Main How to Say It: Choice Words, Phrases, Sentences, and Paragraphs for Every Situation, Revised Edition

How to Say It: Choice Words, Phrases, Sentences, and Paragraphs for Every Situation, Revised Edition

The best-selling How to Say It® is now better than ever. The second edition of this one-of-a-kind book has been updated with ten new chapters-that’s fifty chapters in all-offering readers even more material for quickly and effortlessly constructing original, effective letters.

How to Say ItВ® provides short lists of what to say, and sometimes more importantly, what not to say when writing business or personal letters. It begins with examples of why and when certain letters are appropriate, tips on writing the letter, and advice for special situations. It then offers sample words and phases for each type of correspondence, as well as examples of sentences and paragraphs that are best suited for the task. Finally, it provides full sample letters giving readers a sense of what to look for in the final product. Includes appendices offering tips on etiquette, formatting, and grammar.

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How to Say It


R E V I S E D



Say It


Choice Words,
Phrases, Sentences & Paragraphs
for Every Situation



A member of Penguin Putnam Inc.
375 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014
Copyright © 2001 by Rosalie Maggio
Prentice Hall® is a registered trademark of Pearson Education, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or
by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Maggio, Rosalie.
How to say it: choice words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs for every
situation / by Rosalie Maggio.—Rev. and expanded.
p. cm.
ISBN-10: 1-4295-1350-0 (pbk.)
1. Letter writing. 2. English language—Rhetoric. I. Title.
PE1483.M26 2001


Liz, Katie, Matt, Nora

Thank you to those who shared their letters and opinions with me: Shelley
Sateren; Steve Sikora; Mark Maggio; Dr. Matt Maggio; Patrick Maggio, Esq.;
Frank Maggio; Terry Hay Maggio; Mary Maggio; Dr. Paul T. Maggio; Kevin
Maggio, Esq.; Irene Nash Maggio; Dr. Paul J. Maggio; Mike Maggio, Esq.;
Michael Parker; Bonnie Z. Goldsmith, Patricia Yeager and the Denver
Center for Independent Living; Nick Niemeyer; Sheila Hanley and The
Dublin Walk; Maggie Parr; Jazzou Jones; Dr. Greg Filice; Debbye Calhoun
Spang; Irmiter Contractors and Builders Limited; Jeanne Goerss Novak.
Many of the sentences, paragraphs, and letters are taken from letters I’ve
saved over the years (imagine rummaging through boxes and boxes of them
in the attic looking for that great thank-you note). Thanks and love to all
my favorite correspondents. You know who you are.
My warm and grateful appreciation goes to Tom Power, professional
angel and gifted and incisive editor. His abundance of ideas and unfailing
courtesy have been a joy to work with these past twelve years.

How to Use This Book


1. Acceptances


2. Acknowledgments ; and Confirmations


3. Adjustment, Letters of


4. Advice


5. Anniversaries and Birthdays


6. Announcements


7. Apologies


8. Application, Letters of


9. Appointments and Interviews


10. Appreciation, Letters of


11. Belated Letters


12. Collection Letters


13. Complaints


14. Congratulations


15. Contracts, Letters That Serve As


16. Cover Letters


17. Credit, Letters About


18. Disagreement, Letters of


19. Editor, Letters to the


20. E-mail


21. Employment, Letters Dealing with


22. Family and Friends, Letters to


23. Faxed Letters


24. Follow-Up Letters


25. Fundraising Letters


26. “Get Well” Letters


27. Goodwill Letters


28. Holiday Letters


29. Instruction, Letters of


30. Introduction, Letters of


31. Invitations


32. Love Letters


33. Memos


34. Neighbors, Letters to


35. Orders, Letters Dealing with


36. Organizations and Clubs, Letters Related to


37. Query Letters


38. References and Recommendations


39. Refusals


40. Reports and Proposals


41. Requests and Inquiries


42. Responses


43. Résumés


44. Sales Letters


45. Sensitive Letters


46. Sympathy, Letters of


47. Thank-You Letters


48. Travel, Letters Related to


49. Wedding Correspondence


50. Welcome, Letters of


Appendix I: Mechanics


Appendix II: Content




All that is requisite to become proficient in any Art, is to know
what to do and how to do it; and the Art of Letter-writing
is no exception to this general rule.
—F.M. PAYNE, Payne’s Business Letter Writer
and Book of Commercial Forms (1884)

How to Say It® is a practical, easy-to-use book that tells you what to say and
how to say it. Its flexible approach helps you fashion compelling letters in
little more time than it takes to handwrite or type them.
Although an impressive amount of business and social interaction
takes place today over the telephone and fax, by e-mail, or in person,
the well-written letter remains a staple of business success and one of
the strongest connecting links between human beings.
Most of us are capable of writing a satisfactory letter, but few of us
have the time and mental energy to deal with the countless letters that
life today seems to demand of us—especially since all of them should
have been written yesterday.
How to Say It® features comprehensive, versatile lists of words, phrases,
sentences, and paragraphs that allow you to express yourself on any
subject in your own voice and style.
Thesaurus-like, these lists provide you with terms relating to your
topic. Whether you want to sound formal or casual, traditional or contemporary, businesslike or lighthearted, distant or intimate, you’ll find
here the words for every letterwriting occasion—from powerful, cogent
business letters to warm, sensitive personal letters.
An important message of this book, delivered indirectly in its pages,
is that there is rarely “one right way” to write a letter. You may follow,
adapt, or ignore the guidelines given here; after all, you know more
about your message and your reader than any letterwriting manual.
Except for someone like Napoleon, who apparently wrote more than
50,000 letters in his lifetime (and nobody ever said to him, “Get a life!”),
almost everyone can use this book to write letters with increased speed,
individuality, success—and enjoyment!


How to Use This Book
Begin by skimming the table of contents to familiarize yourself with the
fifty letter topics available to you (for example, sales letters, thank-you notes,
references, apologies, acknowledgments, letters dealing with employment).
Next, flip through the Appendixes so that you know what kind of
help waits for you there: Appendix I deals with the mechanics of letterwriting (what kind of stationery to use, how to address an envelope, the
four most common ways of setting up a letter on the page) while Appendix II deals with the content of your letter (writing tips, grammar and
usage, frequently misspelled or confused words, redundant words and
phrases, correct forms of address).
To find advice about the letter you want to write, either turn to the
chapter that deals with that kind of letter or check the index in the back
of the book. Its one thousand entries ensure that you will find the help
you need.
Each chapter includes a brief introduction, a list of occasions for
writing that type of letter, what to include in each letter, what not to say,
comments on special situations, and what format to use.
At the heart of each chapter are the lists of words, phrases, sentences,
and paragraphs you can use to construct your letter. Sample letters are
also given.
The lists “prime the pump”—they start you thinking along the lines
of that letter topic. They also provide those who want to compose their
own letter with a number of appropriate words, or they allow those using
the sample letters as guides to substitute words that fit their needs.
To compose a letter:
• Read through the “How to Say It” section, note the elements your
letter should include, and personalize them to reflect your situation.
• Choose from the lists of words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs
those terms that are useful to you.
• Study the sample letters to see if one can serve as a model.
• Combine your checked-off words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs
to produce a letter that says what you need it to say.
• Check your rough draft against the list of what not to say. Have you
written something inappropriate? At this point, you may have a
question about format or grammar or a social title. Check the Index
to locate the answer in one of the Appendixes.

After writing your first few letters using this book, you may find that

xx / HOW TO SAY IT®

it is not, after all, so difficult or time-consuming to write your share of
the billions of letters mailed each year.


The mind gives us thousands of ways to say no, but there’s
only one way to say yes, and that’s from the heart.

Once you decide to accept an invitation or grant a request, simply say so;
this is one of the easiest letters to write.
A “yes” that doesn’t come from the heart results in an unenthusiastic
acceptance and you may even find yourself backing out later. Writing
the acceptance is not as difficult as being sure you want to say “yes” in
the first place.

Write Acceptances for

admissions requests: schools/clubs/organizations
franchise applications
invitations: dinner/meeting/party/luncheon/hospitality
job offers
membership offers: board/commission/organization
requests: contributions/favors/help
speaking invitations: conference/workshop/banquet
wedding invitations (see WEDDINGS)

How to Say It
• Express your pleasure in accepting the invitation/offer/proposal/bid
or agreeing to do what was asked.
• Repeat the details of what you are accepting (meeting date and time,
amount of the bid or of your contribution, the precise nature of your
assistance, the duties you agree to assume).
• Inquire about particular needs: receipt for a tax-deductible contribution, directions to your host’s home, wheelchair accessibility, equipment for your speech, list of other organizers.
• Close with an expression of pleasure to come (seeing the person,
working for the company, being part of the group) or of future action

(what you want to accomplish, actions you intend to take, a reciprocal

What Not to Say
• Avoid ungracious amplifications: you are busy but you suppose you
can manage it; you have two other events on the calendar that
evening but you will try to stop by; you probably won’t be a good
speaker but, sure, you’ll try. Let your “yes” be a simple “yes.” If you
have reservations about your acceptance, it may be better to decline.

