When you want to get a message to a friend or foe these days, you sure have lots of choices. However, today, being International Standard Letter vs Email Day, we will focus on standard letter vs email.
I mean, I already know you’re just going to send the email, but a day may come when your granny demands the real deal, a handwritten letter, something that will prove to her that you love her. When that day arrives, I want you to be ready. Besides, a standard letter has other applications, an important one being that after reading it the recipient can make a paper airplane. You just can’t do that with email.
Now, I’m going to guess that some of you have no idea what a ‘letter’ is nor how to go about building one. It’s pretty easy, all you need is a pen, paper, envelope and stamp and you’re done, except for throwing a bunch of words on the paper. It’s like a ridiculously long email, although there are key differences in style between a letter and an email.
A standard letter contains:
1. The header (in which you remind the person of their name and their address on the off-chance that they have somehow forgotten, plus the date).
2. The salutation (the ‘hey there’).
3. The body (where you go on and on about yourself until the recipient tears your letter into a million pieces and flushes it down the toilet).
4. The closing (the kiss-off).
5. The PS (a bonus component, the PS, the PPS, the PPPS, the PPPPS, ad nauseam, adds emphasis). A retro-classic: “PS I love you.”
Email makes short work of the above. It generally ditches the header, salutation and closing, and the vast majority of the body itself. The PS still thrives, though. PSs are hard to kill.
To compare, here is a letter:
1234 Skid Row
May 4, 2015
It has come to my attention that you have been playing with my rubber ducky when I am not around to guard it. This is unacceptable on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin.
Suffice to say, your behaviour is highly objectionable, and really, it strikes me as kind of shady. Who plays with someone else’s rubber ducky without permission? Someone who quacks like a duck? Aside from which, my rubber ducky does not like strangers playing with it, and despite your assurances that you are no stranger, my ducky says otherwise.
Further, it is clear that you do not use the correct bubble bath, because my rubber ducky has had an allergic reaction, one so severe that its little ducky beak fell clean off.
I am truly disappointed that you fail to respect rubber ducky boundaries. Please be more respectful in future, or it will be necessary for me to sic my invisible rabbit on you.
PS You are a loser.
The email version goes like this:
You suck, ducky pervert. :-(
They say essentially the same thing, except that with the email version I can bomb John’s email account so that he gets 1,000,000 repeats of the message plus a bonus message from a Nigerian prince who is trying to get his money out of the country.
The standard letter takes longer and can’t be bombed, but is more satisfying by far. It has significantly more impact. For example, it arrives in the recipient’s mailbox. Email from you probably goes straight to the email program’s spam filter because of that email bomb you sent.
Tip: For a standard letter, the salutation always includes the word ‘dear’, even if the recipient is your worst enemy.
‘Dear beloved friend’
‘Dear monster who ran over my dog’
‘Dear prospective employer who will probably just throw this away anyway’
‘Dear whom it may concern’
‘Dear nosy parker who is reading this because you steamed open the envelope’
The ‘dear’ has to be there. Nobody knows why. It’s a rule.
The closer, on the other hand, has far more options:
Regards is your basic food-at-end-of-fork closer. It is also conveniently ambiguous. You can use this whether you ‘regard’ the person as a friend or respected person or ‘regard’ them as the twit that they are.
Things are heating up. You like this person enough to toss in the word ‘warm’, which is significantly more than ‘regards’ but it sure isn’t love.
Usable when a) you need to suck up to this person, or b) really like them, or c) it’s warm outside.
Now you’re just being coy.
You have a good heart, and feel either ‘kind’ and want to show it or ‘vicious’ but don’t want to show it.
You feel sorry for the recipient because you just told them something terrible.
“Dear John, It’s over, pack your bags and be out before I get home. And leave the rubber ducky, it’s not yours. Yes, I know you have nowhere to live. Sucks to be you. Kindest regards, Jo”
This is something you use when you are writing to your favourite columnist and want to make her happy, although ‘large cheque is in the mail’ is even better.
‘Sincerely’ sounds phony and mildly sneering, at least in my mind it does, so never ever use it again. Thank you.
A classic. Pairs well with red wine, and lots of it.
A good one for people you like: ‘take care (of yourself, you dear old thing you)’. Or people you don’t: ‘take care (because I’m armed, and you’re ‘it’)’.
Lots of love
For granny if she has just sent you money.
Oodles of love
No no no, that is what she writes to you. You can’t write ‘oodles of love’ with a straight face, trust me I’ve tried.
Eat my shorts
An all-purpose good choice for everybody, and is versatile because you can use it in email as well.
What are you waiting for? Go write that letter. If you don’t, you can . . .
Eat my shorts,
'Dear Nigerian Spammer'
The following letter has been provided by Dr. Fingelsnit of the world famous Fingelsnit Research and BioStuff Group, a renowned and highly questionable medical establishment that specializes in almost everything except maybe the kitchen sink.
Please excuse Jo Slade’s absence from her column this week.
The column scheduled to be here today was as close to perfection as anything I have ever seen. It provided a scientifically formulated solution to world peace and personal happiness, as well as a cure for most if not all ailments, except zits, because nobody really gives much of a damn about zits. It’s a zit, get over it.
At any rate, each word was a carefully crafted masterpiece guaranteed to create a soul-searching (or gut-churning, if the reader was prone to squeamishness) reaction. Each sentence was complete with a locally-crafted full-stop period, each paragraph followed by white space of such unusual brilliance that sunglasses were required for reading.
Unfortunately, Jo Slade was in a hurry to get the column to Castanet. While running down the road, she tripped and fell down, which is pathetic when you think about it. Who trips that easily, except a klutz? As she fell, the the air turned blue and the column flew out of her hand, one word at a time, until there was nothing left except the word:
which would have made sense if the words before it and after it were in place, but they weren’t.
As she crawled around picking up the fragmented sentences, grabbing the run-on sentences before they escaped, and covering the indecent improper nouns, I arrived onto the scene. Assuming that I was, in fact, a nice person who just wanted to help, she handed the bag of words to me. I took the words, kicked her to the curb, and went straight to an American publisher who declared the scrambled words to be ‘genius’. I was given an advance of one million dollars and have since retired to a South Pacific island to meditate over the meaning of life, and to pen this excuse note.
Where is Jo Slade now? Well, following her fall, she was rushed to hospital where, upon examination (coincidentally by me), she was declared ridiculously insane. She has yet to argue her way out of that one.