For letter-writing, always use good paper; it should be fine, smooth, white, and sufficiently thick not to let the writing show through on the other side. Very good letter-paper can seldom be purchased at less than twenty-five cents per quire. That which is lower in price is inferior in quality. If you cannot trust yourself to write straightly without some guide, have printed ruled lines to slip beneath the page; for a letter does not look well if written on paper that is already ruled with pale blue ink. If you write a small hand, your lines should be closer together than if your writing is large. It is well to have several sorts of ruled lines; they are to be bought at any stationer's for a few cents a page.
If you are writing to a relative, or to an intimate friend, and have much to say, and expect to fill the sheet, begin near the top of the first page. But if your letter is to be a short one, commence lower down, several inches from the top. If a very short letter, of only a few lines, begin but a little above the middle of the page.
Write the date near the right-hand side, and place it about a line higher than the two or three words of greeting or accosting with which letters usually commence. Begin the first sentence a little below these words, and farther towards the right than the lines that are to follow it. It is well, in dating every letter, to give always your exact residence, - not only the town,but the street also, and the number of your house. If your correspondent has had but one notification of your present place of abode, the number, and even the street may have been forgotten; the letter containing it may not be at hand as a reference; and the reply may, in consequence, be misdirected; or directed in so vague a manner that it may never reach you. We have known much trouble, inconvenience, and indeed loss, ensue from not specifying, in the date of each letter, the exact dwelling-place of the writer. But if it is always designated at the top of every one, a reference to any of your letters will furnish the proper address. It is customary to date letters at the top, and notes at the bottom. If your letter is so long as to fill more than one sheet, number the pages.
As important words are frequently lost by being; torn off with the seal in opening a letter, leave always, in the third or last page, two blank spaces where the seal is to come. These spaces should be left rather too large than too small. You can write in short lines between them. If you cannot otherwise ascertain where the sealing is likely to be, fold your sheet into the form of a letter before you begin to write it; and then, with the point of a pin, (or something similar,) trace, as faintly as possible, two circles, one on the turn-over, the other on the corresponding part of the paper that comes beneath it. These faint circles, when you are writing the last page, will show you where the seal is to go, and what space you are to leave for it. In opening a letter, it is best to cut round the seal; rather than to break it, and tear the letter open.
In folding a letter let the breadth (from right to left) far exceed the height. A letter the least verging towards squareness looks very awkward. It is well to use a folding-stick (or ivory paper-knife) to press along the edges of the folds, and make them smooth and even. Take care in folding a letter to make all the creases exactly straight and even. If one is looser than another, or if there is the slightest widening out or narrowing in towards the edge of the turn-over, the letter will have a crooked, unsightly appearance. You may direct it before sealing; slipping your ruled paper under the back of the letter, that you may run no risk of writing the direction crooked. Begin the address rather nearer to the bottom than the top of the folded letter. Write the name of the person to whom you send it about the middle, and very clearly and distinctly. Then give the number and street on the next line a little nearer to the right. Then the town in large letters, and extending almost close to the extreme right. Just under the town, add the abbreviation of the name of the state - as, Pa. for Pennsylvania, N. Y. for New York. But if the letter is to go to New York city, put the words New York in full, written large. Much confusion is caused by this state and its metropolis having both the same name. It has been well suggested that the name of the state might be changed to Ontario - a beautiful change.
If the letter is to go to a provincial town, put the name of the county in which that town is situated, immediately over the designation of the state. We believe that throughout the union there are more than fifty towns called Washington. If your letter is for the city of Washington, direct for Washington, D. C. - these initials implying the District of Columbia.
Another reason for the propriety of designating the state is, that many of our towns are called after places in Europe: and it has chanced (though not very often) that letters not explicitly and fully directed, have found their way into the mail-bags of packet vessels, and been carried across the Atlantic. We know an instance of a gentleman who directed an important letter simply to Boston, without any indication of the state of Massachusets; and the letter went from Philadelphia to the small town of Boston in Lincolnshire, England. In writing from Europe, it is well always to finish the direction with the words United States of North America.
If you send the letter by a private opportunity, it will be sufficient to introduce close to the lower edge of the left-hand corner on the back, simply the name of the gentleman who takes it, written small. It is now considered old fashioned to insert on the back of such a letter, "Politeness of Mr. Smith," "Favoured by Mr. Jones," "Honoured by Mr. Brown." If to cross the sea, write the name of the vessel on the left hand corner of the outside.