Tips on Writing
• Send acceptances as soon as possible. If you are late, apologize,
but do not dwell on it.
• Acceptances are brief and generally deal only with the acceptance.
• Noted usage expert Rudolf Flesch says, “If your answer to an inquiry is yes, it’s a good idea to make yes the first word of your letter.”
• Be enthusiastic. It is entirely proper to simply state your acceptance
and repeat the details of the invitation, but your stock with hosts,
employers, or friends will go up if you add a sentence saying something personal, cheerful, or lively.
• When your invitation is issued in the name of more than one
person, mention all of them in your reply. Mail your reply either to
the person listed under the R.S.V.P. or to the first name given.
• Always respond promptly to an invitation marked “R.S.V.P.” or
“Please reply.” This is mandatory, obligatory, required, compulsory,
imperative, and essential.

Special Situations
• When offered a position you want, write an acceptance letter that
expresses your enthusiasm and pleasure and that confirms the details
of your employment.
• When writing to offer a job to an applicant, include: a congratulatory remark about being chosen and something complimentary about
the person’s credentials, experience, or interview; information about
the job—duties, salary, supervisors name, starting date; the name and
telephone number of someone who can answer questions; an expression of goodwill about the person’s employment with the company.
Highlight some of the advantages of working for the company to influence the person’s decision to accept the offer.
• In some situations (large weddings, for example), one of a couple


may accept an invitation while the other declines. In other cases (large
dinner parties), check with your host to see if this is acceptable.
• White House invitations include the phone number of the Social
Office where you telephone your acceptance and can ask questions
about protocol, where to park your car, what to wear, how to respond
to the invitation. General guidelines are: send your reply within a day
of receiving the invitation; write the reply yourself (do not have a
secretary do it); handwrite your reply on plain or engraved personal
stationery; use the same format and person (first person or third person) to reply but insert “have the honor of accepting”; if the invitation
was sent by the President’s or First Lady’s secretary (in the case of an
informal invitation), reply to that person and write “Would you please
tell/convey to…”
• Children can write brief acceptances for invitations: “Thank you
for inviting me to your Halloween party. Wait till you see my costume!”

• Model your reply on the format used in the invitation or letter. If
it is handwritten, handwrite your reply. If letterhead stationery is
used, reply on your letterhead. If the invitation is e-mailed, e-mail
your acceptance. When the language of the invitation is informal, your
reply is also informal. When replying to a formal invitation, use nearly
the same words, layout, and style as the invitation:
Mr. and Mrs. Masterson Finsbury
request the pleasure of
Mr. and Mrs. Edward Bloomfield’s company
at a dinner-dance
on Saturday, the seventh of February
at eight o’clock
Gideon Country Club
Mr. and Mrs. Edward Bloomfield
accept with pleasure
the kind invitation of
Mr. and Mrs. Masterson Finsbury


to a dinner-dance
on Saturday, the seventh of February
at eight o’clock
Gideon Country Club














able to say yes
accept with

I am pleased/
happy/honored to

agree to

it is with great pleasure that

glad to be able to vote yes

it was so thoughtful of you to

happy to let you know

it will be a pleasure to

pleased to have been invited
thank you for asking me to
thank you for
nominating me for

we are sincerely
happy to join you
we have accepted your bid of
we look forward with pleasure

we are delighted to accept


After reviewing your application, we are pleased to be able to offer you the
funding requested.
I accept with pleasure the position of senior research chemist.
I am happy to be able to do this.
I appreciate very much (and accept) your generous apology.

I’ll be happy to meet with you in your office March 11 at 10:30 to plan this
year’s All-City Science Fair.
In a word, absolutely!
In response to your letter asking for support for the Foscari Children’s
Home, I’m enclosing a check for $500.
Thank you for inviting me to speak at the Chang-Ch’un Meditation Center
next month.
We accept your kind invitation with great pleasure.
We are happy to accept your estimate for refinishing our Queen Anne dining
room suite.
We are pleased to grant you the six-week extension you requested to complete your work.
We are pleased to tell you that your application for admission to the Emmet
School has been approved.
We look forward to working with you.


I will be delighted to have dinner with you on Friday, the sixteenth
of March, at seven o’clock. Thanks so much for asking me. I can hardly
wait to see you and Anders again.
Thanks for telling me how much the children at St. Joseph’s Home
liked my storytelling the other night. I’m happy to accept your invitation
to become a regular volunteer and tell stories every other Thursday
evening. Do you have a record player or tape deck so that I could use
music with some of the stories?
I’m looking forward to your graduation and the reception afterwards.
Thanks for including me.
Your bid of $6,780 to wallpaper our reception rooms has been accepted.
Please read the enclosed contract and call with any questions. We were
impressed with the attention to detail in your proposal and bid, and we
are looking forward to your work.

Dear Selina,
Vickers and I accept with pleasure your kind invitation to a celebration
of your parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary on Saturday, July 16, at
7:30 p.m.


Dear Dr. Cheesewright:
Thank you for inviting me to speak at your county dental society’s
dinner banquet on October 26 at 7:00. 1 am happy to accept and will, as
you suggested, discuss new patient education strategies.
I’m not sure how much time you have allotted me—will you let me
With best wishes,
Dear Ms. Thirkell,
I am pleased to accept your offer of the position of assistant director
of the Gilbert Tebben Working Family Center.
I enjoyed the discussions with you, and I look forward to being part
of this dynamic and important community resource.
The salary, hours, responsibilities, and starting date that we discussed
during our last meeting are all agreeable to me. I understand that I will
receive the standard benefits package, with the addition of two weeks’
vacation during my first year.
Sincerely yours,
Laurence Dean
Dear Dr. Bennett,
I would be most happy to perform twenty minutes of magic tricks at
the Five Towns Children’s Hospital annual fair to be held on Saturday,
November 8. As the date approaches, we can discuss details.
All the best,
Anna Tellwright
Dear Mr. Grandby:
We are pleased to accept for publication your self-help book, tentatively
entitled Don’t Give Up. All of us are excited about its possibilities.
Enclosed are guidelines from the production editor to help you prepare
the final manuscript. Also enclosed is a preliminary draft of the book
contract. Please look it over, and I will call next week to discuss it.
Sincerely yours,
Dear Ms. Unwin:
Congratulations! Your franchise application has been approved.
Welcome to the Sunshine family.
Enclosed is the contract, which we suggest you discuss with your attorney, and a packet of informational materials.
Please call this office to set up an appointment to discuss any questions.


Dear Violet,
Yes! I will be delighted to stay with the twins while you and Gordon
take the horses to the state fair. A week is not too long for me. And thanks
for the offer of the plane ticket—I accept with pleasure.
Dear Mr. Van Druten,
In response to your letter of February 10, we are pleased to grant you
a two-month extension of the loan of the slides showing scenes of our
amusement park. We appreciate being able to help you add, as you said,
“a bit of amusement” to your corporate meetings.
We offer this extension with our compliments.
Laura Simmons
Dear Richard,
I will be happy to write you a letter of reference, and I’m delighted
that you thought to ask me. You were one of my favorite students, and
I’ll enjoy explaining just why to Forey, Harley and Wentworth.
Yours truly,
Mr. Clarence Rochester
accepts with pleasure
William Portlaw and Alida Ascott’s
kind invitation to dinner
on the sixteenth of June at 7:30 p.m.
but regrets that
Dr. Maggie Campion
will be absent at that time.


Acknowledgments and
Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy.

Letters of acknowledgment and letters of confirmation resemble each other.
The letter of acknowledgment says, “I received your letter (telephone call,
gift, materials).” The letter of confirmation says, “I received your letter
(message, contract) and we agree about the matter”; this letter can serve as
an informal contract.
Sometimes a letter of acknowledgment also serves as a “thank you.”
Or it says you received the message or materials but will respond later,
or that you passed them on to the appropriate person. Sometimes, too,
“acknowledgment” letters are really sales letters that use the excuse of
acknowledging something (an order, a payment) to present an additional
sales message.
You always acknowledge expressions of condolence. You generally
acknowledge anniversary or birthday greetings, congratulations, apologies, or divorce announcements.

Acknowledge or Confirm

anniversary/birthday greetings
divorce announcements
documents/reports/files/materials received
gifts (thank-you note to follow)
information received
inquiries/requests (will respond as soon as possible)
letters from constituents
letters of introduction
letters received (action underway, will let you know)

• mail in supervisor’s absence (assistant writes that message/letter
has been received and will be dealt with later)
• manuscripts (under consideration, will give decision later)
• oral agreements, telephone discussions/agreements
• orders (see also ORDERS)
• payments
• proposals
• receipt of orders/merchandise (see also ORDERS)
• receipt of wedding gifts (see WEDDINGS)
• reports
• reservations, speaking dates, invitation times
• sympathy messages

How to Say It
• State precisely (reservation, amount, letter, order) what you are acknowledging or confirming.
• Refer to the date and occasion of your last contact (telephone conversation, previous letter, in-person discussion).
• Describe what action, if any, is being taken.
• Tell when the reader will hear further from you or from someone
• If indicated, explain why you are not able to respond fully to the
letter/request/gift at the moment.
• Express appreciation for the previous contact, for the kindness of the
person in writing you, or for the business.
• Close with a courtesy or forward-looking statement.

What Not to Say
• Don’t belabor explanations; letters of acknowledgment and confirmation are brief.
• Avoid a negative tone (“thought I’d make sure we’re both talking
about the same thing”). Repeat matter-of-factly the details of the
items you’re acknowledging or confirming.

