(1) A letter always has an object--otherwise, why write it? But somehow, often a person will ramble all around what he wants to say and will end up using two pages for what he could have said in three lines. On the other hand, letters may be so brief as to produce an impression of discourtesy. It is a rare writer who can say all that need be said in one line and not seem rude. But it can be done.
(2) The single purpose of a letter is to convey a thought. That thought may have to do with facts, and the further purpose may be to have the thought produce action. Words, as used in a letter, are vehicles for thought, but there is a wide variation in the understanding of words. The average person’s vocabulary is quite limited, and where an exactly phrased letter might completely convey an exact thought to a person of education, that same letter might be meaningless to a person who understands but few words. Therefore, it is a mistake in letter writing to use unusual words or to go much beyond ordinary vocabulary.
(3) Some people feel that letters should be elegant. They think that that if someone expresses himself simply and clearly, it is because he is not very intelligent. There could be no greater mistake. The man who really knows the language will write simply. The man who does not know the language well pretends he does and ends up with a lot of flowery words that don’t mean much.
(4) Sometimes a person will be dreadfully afraid of making an error in public. He is afraid of getting hold of the wrong fork at dinner or of doing something else that is not supposed to be done. Such people take a very long time to write a simple letter.
(5) But the person who understands proper behavior well observes the rules, not because they are rules, but because they are second nature to him. And he violates the rules if the occasion seems to call for it. It is quite the same with the letter writer.
(6) One should know his ground well enough to do what one likes, bearing in mind that there is no reason for writing a letter unless the objective is clearly defined. Writing a letter is like shooting at a target. The target may be hit by accident, but it is more apt to be hit if careful aim has been taken.