If you make a mistake in a word, it will be better to draw your pen through the error, so as to render it entirely illegible, and then interline the correction, rather than attempt scratching out the mistake with a penknife, and afterwards trying to write another word in the identical place; a thing that is rarely, if ever, done well.
At the end of the letter, nearly on a line with your signature, (which should be close to the right side,) it is usual to put, near the extremity of the left side of the page, the name of the person to whom the letter is addressed. Write your signature rather larger than your usual hand; and put a dot or period after your name.
In writing a ceremonious and very respectful note, or in addressing a person with whom you are not very intimate, enclose it in an envelope, and put the direction on the cover only. It is now customary always to enclose in envelopes invitations to parties; visiting cards sent to strangers; cards left previous to a marriage; and farewell cards on leaving the place. On the latter it is usual to put the initials t.t. l. (to take leave,) or p. p. c. (pour prendre conge, which has the same signification.) We have also seen p. d. a. .(pour dire adieu, to bid adieu.) For a note, always use a very small seal. There are varieties of beautiful little wafers for notes; also of beautiful note-paper. It is not necessary in addressing an intimate friend to follow, particularly, any of these conventional observances.
For sealing letters no light is so convenient as a wax taper. A lamp or candle may smoke and blacken the wax. To seal well, your wax should be of the finest quality. Good red wax is generally the best, and its colour should be of a brilliant scarlet. Inferior red wax consumes very fast; and always, when melted, looks purplish or brownish. When going to melt sealing-wax, rest your elbow on the table to keep your hand steady. Take the stick of wax between your thumb and finger, and hold it a little above the light, so that it barely touches the point of the flame. Then insert a little of the melted wax under the turn-over part of the letter, just where the seal is to come. This will make it more secure than if the sole dependence was on the outside seal. Or instead of this little touch of wax, you may slip under the turnover a small wafer, either white or of the same colour as the wax. Take the stick of wax, hold it over the flame just so as to touch the tip; next turn it round till the end of the stick is equally softened on every side. Then apply it to your letter, beginning on the outer edge of the place you intend for the seal; and moving the wax round in a circle, which must gradually diminish till it terminates in the centre. Put the seal exactly into the middle of the soft wax, and press it down hard, but do not screw it round. Then withdraw it suddenly. Do not use motto seals unless writing to a member of your own family, or to an intimate friend. For common use, (and particularly for letters of business, or in addressing strangers,) a plain seal with the initials of your name will be best.
We subjoin the usual abbreviations of the states, etc.: -
Maine, Me. New Hampshire, N. H. Vermont, Vt. Massachusetts, Mass. Rhode Island, R. I. Connecticut, Ct. New York, N. Y: New Jersey, N. J. Pennsylvania, Pa. Delaware, Del. Maryland, Bid. Virginia, Va. North Carolina, N. C. South Carolina, S. C. Georgia, Geo. or Ga. Alabama, Ala. Mississippi, Mi. Louisiana, La. Tennessee, Ten. Kentucky, Ky. Ohio, O. Indiana, hid. Illinois, Ill. Missouri, Mo. District of Columbia, D. C. Michigan, Mich. Arkansas, Ark. Florida, Fl. Wisconsin, Wis. Iowa, Io. Texas, Tex. Oregon, Or.
To these may be added the abbreviations of the British possessions in North America. Upper Canada, U. C. Lower Canada, L. C. Nova Scotia, N. S. New Brunswick, N. B. New Providence, N. P.
The name of the town to which the letter is to go, should always be superscribed in full. If a country town or village, it will be necessary to designate the county in which it is situated, as there are so many provincial towns of the same name. Finish with the designation of the state under the whole, close to the right-hand comer.
In directing to a clergyman, put Rev. (Reverend) before his name. To an officer, immediately after his name, and on the same line with it, put U. S. A. for United States Army; U. S. N. for United States Navy. To a member of Congress, precede his name with Hon. (Honourable.)
In putting up packets to send away, either tie them round and across with red tape (sealing them also) or seal them without tying. Twine or cord may cut through the paper, and is better omitted. Never put up any thing in newspaper. Beside the danger of soiling the articles inside, it looks mean and disrespectful. Keep yourself provided with different sorts of wrapping-paper. A large parcel should have more than one seal, and the seal may be rather larger than for a letter.
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