Tips on Writing
• Write promptly. Acknowledgments are, by their very nature, sent
immediately. One exception is acknowledging expressions of sympathy. Because of the hardships involved, responses may be sent up
to six weeks later. Or, a close relative of the bereaved may write the
acknowledgment: “Mother asked me to tell you how much she appre-

10 / HOW TO SAY IT®

ciated the loving letter of sympathy and the memorial you sent for
Dad. She will be in touch with you as soon as she is able to.”

Special Situations
• When a letterwriter asks about an issue better handled by someone
else, acknowledge the letter and provide the name, address, and telephone number of the appropriate person. You can also forward the
letter to the proper department and so notify your correspondent.
• Timely and regular business transactions need no acknowledgment: orders are received, merchandise is delivered, payments are
sent. You would, however, acknowledge receipt in unusual situations.
If the previous order went astray, you will want the sender to know
that this one arrived. When you receive payment from someone to
whom you’ve been sending collection letters, let the person know that
payment has been received (and, by implication, that there will be no
more collection letters). Acknowledge large or important payments,
orders, and shipments—or those from first-time customers or suppliers.
Acknowledge letters, requests, orders, manuscript submissions, or
complaints that cannot be responded to immediately so that the person
knows that action is being taken.
• Acknowledge mail that arrives in a supervisor’s or co-worker’s
absence. Mention the absence without offering apologies or explanations. Do not refer to the contents of the letter; an exception is made
for the announcement of a death or serious illness. Express sympathy
on behalf of the other person and say that a letter will follow as soon
as possible.
• Organizations receiving memorial donations acknowledge receipt
of the contribution and also notify the family so it can thank the donor
• Domestic hotel and motel reservations are often made and confirmed entirely by phone. Occasionally, however, written confirmation
is necessary because of special conditions or changes of plans. Include
your requirements: date, length of stay, kind of accommodation, price,
extras requested (crib in a room, for example), wheelchair accessibility,
availability of pool, HBO, entertaining facilities. Request written confirmation from foreign hotels or resorts. Include an International Reply
Coupon (IRC) for any response or include your e-mail address or fax
• If someone announces a divorce, avoid expressing either congratulations or sympathy (unless you know which is called for); in most
cases, simply acknowledge the information.
• An apology is acknowledged to let the other person know that
you have received it (and accepted it, if that is the case).
• If you cannot respond to a proposal, report, or manuscript right

HOW TO SAY IT® / 11

away, acknowledge its receipt to the sender and assure the person
that you will communicate further as soon as you have evaluated it.
People spend time writing reports, proposals, and manuscripts and
are naturally eager for results. They will wait more patiently if their
mailing has been acknowledged.
• When you cannot make an immediate decision among job applicants, acknowledge receipt of their applications or résumés or thank
them for their interviews. Tell them you will let them know as soon
as a decision has been made. (If you have an idea of when this will be,
say so.) Thank them for their interest in your organization.

• Routine acknowledgments and confirmations (receipt of applications, manuscripts, requests, payments) can be handled with preprinted
cards or a simple form letter. Fill in the item received and the date of
• For numerous wedding gifts or expressions of sympathy, send
printed acknowledgment cards indicating that you’ll respond soon.
In the case of a public figure whose death inspires many messages of
sympathy from people unknown to the family or deceased, printed
or engraved cards or foldovers are sent (with no personal follow-up).
• Use e-mail for routine acknowledgments and confirmations. For
business records, keep hard copies or back-up file copies of these
• For complicated business acknowledgments or confirmations, use
letterhead stationery or memo paper.
• Personal acknowledgments and confirmations are handwritten
on informal personal stationery; e-mail can be used for casual situations.





















as I mentioned on the phone

thank you for the package that

12 / HOW TO SAY IT®
as we agreed yesterday

this will acknowledge
the receipt of

I enjoyed our conversation of

to confirm our recent

in response to your letter

want to confirm in writing

I sincerely appreciated

we have received

look forward to continuing our

will respond as soon as


I enjoyed speaking with you this afternoon and look forward to our meeting
next Thursday at 2:30 at your office.
Just a note to let you know that the printer ribbons arrived.
Thank you for remembering my ten-year anniversary with Lamb and
Thank you for the wallpaper samples, which arrived this morning.
Thank you for writing me with your views on socialized medicine.
Thank you for your order, which we received yesterday; it will be shipped
to you this week.
The family of Annis Gething gratefully acknowledges your kind and comforting expressions of sympathy.
The members of the Board of Directors and I appreciated your presentation
yesterday and want you to know that we are taking your concerns under
serious advisement.
This is to acknowledge receipt of the rerouted shipment of Doncastle tennis
rackets, catalog number AE-78573.
This is to confirm our recent conversation about the identification and removal of several underground storage tanks on my property.
This will acknowledge receipt of your report on current voter attitudes.
This will confirm our revised delivery date of November 6.
We are proceeding with the work as requested by Jerome Searing in his
May 3, 2002, telephone call.
We hereby acknowledge that an inspection of the storm drain and street
construction installed by the Bagshaw Company in the Rockingham
subdivision has been completed.

HOW TO SAY IT® / 13

Your letter of July 16 has been referred for review and appropriate
action. We value you as a customer and ask your patience while a response is being prepared.
Thank you for the update on the preparation of the Price-Stables contract. I appreciate knowing what progress you’re making.
Thank you for your workshop proposal, which we have just received.
Ms. Bramber is out of the office for the next two weeks but will contact
you soon after she returns.
Thanks for the samples. As soon as we’ve had a chance to get them
under the microscope and run some tests, we’ll let you know what we
I’ve received your kind invitation to join the Friends of the Library
committee. I need to review other commitments to be sure that I can
devote as much time to the Friends as I’d like. I’ll let you know next
week. In the meantime, thanks for thinking of me.
The information you sent was exactly what I needed. It will take several weeks to reach a decision, but I’ll call as soon as I do. In the meantime, thanks for your promptness.
Thanks for the call this morning, Janet. I’ll see you on May 23 at 10:00
a.m. and will bring the spring lists with me.
I wanted you to know that I received your letter this morning, but as
I’m leaving for Dallas later today I won’t have time to look into the billing
problem with the contractor for another week or so. If you need action
sooner than that, give Agnes Laiter a call.
I’m glad we were able to reach an agreement on the telephone this
morning. I’ll have the contracts retyped—inserting the new delivery
date of March 16, 2003, and the new metric ton rate of $55—and sent to
you by the end of the week.
Thank you for telling me about the divorce. It’s been too long since
I’ve seen you. Can we get together sometime? How about breakfast
Saturday morning? That used to work for us.
Thank you for your letter of June 9, describing the employee behavior
you encountered on three different visits to our store. We are looking
into the situation, and will let you know what we find. In the meantime,
please accept our apologies for any embarrassment or unpleasantness
you experienced.
Thank you for your letter of application and your résumé. We have
received numerous responses to our advertisement, which means you
may not hear from us immediately. Beginning March 1 we will call
qualified applicants to arrange interviews.
We received your request for information on estrogen replacement
therapy and for a sample of the placebo skin patch. Because of the enthusiastic response to our advertisement, we have temporarily exhausted

14 / HOW TO SAY IT®

our supplies of the skin patch. I’m enclosing the literature you requested,
and will send the skin patch in approximately two weeks.

Dear Edna Bunthorne:
This will acknowledge your letter of August 6 addressed to Francis
Moulton. Mr. Moulton is on a six-month medical leave of absence, and
his interim replacement has not yet been named.
I am enclosing materials that will answer some of your questions, and
I will refer the others to the new director as soon as possible.
If the delay is unacceptable to you, you may want to contact Kate Croy
at the Lowder Foundation.
Dear Professor Erlin:
Thank you for your paper, “The Rise and the Fall of the Supercomputer,” which we received this week. Because of an overwhelming response to our call for symposium papers, our editorial staff will not be
able to respond within the usual two to three weeks. It may be five to
six weeks before you hear from us. Thanks for understanding.
Yours truly,
Dear Member,
Thank you for your order.
Unfortunately, we’re temporarily out of stock on the item below. We’ve
reordered it and expect to have a new supply in a few weeks. We’ll ship
it as soon as it arrives.
Dear Dr. Breeve,
This is to confirm that you have permission to use the Great Organ of
St. Luke’s Church for an organ recital March 30 at 7:30 p.m. As agreed,
you will be responsible for the expense of any organ repairs necessary
for the recital.
Please call me to arrange for an extra key when you need to begin
We’re delighted that someone of your talent will be using our wonderful old—but often forgotten—organ.
With best wishes,
Dear Geraldine Dabis:
We have received your loan application and will process it as quickly

HOW TO SAY IT® / 15

as possible. However, because of the complex nature of the application,
it is being reviewed and evaluated by loan officers from two different
divisions. This may delay our response somewhat.
If you have questions about the delay or about our process, please call
me at 555-1216.
Yours truly,


Letters of Adjustment
A reputation for handling customer claims quickly and fairly
is a powerful public relations tool for any firm.

