The Book of Letters 3rd Edition

Is letter writing a dead art? The intent of this book is not just to promote letter writing and improve the skills of those who do so; it also offers a "resource for small business operators and law consumers wishing to assert their rights".

The revised edition of this guide to writing an effective letter for any occasion includes particular emphasis on e-mail, making it especially relevant for readers of this magazine. Refreshingly, this is an Australian book: written and published by Australians, and aimed at the local market. The author - who is a member of the NSW Parliament and a lawyer - highlights legal pitfalls and discusses the ramifications of certain actions, such as defamation/slander and how to cover yourself.

The book kicks off with a brief first section that covers How to Write Effective Letters - structure, formalities and strategies. The much larger second part presents Letters for Every Occasion. These include dealing with neighbours, tradespeople, insurance companies and more, as well as employment situations plus personal letters such as invitations and condolences.

A swag of letters is reproduced, some genuine (written by both the author and others) and some invented for illustrative purposes. The author gives permission to use the text of any letter, making it even easier for people to produce a focused, purposeful missive. There's even a specialised computer program available.

While illustrative and informative, many of the letters are also amusing and light-hearted. I especially like the 'PS' in the (genuine) letter to the Governor General regarding a new flag, and the 'declaration of war' to a neighbour with a noisy dog.

If you want some help honing your correspondence, don't pass up this book.

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