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‘I hate writing letters!’ by Joanna Gutman


I Hate Writing Letters!
By Joanna Gutman.
Kogan Page, 1999.
A4 paperback spiralbound, 107 pages, £19.95.
ISBN 0 7494 3117 2

How often have we looked later at the copy of a letter we have sent and wished that we had produced it in a better/more effective/etc form, or received a letter and thought ‘What a good letter. I wish I could write like that’, or, perhaps more commonly, ‘What a terrible letter. I could have done better than that’. This very useful book sets out to help you to ensure that your original letter is as good as it could be or that your letters are as good as, or better than the excellent ones you receive. But you have to work at it and the book, basically a self-study workbook, gives you a logical and effective approach to doing just this. It is not a text book, although trainers too will find it useful when they are designing written communication programmes, but is a practical workbook with exercises and practice in every chapter.

The chapters cover every aspect of letter writing, business or personal, starting with looking at defining why your are writing, to whom and what you want to say; starting; sensible ordering; closing; the personal touch; being positive; words – non-repetition, wrong ones, and too clever ones; sentences; paragraphs; punctuation; non-verbal writing – first impressions from format, fonts, rules, etc; achieving action; responding to a complaint; and the very short letter. The most substantial chapter is the one on punctuation which gives us very good lessons on what we should have learned at school and put into practice afterwards – but didn’t!

At the start of the book is an exercise seeking the user’s views of a good letter – structure; personal; positive; etc, and the book finishes with a section giving model answers or examples to this exercise.

I can thoroughly recommend this self-study workbook to people who feel that their letter writing is bad or could be improved, and also to those who currently think they do not come into those categories.

Leslie Rae
February 2000


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