Write a letter of adjustment in response to a customer’s letter of complaint
(also called a claims letter). Business imperfections—incorrect bills, damaged
merchandise, late payments—are not as rare as we’d like. In most instances,
adjustments are handled routinely. “Keeping an old customer is just as
important as gaining a new one.” (N.H. and S.K. Mager)
An adjustment letter serves to (1) correct errors and make good on
company inadequacies; (2) grant reasonable full or partial adjustments
in order to maintain good customer relations; or (3) deny unwarranted
claims so tactfully that the customer’s goodwill is retained.
In his classic Handbook of Business Letters, L.E. Frailey advises treating
a complaint with as much respect as an order, letting customers know
you are as eager to serve them as to sell them.
“Every unhappy customer will tell ten others about a bad experience,
whereas happy customers may tell three.” (Lillian Vernon)
The only thing worse than customers who complain are customers
who don’t complain—and take their business elsewhere. A claims letter
gives you the opportunity to win the customer back. You will know
when you have written a good letter of adjustment because the customer
will return.
(To request an adjustment, see COMPLAINTS; this chapter deals only
with making them.)

Kinds of Adjustment Letters

billing/invoice errors
explanations: oversight/error
newspaper corrections
refusing to make (see REFUSALS)

HOW TO SAY IT® / 17
• repairing damages
• replacements
• time extensions

How to Say It
• Open with a cordial statement (“Thank you for your letter of June
3”), a thank you for bringing the matter to your attention, or a sentiment such as “We were sorry to hear that…”
• Refer to the error, specifying dates, amounts, invoice numbers.
• If the customer was correct, say so.
• State your regret about the confusion, mix-up, or error.
• Explain your company’s policy of dealing with customer claims, if
• Describe how you will resolve the problem or what you’ve already
done. Sometimes you give customers the choice of a replacement, a
refund, or a credit to their account.
• Mention when you expect the problem to be resolved, even if it is
only “immediately,” “at once,” or “as soon as possible.”
• Reassure the customer: this error is rare; you do not expect a repeat
occurrence of it; the company works hard to satisfy customers.
• Close by acknowledging the customer’s patience, asking for continued
customer loyalty, offering further cooperation, reaffirming the company’s good intentions and the value of its products, or expressing
your expectation that the customer will continue to enjoy your services and products for years to come.

What Not to Say
• Don’t use the words “claim” or “complaint” even though that’s how
these incoming letters are commonly identified. To customers, the
terms sound accusatory and judgmental, and the majority of them
honestly believe they are due an adjustment. Instead of “The damage
that you claim was due to improper packing” or “Your complaint
has been received,” substitute a word like “report” for “claim” and
• Don’t say how “surprised” you are (“I can’t believe this happened”;
“Not once in twenty years have we encountered this problem”)—unless it truly is an exceptional occurrence. Customers assume that if
the error happened to them, it could happen (and probably has) to
anyone. You lose credibility.
• Don’t repeat all the details of a problem or overemphasize it. A
passing reference is sufficient. Focus on the solution rather than on
the error. You want the latter to quickly become a vague memory
for the customer.

18 / HOW TO SAY IT®
• Avoid long explanations. Customers generally don’t care about your
difficulties with suppliers, employees, or shippers; they simply want
an adjustment. Restrict your explanation, if you wish to include one,
to several words (“due to a delayed shipment” or “because of power
outages last week”).
• Don’t be excessively apologetic. A simple “We regret the error” is
adequate for most slip-ups.
• Don’t blame “computer error.” By now people know that human
beings run the computers, not vice versa, and this weak and obviously
untrue excuse irritates people. And don’t imply that these things are
bound to happen from time to time. Although this may be true, it
makes your company look careless.
• Don’t make an adjustment grudgingly, angrily, impatiently, or condescendingly, and don’t imply that you’re doing the customer a big
favor. This cancels the positive public relations effect of righting the
error. Make your adjustment graciously or at least matter-of-factly
even when the customer is angry or rude. Your attitude must be
friendly and understanding; the “high road” leads to goodwill and
customer satisfaction.
• Don’t end your letter by mentioning the problem (“Again, we are so
sorry that our Great Southwest Hiking Holiday was such an unpleasant experience for you”) because it leaves the problem, not your
goodwill and adjustment, uppermost in the reader’s mind.
• Don’t overstate company culpability or indicate in writing that the
company was negligent. When negligence is involved, your lawyer
can suggest the best approach for your letter.

Tips on Writing
• Respond promptly; this establishes your good intentions.
• Be specific: about the problem, about the steps you are taking,
about what the customer can expect in the future. Vagueness leaves
customers expecting more than is offered and unhappy when they
don’t get it.
• Assume responsibility when appropriate. Use the active voice
(“We sent the wrong monitor”) rather than the passive voice (“The
wrong monitor was sent to you”).
• When the customer has been inconvenienced, be generous with
your sympathy. Sometimes out of fear that the customer will “take
advantage” of such openness, businesses fail to give customers their
due—and then pay for it in reduced customer satisfaction.
• In some cases, add a goodwill gesture: a discount coupon or gift
certificate, or a reduction on the next order.
• Adjustment letters are easier to write when your company has a
codified strategy for managing customer complaints. You can then

HOW TO SAY IT® / 19

follow and appeal to policy and handle similar situations evenhandedly; you will not have to reinvent the wheel for each claims letter.
• Old but still good advice: “Legalistic quibbles have no place in
the answer to a complaint. The customer is rightly or wrongly dissatisfied; business is built only on satisfied customers. Therefore the
question is not to prove who is right but to satisfy the customer. This
doctrine has its limitations, but it is safer to err in the way of doing
too much than in doing too little.” (Mary Owens Crowther, The Book
of Letters, 1923)
• An excellent resource for those who write letters of adjustment is
Cheryl McLean, Customer Service Letters Ready to Go!, MTC Business
Books, 1996.

Special Situations
• Some problems are partly or wholly the customer’s fault (failure
to read installation instructions, excessive or inappropriate use). If you
decide to grant the adjustment (most companies give customers the
benefit of the doubt), don’t assign blame to the customer; it undoes
the goodwill you are establishing. When neither the company nor the
customer is completely at fault, suggest a compromise adjustment or
offer several solutions (“Because this item is not manufactured to be
fire-resistant, we cannot offer you an exact exchange, but we would
be glad to replace the fielder’s glove at our wholesale cost, offer you
a 30% discount on your next purchase, or repair the fire-damaged
nylon mesh back”). “A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in
such a way that everyone believes that he or she has got the biggest
piece.” (Ludwig Erhard)
• When you deny the requested adjustment (a complete refund, for
example), explain why: an investigation of the matter did not support
it (include documents or itemize findings); standard company policy
does not allow it (and violating the policy in this case is not possible);
the item is no longer under warranty; the item was used in a specifically prohibited manner. Be gracious but firm. Express your sympathy
for the customer’s point of view, explain that their letter was considered carefully, appeal to their sense of fair play, and close with a
positive statement (expressing your appreciation of past business and
cooperation, offering a coupon, saying that this was a difficult letter
to write but the only response consistent with your values of fairness
and responsibility).
• Before mailing a product recall notice, consult with your attorney
since the wording is important. Most recalls are announced in a form
letter that describes the recalled product, tells what the problem is,
and explains how the consumer can receive an adjustment, replacement, or refund.

20 / HOW TO SAY IT®

• Adjustment letters dealing with nonroutine problems are typed
on letterhead stationery. For routine adjustment matters, use a halfsheet size memo or form letter with blanks to insert the details.
• Small companies may return a copy of the customer’s letter with
a handwritten note: “We apologize for the error. Enclosed is a check
for the difference.”
• If you learn of the problem by e-mail or fax, respond that way.





















appreciate your pointing out

reduce the price

corrected invoice/

sincerely sorry to hear that

greatly regret your

sorry for the inconvenience/

I’m sorry to learn that


make amends for

sorry to learn that

our apologies

until you are completely

please disregard

will receive immediate credit

prevent a recurrence

you are correct in stating that

I’m sorry about the error in filling your order—the correct posters are being
shipped today.
Thank you for bringing to our attention the missing steel pole in the tetherball set you ordered from us.

HOW TO SAY IT® / 21
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to correct the erroneous information
published in the last issue of Tallboys’ Direct Mail Marketer.
Thank you for your telephone call about the defective laser labels—you will
receive replacement labels within two to three business days.
We appreciate the difficulties you have had with your Deemster Steam Iron,
but all our appliances carry large-print, bright-colored tags alerting consumers to the safety feature of the polarized plug (one blade is wider than
the other and the plug fits into a polarized outlet only one way).
We are pleased to offer you an additional two weeks, interest-free, to complete payment on your formal-wear rental.
We hope to continue to serve your banking needs.
We regret the difficulties you had with your last toner cartridge.
We’re sorry you had to write; this should have been taken care of
some time ago.
We were sorry to learn that you are dissatisfied with the performance of
your Salten personal paper shredder.
Your business and goodwill are important to us.
You’re right, the self-repairing zippers on your Carradine Brent Luggage
should not have seized up after only two months’ use.
You will receive immediate credit for the faulty masonry work, and we will
send someone to discuss replacing it.

Thank you for responding to our recall notices and returning the Small
World farm set to us for a refund. Small World has been making quality
toys for children since 1976, and we regret the design error that made
this set potentially dangerous to young children.
Thank you for calling to our attention the pricing error on our Bluewater automatic pool cleaners. Enclosed is a check for the difference. We
look forward to serving you again.
Thank you for your telephone call. You are correct in thinking that
you should not have been charged interest this past month. We have
credited $2.85 to your account.
After carefully reading your letter of August 4, I consulted our shipping
department. It appears that we did comply with the terms of the contract
(documents enclosed).
I am sorry that your order was filled incorrectly. Enclosed are the back
issues that you ordered. Please keep the others with our apologies.
Thank you for taking the time to let us know of your recent experience
with one of our products. We are always interested in hearing from our
customers but regret that it was this type of occurrence that prompted
your letter.

