The Use Of Form Paragraphs

A considerable part of the day's run of correspondence in a business office has to do with not more than half-a-dozen subjects. Quotations will be asked for. Tenders will be made. Complaints will be made and received. Adjustments of various kinds will be done, and so on, through a list that varies with the particular business of the office. It is advisable to keep the tone of correspondence on a fairly uniform level. Therefore if each letter has to be individually dictated, only a man

entally equipped to write letters can do the dictating. The time of such a man is expensive and often might better be devoted to other matters. Hence the invention of what is known as a form paragraph, which is a standardized paragraph that can be used with slight variations as a section of a great many letters.

The result is that most routine mail does not have to be dictated. A letter is merely read, the essential facts dictated or noted on the letter itself, and certain symbols added which tell the stenographer the form paragraphs that are to be used. The letter is then almost mechanically produced. Some companies have gone so extensively into the writing of form paragraphs that they have sections covering practically every subject that can arise. This possibly carrying the idea too far. Convenience may become inconvenience, and there is of course always the danger of getting in a slightly unsuitable paragraph which will reveal to the reader that the letter has not been personally dictated. However, a certain number of form paragraphs considerably reduces the cost of letter writing and also conduces to the raising of the standards, for the mere reading of well-phrased form letters will often induce in an otherwise poor correspondent a certain regard for clear expression.

The proper form paragraphs that any concern may profitably use are a matter of specific investigation. The way to get at the list of useful forms is to take all of the letters received and all of the letters written during, say, one or two months and then classify them. A number of letters will have to do with purely individual cases. These letters should be discarded. They are letters which would have to be personally dictated in any event and there is no use wasting time composing forms for them. The remaining letters will fall into divisions, and through these divisions it will become apparent what points in the correspondence arise so frequently and in so nearly the same form as to be capable of being expressed in form paragraphs.

There will probably be a number of subjects which can be covered fully by two or three form letters, but a nicer adjustment will usually be had by thinking of form paragraphs rather than of form letters, for skillfully drawn and skillfully used form paragraphs will so closely simulate the personal letter as to leave no doubt in the mind of the reader that considerable trouble has been taken to put the matter before him courteously and exactly.