In a gentler day, Charles Dodgson ("Lewis Carroll") wrote a conversational essay:

Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter Writing

He anticipates all the modern conveniences of word processing, email, and describes a system for keeping a file copy, and generating a precis and index of correspondence of various type. He also has a foreshadowing of practice I usually attribute to Harry S Truman after HST incautiously sending his letter to critic Hume (my statement of the practice follows):

Write freely, to organize ones' thoughts, and to capture and spend the emotion, but then place the draft in the top desk drawer to age a bit before sending.

I see 78 'composed' but unsent email in my 'pending' folder. Most will never be seen by the recipient I initially started writing them for.

Back to the Dodgson quote:

Another Rule is, when you have written a letter that you feel may possibly irritate your friend, however necessary you may have felt it to so express yourself, put it aside till the next day.

Vincent Andres adds:

French diplomat Talleyrand was doing that with some of Napoleon's letters. In some cases, 2 or 3 days later, Napoleon asked, if it was not sent, to destroy the concerned letter…. and was quite happy it was still doable.





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1 Comment so far

  1. Dan Costin on April 25, 2008 12:01 pm

    In our brave new world of blogs, that no longer works so well. Few people read the comments from three days ago, and what's the point of writing if no one's going to read it?The burden of discarding poorly thought-out first drafts has now shifted to the reader.Back then, you could probably sit on your "market order" for a couple of days before posting. Makes me think of the pictures of people who actually showed up in front of the NYSE to try and recover their savings back in '29. As if! What's the substitute for today's world?[submitted 2.37 secs after typing was done]


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