22 / HOW TO SAY IT®

Dear Mr. Stefanopoulos:
Thank you for your letter requesting a correction of several statements
that appeared about you and your company in the most recent issue of
Small Business Today. The information we were given was not doublechecked; we apologize.
The correction appears on page 4 of this month’s issue.
Dear Eva Steer:
I am sorry that the Irish linens you purchased from us proved to be
Please return the order to us, complete with packaging. We will replace
it at once and also refund your mailing costs.
I notice that you have been a loyal customer for the past eight years,
so you know that our quality control people don’t let something like this
happen very often. I’m enclosing a discount good for 20% off your next
order as our way of apologizing for your inconvenience.
Best regards,
Dear Gabriel Bagradian,
Thank you for your letter of July 7, appealing the $50 charge for the
non-emergency use of the Werfel Community Hospital emergency room.
A review of the records shows that your son Stephan visited the
emergency room on March 19 with a collapsed lung, not for treatment
of acne. We regret the error that was made in coding the reason for the
visit and have made an adjustment to your account.
We appreciate your spotting the error and letting us know about it so
T. Haigasun
Billing Department
Dear Mrs. Painter,
Thank you for telling us about the infestation in our Wheatley cereal.
We are sorry you had this experience and want you to know we share
your concern.
Consumer satisfaction is most important to us, and we sincerely regret
your recent experience with our product. Our company has strict
standards of quality control. We carefully examine each lot of raw materials when it arrives. Sanitarians inspect our manufacturing plant
continually and, in addition, make periodic checks of our suppliers’ fa-

HOW TO SAY IT® / 23

cilities. Food samples are collected all through the manufacturing process
and are analyzed in our laboratories. We enforce these stringent procedures to ensure the production of high-quality, insect-free products.
The information you gave us about our product is being brought to
the attention of the appropriate company officials.
Again, thank you for writing.
Yours truly,
Dear Mr. Steinmetz,
No, the motor on your vacuum should not have “worn out” six months
after you purchased it. We can’t be sure what the problem is, but this is
unusual for our top-of-the-line Costello vacuum.
Please take the vacuum to one of our repair shops (see attached list to
find the one closest to you). The personnel there will examine the machine
and if they can repair it, they will do so and bill us. If they find that the
machine is defective, we will arrange to have a replacement shipped to
Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience this has caused you.
Dear Mr. Ramsdell:
Re: Claim 02018-1134 WB 753
Enclosed is a check in full settlement of your claim.
Because Shipper’s Transit Insurance was not purchased, the carrier’s
liability is limited to $1.25 per pound times the weight of the load. This
conforms with tariff regulations.
To obtain full reimbursement for damages or loss you must file a claim
with your corporation traffic department or its insurance carrier. Please
check with them about this.
Thank you for your patience and cooperation during the necessary
delays in processing your claim.
Dear Mr. Magnus,
We were unhappy to hear that you felt the installation of your fiberoptical cable was “sloppily done” and the electricians “unprofessional.”
We now have the report of two inspectors, one from our company
and one from an independent oversight bureau, who visited your offices
on November 11 and 12. Their evaluations indicate that the installation
was meticulously done, that code standards were met or exceeded, that
site cleanup was faultless, and that, in fact, there was no findable cause
for objection.
Interviews with your staff members who had contact with the electricians turned up no negative information about their behavior.
In the light of these reports, we are unable to offer you the requested
deep discount on our services.

24 / HOW TO SAY IT®



Advice…is a habit-forming drug. You give a dear friend a bit of advice today,
and next week you find yourself advising two or three friends, and the week
after, a dozen, and the week following, crowds!

Ask for advice only when you are open to it, not when you already know
the “advice” you want to receive. That isn’t fair to the person who spends
time on a response. In addition, you may be unpleasantly surprised.
If you are the advice-giver, respond only to the issues raised by the
other person; don’t venture further afield.
If you have not been asked for advice, you are on shaky ground to
volunteer it. “It is well enough when one is talking to a friend to hedge
in an odd word by way of counsel now and then, but there is something
mighty irksome, in its staring upon one in a letter where one ought only
to see kind words and friendly remembrances.” (Mary Lamb)
In general, give advice only when you have been sincerely asked for

Kinds of Letters Dealing with Advice

asking for/requesting
giving unsolicited
offering suggestions
responding to request for
thanking for

How to Say It
• To ask for advice, briefly outline the issue. Tell what you expect from
the other person and perhaps why you chose them in this situation.
If you need the advice by a deadline, say so. Reassure them that they
are not obliged to respond. Thank them for being available to you.
• To give advice, begin by rephrasing the other person’s request (“You
asked my advice about your college plans”) or by explaining why

26 / HOW TO SAY IT®
you are writing (something came across your desk you thought might
be of interest, or you had an idea that might be useful). State your
opinion, advice, or suggestion. Explain your reasoning, if necessary.
Tell what, if any, action you think the person might take. Include a
disclaimer: “this is only my opinion,” “I know you will use your own
good judgment,” “just an idea…” Finally, assure your reader of your
confidence that they will make a good decision, deal with the situation, succeed at any task.
• To thank someone for advice, express your gratitude as you would
for any gift, but tell how the advice was useful to you. If you didn’t
take the advice, thank the person for their time, effort, and concern.
When you receive inappropriate or unwanted advice, assume—for
politeness’ sake—that they meant well and acknowledge their attention.

What Not to Say
• Don’t over-explain. Outline your suggestion or course of action in a
few sentences. “Whatever advice you give, be short.” (Horace)
Brevity is difficult in a letter giving advice. We are tempted to offer
all the wisdom accumulated over a lifetime. Resist. After writing
your letter, delete half of it. The person who wants to know more
will ask.
• Avoid “should” as in “I think you should…” No one can say what
anyone else “should” or “ought to” do. Find a more flexible way of
phrasing your suggestion.
• Don’t imply that you’ve found the one, correct answer. Offer instead
alternatives, possibilities, fresh approaches.

Tips on Writing
• When giving advice, use tact, tact, and more tact. Read your letter
as though it had been sent to you. How does it make you feel? Have
someone read it to make sure it isn’t abrasive or patronizing. “Advice
is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the
deeper it sinks into the mind.” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
• Start with a compliment or upbeat remark to frame your advice
in a positive context.
• Be specific. “Get a grip!” or “Shape up!” or “Try harder!” is not
advice. Mignon McLaughlin wrote: ‘“Pull yourself together’ is seldom
said to anyone who can.” When possible, include names and telephone
numbers of resources, costs of what you’re recommending, clear-cut
steps to the goal.
• When possible, attribute the advice to someone else. Especially
when your advice is unsolicited, consider getting another person to

HOW TO SAY IT® / 27

offer the advice you want to give. Advice that is unwelcome from a
parent is often accepted from a third party. Advice from a superior
may be better received from a colleague—or vice versa.
• When giving unsolicited advice, be respectful and low-key, mildly
suggesting that this is something the person might want to think about.
In this instance, passive voice or indirect phrasing is useful (“If the
loans could be consolidated” instead of “If you would consolidate
your loans”). An intermediate step might be to write, “I noticed that…”
or “Do you need any help?” and, without giving advice then and there,
indicate that you are willing to do so.

Special Situations
• Letters giving professional advice (a lawyer advising a client, a
doctor outlining a program of patient health care, a teacher suggesting
tests for a child) is written much more carefully than most advice letters. The advice must be professionally defensible and might include
references or sources for the advice. Keep copies of the letter (and
sometimes send them to third parties). On occasion, another person’s
opinion may be needed to reinforce the advice and protect yourself.
Ours is a litigious society; good Samaritans enjoy no protection under
the law for their good works and intentions.
• If you request advice about investing money or about a situation
with significant consequences, emphasize that the other person will
not be held responsible for the outcome. With a written absolution,
the recipient might feel easier about giving advice. You get what you
pay for, however, and you might be better off seeing a professional
(financial counselor, psychologist, lawyer, realtor).
• If your first letter of advice is ignored or poorly received, let it be
your last letter of advice to that person. “The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent
whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people
right.” (Hannah Whitall Smith)
• Don’t give advice warning against individuals, companies, or
products; you could create legal problems for yourself. It’s generally
not a problem to recommend a person or an organization although,
if you are a public figure, you might get asked pretty smartly to explain
why you didn’t mention certain others.

• Use letterhead stationery to write a business associate outside the
firm, memo paper or letterhead to write someone inside the firm, and
informal stationery for social relationships.

