivalent to that of any hotel and at any hour from seven in the morning until midnight. There is a complete hotel service, all of which is entirely optional with the tenant.

We invite your inspection. A number of the apartments have already been leased, but many desirable ones still remain and an early selection will permit of decoration according to your own wishes in ample time for the opening of the building. The renting office is on the premises.

Very truly yours,

Young & Reynolds.

Bank Letters

The qualities which make a bank popular in a community are, first, safety; second, intelligence; and third, courtesy. One bank has potentially nothing more to offer than has another bank, excepting that of course a very large bank has a greater capacity for making loans than has a small bank. The amount which by law a bank may lend is definitely fixed by the resources of the bank.

However, this is not a question of particular concern here, for very large and important accounts are never gained through letter writing. The field that can be reached through letters comprises the substantial householder, the moderate-sized man in business, and the savings depositor. A bank has no bargains to offer. What a man or a woman principally asks about a bank is: "Will my money be safe? Will my affairs be well looked after? Shall I be treated courteously when I go into the bank?" The answers to these questions should be found in the conduct of the bank itself.

A bank is not a frivolous institution. Therefore its stationery and the manner of its correspondence should be eminently dignified. It must not draw comparisons between the service it offers and the service any other bank offers. It must not make flamboyant statements. Neither may it use slang, for slang connotes in the minds of many a certain carelessness that does not make for confidence. Above all, a bank cannot afford to be entertaining or funny in its soliciting letters. The best bank letter is usually a short one, and it has been found effective to enclose a well-designed, well-printed card or folder setting out some of the services of the bank, its resources, and its officers. Bank solicitation is very different from any other kind of solicitation.

Soliciting savings accounts



January 15, 1922.

Mr. George Dwight,

Bayville, N. J.

Dear Sir:

Some time ago we delivered to you a little home safe for savings, and we are writing to learn how you are making out with it. Have you saved as much as you had expected? Are you waiting to get a certain sum before bringing it in to be credited in your passbook?

We are often asked if it is necessary to fill a home safe before bringing it in to have the contents deposited, and we always recommend that the bank be brought in at regular intervals, regardless of the amount saved, for you know the money begins to earn interest only when it is deposited with us.

We give to small deposits the same careful attention we give to large deposits, so we suggest that you bring in and deposit whatever you have saved. That will make a start, and once started it is truly surprising how quickly a bank account rolls up.

I hope that we may have the benefit of your patronage.

Very truly yours,

The Guardian Trust Company,

(Handwritten) J. D. Wallace,


Where a savings account is inactive



August 10, 1922.

Mr. George Dwight,

Bayville, N. J.

Dear Sir:

A little home bank may be made a power for good.

It can accomplish nothing by itself, standing unused in an out-of-the-way place.

It can only be an assistant to the saver.

It can assist your boy and girl to great things.

It can assist you in daily economies upon which big results are often built.

It cannot furnish the initiative, but it can be a constant reminder and an ever-ready recipient.

Why not use the little bank we delivered to you when you opened your savings account with us to teach the children to save, or to collect together small amounts for yourself.

Why not?

Very truly yours,

(Handwritten) J. D. Wallace,


Checking accounts

A letter soliciting a home account:



October 14, 1923.

Mrs. Hester Wickes,

59 Market Street,

Poughkeepsie, N. Y.

Dear Madam:

Do you ever have arguments over bills that you have paid in cash? Do you always remember to get a receipt? Do you find it a nuisance to carry cash? Do you know that it is dangerous to keep much cash in the house?

There can be no dispute about an account if you pay it with a bank check. Your cancelled check is a perfect receipt. More than that, your bank book shows you when, how much, and to whom you have paid money. It is not only the easy way of paying bills but the safe way. You escape all the danger of carrying or having in the house more than mere pocket money. You will find by opening a checking account with us not only the advantages of paying by check but you will also discover many conveniences and services which we are able to offer to you without any charge whatsoever.

I hope that you will call and let us explain our services. I enclose a folder telling you more about the bank than I have been able to tell in this letter.

Very truly yours,

(Handwritten) J. D. Wallace,


P.S. We have some very attractive styles in pocket check books that might interest you.

Soliciting a commercial account



April 15, 1921.

Mr. Fred Haynes,

21 Nassau Street,

Logansburg, Wis.

Dear Sir:

Every man in business is entitled to an amount of credit accommodation in accordance with his resources. It is one of the functions of this bank to help the business of the community by extending credit to those who make the business for the community. We are here to be of service and we should like to serve you.

I enclose a folder giving the latest statement of the resources of the bank and something about the organization. Will you not drop in some time and at least permit us to become acquainted?

Very truly yours,

(Handwritten) R. T. Newell,


General services

Trust companies and national banks are very generally extending their services to cover the administration of decedents' estates, to advise upon investments, to care for property, and to offer expert tax services. In most cases, these services are set out in booklets and the letter either encloses the booklet or is phrased to have the recipient ask for the booklet.

Letter proffering general services:




November 16, 1921.

Mr. Henry Larkin,

3428 Cathedral Parkway,

New York.

Dear Sir:

We are writing to call your attention to several services which this bank has at your command and which we should be happy to have you avail yourself of:

(1) The Bond Department can give you expert and disinterested advice on investments and can in addition offer you a selection of well-chosen season bonds of whatever character a discussion of your affairs may disclose as being best suited to your needs.

(2) Our safe deposit vaults will care for your securities and valuable papers at an annual cost which is almost nominal.

(3) We have arrangements by which we can issue letters of credit that will be honored anywhere in the world, foreign drafts, and travellers' checks.

(4) If you expect to be away through any considerable period or do not care to manage your own investments, our Trust Department will manage them for you and render periodical accounts at a very small cost. This service is especially valuable because so frequently a busy man fails to keep track of conversion privileges and rights to new issues and other matters incident to the owning of securities.

(5) We will advise you, if you like, on the disposition of your property by will, and we have experienced and expert facilities for the administration of trusts and estates.

I hope that we may have the opportunity of demonstrating the value of some or all of these services to you; it would be a privilege to have you call and become acquainted with the officers in charge of these various departments.

I am

Very truly yours,

(Handwritten) Lucius Clark,


A letter offering to act as executor




June 25, 1923.

Mr. Lawrence Loring,

11 River Avenue,

Yonkers, N. Y.

Dear Sir:

May I call to your attention the question which every man of property must at some time gravely consider, and that is the disposition of his estate after death?

I presume that as a prudent man you have duly executed a last will and testament, and I presume that it has been drawn with competent legal advice. But the execution of the will is only the beginning. After your death will come the administration of the estate, and it is being more and more recognized that it is not the part of wisdom to leave the administration of an estate in the hands of an individual.

It used to be thought that an executor could be qualified by friendship or relationship, but unfortunately it has been proved through the sad experience of many estates that good intentions and integrity do not alone make a good executor. Skill and experience also are needed.

This company maintains a trust department, under the supervision of Mr. Thomas G. Shelling, our trust officer, who has had many years of experience in the administration of estates. Associated with him is a force of specialists who can care for any situation, usual or unusual, that may arise. The serv