How Can I Improve My Writing Skills?

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: December 5, 2011

Dear Annette,

With all the typing I do, my handwriting has gotten terrible. Yet at the same time, I fumble with basic business correspondence on the computer. What can I do?

Drafted


Dear Drafted,

Earlier this spring my administrative assistant took a few days off to run a marathon, then have his wisdom teeth taken out. My People described his pain to me in terms I could understand: it was like all-over electrolysis followed by a chemical peel and an evening with a twentysomething. Yet my assistant's marathon week was fabulous planning, in a way. Think about it: the morning after completing a life's ambition, awaken with an exercise hangover, just in time to visit a specialist who deftly injects you with happy meds and sends you home with your own driver and a week's supply of little pills. Sure, you've got to go down stairs backwards for a few days and cocktail olives can get stuck in the holes in your gums, but who cares!

What an incredibly slow and painful week that was - not for my assistant; he's been through it all. I however was not fine. For three days I had to put my own letters in the mail. Headers, footers, margins, salutations, dates, snail-mail addresses, spellings of names - envelopes, for goodness' sake. How do people manage these days? Fortunately, I don't have to format and send business letters. I have People to do it for me.

It used to be so much easier years ago, when I was an undiscovered yet financially independent waiflike ingenue back in the fictional Eastern European republic where I was born. All I had to do was hand-write my message on engraved vellum stationery, address an envelope, moisten the seal with my scented atomizer, then saunter down to the post office and hand over the letter to Ivan, a bashful postal clerk with a naughty secret. Since my correspondence in those days was usually addressed to Ivan, I didn't even bother with stamps.

Alas, our society's longhand muscle has atrophied since then. If I didn't write thank-you notes every day and diary entries every night, I might hardly ever pick up a pen except to cross off the extended surname of some special recipient to write in a pet name known only to Us. Dickie's penmanship is barely intelligible these days, since he reps most of his cosmetics over the Internet.

Electronic mail is a delightful tool that should be used whenever appropriate. But in case the electricity should ever go off, stay in practice by hand-writing letters to your loved ones and by sending business letters to companies telling them how wonderful they are. I'd gladly receive either type of mail.

Thank goodness for administrative assistants. Thank them on Administrative Professionals' Day - and every day.

Stay fabulous,
Annette

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