28 / HOW TO SAY IT®

• The choice of a handwritten or typewritten letter of advice can set
the tone of your letter. A handwritten note to an employee might be
perceived as too personal and a bit apologetic, where the typewritten
message appears objective and matter-of-fact. On the other hand,
writing a personal note in some sensitive business situations indicates
that you are writing as a friend as well as a customer, client, or supervisor.



f o r e thought























o p e n minded

















alert you to the possibility

look into

as I understand it

might want to

backseat driver

piece of advice

compare notes

so far as I know

consider carefully

speak for

I am convinced that

take care of

I don’t like to interfere, but

take into account

I feel/assume/presume/think

take it amiss/the wrong way

I have the impression that

take to heart

if you don’t mind

think about

in my estimation/judgment/

think through

HOW TO SAY IT® / 29

to my way of thinking

I noticed that

to the best of my knowledge

I take it that

weigh both courses of action

it seems to me

what you could do

just wanted to suggest/
keep a lookout for/an eye on
kick around this idea

whether you take my
advice or not
you’ve probably
already thought of
this, but

Although I liked what you wrote about switching your major from Physics
to Astronomy, I have a suggestion you might want to consider.
Do you have any advice about how I can raise morale in the Accounting
Ever since you asked my opinion about the Middlemarch line, I’ve been
mulling over the situation, weighing the benefits against the rather considerable cost.
I don’t usually give unsolicited advice, but this seems to me to be a special
I hope this is the sort of advice you wanted.
I’m considering a switch from the technical to the management ladder—do
you have any wise, helpful words for me?
I’m writing to you for advice.
I thought I should mention this.
I took your excellent advice and I’m grateful.
I will appreciate any comments or advice you’d care to give.
I would be grateful for your frank opinion about our registering Jermyn for
kindergarten this year (he won’t be five yet) instead of waiting another
I wouldn’t ordinarily presume to tell you your business, but I’m concerned.
Thank you for your unerring advice about our hot rolling equipment—we’re
back on schedule.
There is one thing you might want to consider.
We are unable to take your advice just now, but we’re grateful to you for
thinking of us.
Would you be willing to tell me quite frankly and confidentially what you
think about my interpersonal skills?

30 / HOW TO SAY IT®
You asked for my opinion about switching service providers—here it is.
You must, of course, use your own judgment, but I would suggest this.
Your counsel and advice have meant a great deal to me.
Your idea is excellent and I may regret not going that route, but I’m going
to try something else first.
You were kind enough to ask my advice about the Hexam-Riderhood
merger—this is what I think.

You asked what I thought of the new store hours. They are certainly
more convenient for customers and will bring us the early evening
business that can make a difference in our year-end numbers. However,
I wonder if it is profitable to stay open so late on Saturday evenings.
Could we keep a record of Saturday evening sales for a month?
We suggest that, instead of external motors and vacuum seals around
the drive-shafts, you install internal, pancake motors to handle the required tension ranges. Let us know if this takes care of the problem.
You might want to hire an investment banking firm to help with your
financial restructuring. Such a firm can assist you in exploring strategic
alternatives to rebuild your liquidity and improve value for shareholders.
Have you noticed that the newsletter is not carrying its own weight?
I wonder if we ought to continue to subsidize it. I suggest we put it on
a subscription basis. This will also oblige it to become more responsive
to readers, one of the current complaints being that it isn’t. If it can’t
survive on the income from subscriptions, I question its necessity.
I would like to suggest that you examine the issue of cooperation
versus competition in the school environment. In the three years our
children have been students here, I’ve noticed the school is strongly
oriented toward competition, with little value assigned to cooperative
learning, cooperative sports, and cooperative activities. I’m enclosing
several reports and studies on this issue. May I stop in and speak to you
about this next week?
I’m flattered that you want my advice on choosing a college. However,
you seem interested in the eastern colleges, and I know little about them.
I wonder if you wouldn’t want to talk to Ling Ch’ung, who in fact knows
quite a bit about them.
Thanks so much for your advice on the hip roof and preparing for the
building inspector. I doubt if she would have given me the building
permit the way I was going about things!
I’m grateful to you for the time you took to outline a solution to our
current problem. We are interested in your ideas. However, we just
started working on another approach last Thursday and I’m going to
wait and see how that develops. I’ll let you know if we are later able to

HOW TO SAY IT® / 31

consider your plan. In the meantime, thanks for your helpful suggestions.

Dear Mr. Brimblecombe:
I was present at the Music Educators’ Conference when your elementary school jazz band performed. I was impressed to hear that out of a
school population of 640, you have 580 students in your instrumental
music program. This is unusual, as I’m sure you know.
Do you have any advice for other elementary music directors trying
to increase the number of student musicians? If you do not have the time
to respond by letter, perhaps you could indicate on the enclosed postcard
a time and date when I could call you long-distance. I’d appreciate any
tips you might have.
Dear Walter,
I hope you will forgive this unasked-for intrusion into your business
affairs, but I felt I would be less than a friend if I didn’t say something
after visiting one of your gift shops last week (the one on Lewis Street).
I was surprised to see the china jumbled together on the shelves, the
collector’s dolls looking dusty and wrinkled, and some of the figurines
chipped and dirty. This hasn’t seemed to hurt business—customers were
lined up at both counters when I was there—but over the long term it
might be unfortunate. I just wondered if you were aware of the situation.
With best wishes,
Dear Tony,
As one of our most aggressive sales representatives, you have an enviable record and I expect you will be up for an award at the end of the
year. The flip side of this aggressiveness is, unfortunately, a certain abrasive attitude that has been reported by several customers lately.
I’d like to suggest two things. One, come in and talk this over with
me. I can give you some idea of how people are responding to you and
why it’s a problem over the long term if not the short term. Two, spend
a day or two with Tom Jerningham. He has a manner that is effective
without being too insistent.
Let me hear from you.
Dear Shreve,
We are both proud of how well you’re doing in college—your grades,
your job, your friends. I think we’ve told you often how much we love

32 / HOW TO SAY IT®

you and admire the way you handle things. BUT…(did you know there
was a “but” coming?) we are extremely concerned about one new thing
in your life: cigarettes. Will you please think about what it will mean if
you let this habit take hold?
I’m enclosing some literature on the subject.
We won’t nag you about this, but we had to speak up strongly at least
once and say that, based on our experience, knowledge, and love for
you, this is not a good choice.
Dear Marion and Leopold,
Thanks so much for driving all the way into the city just to look over
the situation with the house. The decision whether to repaint or put on
all new siding was really getting us down. Your advice was excellent,
and we feel good about our decision. It was also wonderful to see you
Dear Hazel,
I appreciate your concern, and I am sure you have good reasons for
feeling that we ought to move as soon as possible. However, after careful
consideration of your proposal, I have decided that the situation is fairly
stable at present and we should stay put.
Let me know if you have further information that would affect this
Yours truly,
Dear Uncle Thorkell,
Thank you for your letter. I appreciated your advice about my earrings.
I know it doesn’t seem “manly” to you, but my friends and I like earrings.
I’m coming home at the end of the month for a visit, and I don’t want
you to be disappointed when you see that I still have them. Although I
am grateful for your concern, I am going to keep wearing earrings. I
hope this won’t hurt our good relationship.


Anniversaries and Birthdays
I know a lot of people didn’t expect our relationship to last—but we’ve
just celebrated our two months’ anniversary.

With the availability of attractive greeting cards today, few people send
personal anniversary or birthday notes and letters. However, anyone who
has received a commercial card with only a signature knows how much
pleasure could have been added with a handwritten line or two. For most
people, finding a letter enclosed in the card is as good as receiving a gift.
Anniversaries once referred primarily to wedding anniversaries.
Today, people celebrate business, service, personal, and other anniversaries and they appreciate being remembered on their special day.
Some businesses send birthday and anniversary cards to their customers as a goodwill gesture.

Send Letters or Cards for

anniversary of a death
business goodwill (see GOODWILL)
business or business association anniversary
customers’ birthdays or anniversaries (see SALES)
invitations to birthday or anniversary celebrations (see INVITATIONS)
• personal achievement or service anniversary
• wedding anniversary (spouse, parents, family members, friends)

How to Say It
• Mention the occasion (if you don’t know the number of years, refer
to “your service anniversary,” “your birthday,” or “the anniversary
of Beryl’s death”).
• Include, whenever possible, an anecdote, a shared memory, goodhearted humor, or a sentence telling why the person is important to

34 / HOW TO SAY IT®
• End with good wishes for another anniversary period or for the
coming years and with assurances of your affection, love, admiration,
warmth, interest, delight, pleasure, continued business support, or
other appropriate sentiment.

What Not to Say
• Don’t detract from your greetings by including other information or
news; remain focused on the anniversary or birthday. The exception
is the newsy letter to a family member or close friend.
• Don’t include “joking” references to advancing age, incapacity,
passing years, the difficulties of married life, becoming a fixture at
the office. Clever cracks about age and marriage and length of service
may evoke reluctant smiles, but they carry little warmth. Avoid
negative greeting cards that assume all 21-year-olds can hardly wait
to get to a bar, that “the big 4-0” is depressing, and that 50-year-olds
are over the hill.

Tips on Writing
• Birthday or anniversary greetings can be personalized with a
quotation: “The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose
all the other ages you’ve been.” (Madeleine L’Engle) “The fact was I
didn’t want to look my age, but I didn’t want to act the age I wanted
to look either. I also wanted to grow old enough to understand that
sentence.” (Erma Bombeck) “The marriages we regard as the happiest
are those in which each of the partners believes that he or she got the
best of it.” (Sydney J. Harris)
• Keep a supply of greeting cards on hand. At the beginning of the
year, note dates to remember on the calendar or in a computer file (the
gathering of dates is time-consuming only the first time you do it). On
the first of each month, choose and address cards to all those celebrating that month. On the upper right hand corner of the envelope (which
will later be covered by a stamp) pencil in the date of the birthday or
anniversary—and mail each one a few days before the date.
• Collect small, flat, useful gifts that can be inserted in a greeting
card: handkerchiefs, bookmarks, postage stamps, lottery tickets, art
postcards, dollar bills. You can also plump up a birthday or anniversary
card with photographs, newspaper clippings, and recipes.
• A number of Internet sites allow you to choose and personalize
greeting cards to be sent by e-mail.

HOW TO SAY IT® / 35

Special Situations
• Keep track of service anniversaries in your company; sending a
note to mark the date creates company loyalty, especially if you add
a complimentary remark about the person’s work. In the case of colleagues, personalize the note with a recalled shared experience.
Goodwill is also built when you remember the anniversary of your
relationship with important suppliers or customers.
• Birthday and anniversary goodwill cards are sometimes sent to
individual customers. William B. Dudley, financial adviser, says
sending these cards is a way of keeping in touch with people; he sends
more cards to people with whom he has not done business than he
does to clients. “It is one way of marketing my services and keeping
my name in front of people.”
• In her book The Bestseller, Olivia Goldsmith points out, tongue-incheek, that it is considered bad form to wish authors on their birthdays
“many happy returns” since to a writer “returns” are unsold books
returned to the publisher.
• Congratulations are appreciated on the anniversary of a significant
personal achievement—abstaining from smoking or drinking, for example—but only between people who know each other well.
• Write close friends and relatives who have lost someone on the
anniversary of the death. Don’t worry about “bringing up sad
memories.” In one of her columns Ann Landers wrote, “I was among
those who had the mistaken notion that it was painful for family
members to hear references to a loved one who had died. Many
readers called me on it, and I know better now.” The person is well
aware of the date, and will be grateful that others remember. When
someone close to you has lost a spouse after many years of marriage,
you might want to send the survivor a special note on the couple’s
wedding anniversary.

• For business, sales-oriented, or official letters, send typed or
handwritten messages on letterhead or personal-business stationery.
• Commercial greeting cards are appropriate for non-business uses,
as long as you add a handwritten note.
• E-mailed birthday and anniversary wishes are also received happily.
• Many newspapers have columns where family and friends can
publish birthday or anniversary congratulations (usually for a fee).
Often this is done in conjunction with an open house or reception to
celebrate the anniversary.

36 / HOW TO SAY IT®















red-letter day





all good wishes
anticipate another period
of success
celebrate with you
convey our warmest
good wishes

important day
look forward to the
next ten years
on the occasion of
send our love

great pleasure to wish you

Congratulations on forty years of outstanding contributions to HeaslopMoore Plastics.
Congratulations on the tenth anniversary of Stanley Graff Real Estate—it
has been a pleasure serving all your stationery needs!
Every good wish to both of you for much health, happiness, prosperity, and
many more years of togetherness.
Here’s a question for you from Ruth Gordon: “How old would you be if
you didn’t know how old you were?”
May you enjoy many more anniversaries—each happier than the last.
May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live!
(traditional birthday wish)
May you live long and prosper!
On the occasion of your 25th wedding anniversary, we send you our best
wishes for continued love and happiness together.
Today marks the fifth anniversary of Archie’s death, and I wanted you to
know that we still miss him and that you are in our thoughts today.

HOW TO SAY IT® / 37

Best wishes for a happy anniversary to a couple we have long admired
and loved. May your relationship continue to be a blessing to both of
you as well as to all those who know you.
This marks the tenth anniversary of our productive and happy business
association. In that time, we have come to appreciate Fausto Babel Inc.’s
prompt service, reliable products, and knowledgeable staff. I’m sure the
next ten years will be equally happy and productive. Congratulations
to all of you.
Happy 1st Anniversary! I have such lovely memories of your wedding
day. I hope you have been gathering more happy memories of your first
year of married life.
Barbara and Dick Siddal celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on
February 14. They have four children, nine grandchildren, and many
wonderful friends. Love and congratulations from the whole family.
Sunday is the first anniversary of Emily’s death, and I couldn’t let the
day go by without writing to see how you are getting along and to tell
you that all Emily’s friends here in Groves Corners miss her very much.

Dear Muriel Joy,
Happy birthday! I’m sending you 6 quarters, 6 colored bows for your
hair, 6 teddy-bear stickers, and 6 tiny horses for your collection.
How old did you say you are today?
Aunt Dinah
Dear Dr. Arnold,
On behalf of the governing board, I would like to congratulate you
on ten years of outstanding service as headmaster. Under your leadership
the School has established itself among the premier ranks of such institutions.
Be assured of our continued admiration and support.
Very sincerely yours,
Dear Winnie and Ed,
Congratulations to you both on the fifteenth anniversary of Leitner’s
Heating & Plumbing. As you know by now, you’re our best (our only!)
supplier, and the reason is simple: you’re a class act. Quality and competence have paid off for you, and nobody could be happier for you than
I. Best wishes with the next fifteen years.

38 / HOW TO SAY IT®

Dear Auntie Em,
I send you love and hugs on your 80th birthday. If only I were there
to celebrate with you!
I read this once: “Years in themselves mean nothing. How we live
them means everything.” (Elisabeth Marbury) I hope I live my years as
well as you’ve lived yours!
Speaking of which, how is the bridge group? the golf foursome? the
church cleaning crew? your birthday luncheon friends? your bowling
game? your Monday night dinners with the family? And are you still
going to Las Vegas in February?
(Watch the mail for a small package from me!)
Love, D.
Dear Rabbi Wassermann,
On behalf of the members and officers of the Adath Women’s League,
I send you best wishes for a joyous birthday and a happy, healthy year!
Karen Engelschall
Adath Women’s League
Dear Martin,
All of us here at Eden Land Corporation congratulate you at
Chuzzlewit Ltd. on your twenty years of solid contributions in the field
of architecture.
We know that when we do business with you we can count on superior designs, reasonable costs, and dependable delivery dates.
May the success of these first twenty years lead to an even more successful second twenty.
With best wishes,
Dear Penrod,
Congratulations on your twelfth birthday. I hope you have a wonderful
time and get everything you want (although, from what your father tells
me, I hope you don’t want another slingshot).
Your uncle and I are sorry we can’t be there to celebrate with you, but
I’m sending you a little something in a separate package. Have a good
time and give everyone a hug for us.
Happy birthday!
Dear Grandma Annie,
I know you and Grandpa Oliver would have been married 65 years
today—and that you still miss him. I love my photograph of the two of

HOW TO SAY IT® / 39

you taken at your 60th wedding anniversary party. I think about
him—and about you—a lot.
I hope this day isn’t too sad for you. Fortunately you have a lot of
happy memories—maybe they’ll be some comfort.
Just thinking about you…
Love from Monica


It is good news, worthy of all acceptation! and yet not too good to be true.

Announcements, whether formal or informal, make an art of stating essential
facts in the fewest possible words. A little like this paragraph.

Announcements Are Made for

address change
anniversary: business/wedding (see ANNIVERSARIES)
baby birth or adoption
change in benefits (reduced/increased/additional), policies (purchasing/hiring), regulations, procedures (billing dates)
collection actions on overdue account (see COLLECTION)
company merger/reorganization
engagement (see WEDDINGS)
layoff (see EMPLOYMENT)
marital separation
merger or acquisition
new company policy/directions/administration/management
new division/subsidiary
new home/house/apartment/condo
new office/business/professional practice/service/career
new partner/executive/associate/employee
open house: school/business
price/rent increase/reduction
product recall
resignation/retirement (see also EMPLOYMENT)
wedding (see WEDDINGS)

HOW TO SAY IT® / 41

How to Say It
• Express pleasure in making the announcement.
• List key details of the news or event: who, what, when, where, why.
• To announce a meeting, include: the name of the organization, subcommittee, or group; the date, time, place, and purpose of the meeting; a request to notify a contact person if unable to attend. This can
be done by preprinted postcard or by in-house memo or e-mail. To
announce a directors’ meeting, follow the format fixed by corporate
by-laws or by state or federal laws; a waiver of notice or a proxy card
is often enclosed along with a postage-paid reply envelope.
• To announce the opening of a new business or store, use an invitation
format to ask customers to an open house or special sales event.
• To announce changes in company policies, benefits, procedures, or
regulations, include: an expression of pleasure in announcing the
change; a description of the change; a reference to the former policy,
if necessary for clarification; an explanation of what the change will
mean for employees or customers; printed instructions or guidelines
if appropriate; the reason for the change and why it is an improvement; the deadline for implementing the change; the name and telephone number of a contact person for questions; an expression of
your enthusiasm about the change; appreciation for help in effecting
the change.
• To announce a birth or adoption, use engraved, printed, handlettered, commercial, or designed-by-you notes. Include: the baby’s
full name and, if not obvious from the name or if still unnamed,
whether it’s a boy or girl; birthdate (and time, if you wish) or age (if
the baby is adopted); parents’ full names; siblings’ names (optional);
some expression of happiness (“pleased to announce”). Baby announcements are made by unmarried parents (“Julia Norman and
Basil Fane announce the birth of their son, Alec Norman-Fane”), by
single parents (“Jean Emerson announces the birth of her son, Howard
Thede Emerson”), and by married couples where each uses a separate
name. Newspaper birth announcements include: the date of birth;
sex of child and name, if known; parents’ names and hometowns;
grandparents’ names. Some newspapers allow weight and height
information and such sentiments as “welcome with love” or the
mention of “many aunts, uncles, and cousins” in listing the baby’s
relatives. Check with your newspaper about its guidelines.
• To announce a change of address, use forms available from the United
States Postal Service, commercial change of address notes, or printed
cards: “As of July 1, Sybil Knox (formerly Sybil Coates or Mrs. Adrian
Coates) will be living at 15 Morland Drive, Houston, TX 77005,

42 / HOW TO SAY IT®
• To announce a graduation, use the printed announcements available
through most high schools and colleges. Since space at graduation
ceremonies is often limited, announcements are more common than
invitations. There is no obligation to send a gift in response to an
announcement (a congratulatory card is usually sent), but since many
people feel so obligated, it is kinder to send announcements only to
those close to the graduate.
• To announce a separation or divorce to family and friends (which is
a personal decision), state the news briefly (“We regret to inform you
that our divorce was finalized on December 1”) or frame the news
as a change of address, telling where each person and the children
will live after a certain date. If the woman resumes her birth name,
identify her that way. You are not obliged to explain what has
happened; if people sense from your announcement that you are retaining some privacy, it will be easier to cope the next time you see
them. Notify banks, businesses, charge accounts, and creditors of the
changed circumstances.
• Deaths are announced in several ways: (1) a death notice is inserted
(usually for a fee) in the obituary section of the newspaper; (2) a news
article describes the person’s achievements and contributions; (3)
printed announcements are sent to out-of-town friends and acquaintances; (4) handwritten notes are sent to close family and friends who
live out of town. The deceased person’s address book will indicate
who should be notified. The newspaper obituary notice includes:
name of deceased, including a woman’s birth name if she wasn’t
already using it; address; date of death; age at time of death; names,
relationships, and hometowns of survivors; affiliations; personal or
career information; date and place of services and interment;
whether services are private or open to friends and relatives; suggestions for flowers or memorial contributions; name, address, and
telephone number of funeral home. Since the death announcement
appears in the paper almost immediately, hand-deliver it or read it
over the phone.

What Not to Say
• Don’t include unrelated information or news. Although there are
some exceptions (changes in company policy, for example), an announcement is not meant for lengthy explanations, instructions, or
descriptions. An announcement can become diluted when part of a
longer communication.

Tips on Writing
• Send your announcement as soon as possible after the event. “The

HOW TO SAY IT® / 43

first rule of thumb about announcing an event…is that your announcement reaches the reader before the news travels by other means. If
your announcement is old news, it has arrived too late.” (Dianne
• Ask someone to double-check your spelling and the general content. The announcement with errors in it is announcing something
very different from what was intended.

Special Situations
• Combine routine announcements (new type of billing statement,
new address, or meeting notice) with goodwill or sales messages.
• A news release announces information of interest to the general
public (product recall; annual or quarterly financial report; business
anniversary; fundraiser; new programs, policies, executives; company
achievements, mergers, or acquisitions). Sent to newspaper editors
and to radio and television station news directors, the news release
includes, along with the announcement, your organization’s name
and address and the name and telephone number of a contact person.
Address the news release to a specific person; call and ask for a name
if you don’t have one. Double or triple space, leaving wide margins,
and answer the who-what-when-where-why-how questions in the
first paragraph or two. Double-check accuracy of your facts and explain
any unfamiliar terms. News releases traditionally have “more” typed
at the bottom of each page except the last, which has “-30-” or” # # #”
to indicate the end.

• Business announcements are made in traditional letter format
typed on letterhead stationery. When sent to large numbers of people,
form letters are used.
• Use a memo format for interoffice announcements (new benefits
package, change in flex-hours procedures). Sometimes e-mail is a good
• Formal announcements are printed or engraved in black ink on
a white or cream-colored card (with matching envelopes). Stationery
stores and printers have sample announcements ranging from traditional to modern in a variety of fonts, papers, inks, and formats.
• Announcements made to close friends and family are handwritten
on foldovers or personal stationery.
• Postcards are appropriate for announcing changes of address,
meetings, and special sales.

44 / HOW TO SAY IT®
















announces the appointment of
are pleased/proud/
happy to announce
give notice that
happily announce
the merger of/a

joyfully announce the birth/
adoption/arrival of
make known/public
notice is hereby given that

new subsidiary

public announcement

have the honor of announcing

take pleasure in announcing

it is with great pleasure that we

wish to announce/inform/


advise you

A meeting of the Broadway-Aldine Community Council will be held October
3 at 7:00 p.m. in the NewBank boardroom to elect board members and
officers for the coming year.
Ben Bowser announces that by permission of the court of Ramsey County,
New Jersey, April 18, 2002, he will now be known as Benjamin Middleton.
Broadbent Civil Engineering, Inc., is proud to announce the opening of offices in Denver and Salt Lake City.
Dolores Haze (formerly Mrs. Richard F. Schiller) has changed her address
to 155 Carol Avenue, Gilberts, IL 60136.
Important notice of change in terms: Effective January 1, 2004, your credit
card agreement will be amended as follows.
Isabel Wahrfield and Frank Goodwin announce the dissolution of their
marriage, effective July 15.

HOW TO SAY IT® / 45
Mrs. Rachel Dean announces the engagement of her daughter Susan to
Richard Tebben.
Nguyen Van Truy and Tran Huong Lang are proud and happy to announce
the birth of their son Nguyen Van Tuân on March 11, 2002.
Please be advised that your payment due date has been changed to the
sixteenth day of each month.
Vanderhof Industries, Inc. is pleased to announce the acquisition of the
Connelly-Smith-Dulcy Energy Group, a Gordon-area company with
ninety-seven employees that specializes in energy development services.
With great sadness we announce the death of our husband and father, Leon

Fairford Corporation, Cooper City, announces that it has reached a
distributorship agreement with Antoine-Lettice, based in Paris, France,
granting them exclusive marketing rights for its Superbe! ultra-highpressure waterjet equipment in France and Italy, with nonexclusive
rights for the rest of Europe.
Averill Airlines will now serve Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport
(previously Orly). Airport transfers included in any of our vacation
packages will provide convenient motorcoach transportation between
Charles de Gaulle Airport and Port Maillot Station in Paris (formerly
Montparnasse Station).
Miles and I have decided that we would make better friends than
spouses. As of last week, we have canceled our engagement. We are
both, I think, quite relieved, although we still think the world of each
other. I know how happy you were for me when I wrote about our engagement, so I wanted to let you know right away that you can still be
happy for me—but not because I’m engaged.
Carrie and Frederick Josser, New London, celebrated their twentyfifth wedding anniversary on March 2. An open house was hosted by
Cynthia and Ted Josser of Collins. Eight proud children and many friends
and relatives were there.
I’m sorry to tell you that Mother died on July 11 of a heart attack. I
know how much your friendship and your lively letters meant to her
over the years. She spoke of you often.
We regret to announce that our Davy Jones Aquarium Pump, Model
no. 686, has been found to be defective. It is possible that it could deliver
a fatal shock. Please return your pump as soon as possible to the store
where you purchased it or call the toll-free number below for instructions.
Eggerson Power Equipment Company is proud to announce the
opening of a new store on County Road B and Highway 47. One of the
largest power equipment sources in the state, the new store specializes

46 / HOW TO SAY IT®

in an exhaustive in-store stock and a forty-eight-hour “we can get it”
Cornelia (Kay) Motford, George and Gladys are now living at 1941
Knowles Avenue, Centralia, KY 42330 (502/555-4590). Henry Moulton
Pulham is living at 332 Riverside Drive, Lexington, KY 40507 (606/5552441).
Montford Estates is pleased to announce the expansion of its commercial construction division. The division offers cost-efficient, high-quality
commercial construction with emphasis on interior detailing.
Georgina Gardner has been promoted to director of retail leasing for
Pelham Development Properties. She will be responsible for leasing
Pelham Mall in downtown Brandon.
Due to the rapid rise in labor and operating costs, Ames Fast Maintenance finds it necessary to increase service charges as of September 1.
Service charge increases will vary, depending upon the type of service
your company uses: on call, when needed, monthly preventive maintenance.
The Board of Directors of the Fiske Corporation will meet on Wednesday, December 3, at 10:00 a.m. at the Company’s central office in Harrington. New contracts for executives will be discussed, and such other
business as may come before the meeting will be acted upon. If you
cannot attend, please sign the enclosed waiver of notice.
Thanks to you, and the orders that have been pouring in for our special
line of children’s clothing, we are able to make greater bulk purchases
of raw materials and thus manufacture at a lower cost. We are proud to
announce that we are passing on these savings to you. Enclosed is our
current catalog, but please note the new low prices printed in red.
Francis Getliffe, age 44, of Cambridge. Survived by wife, Katherine
March Getliffe; son, Francis, Jr.; brother Herbert; also nieces and nephews
and good friends from C.P. Snow, Inc. Special thanks to the staff at
Cambridge Lutheran Hospital. Memorial service Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at
the Hillside Memorial Funeral Home. Family will receive friends one
hour prior to service. Interment Hillside, with reception following in the
Hillside Community Room. Memorials preferred. Hillside Memorium,

Dear Friend,
We have moved! During the past fifteen years we were so crowded
in our old location that sometimes customers had to stand shoulder to
shoulder or squeeze through the aisles. Nowadays you’ll find it much
easier to call on Taylor & Company.
Easy parking facilities in our parking lot and pleasant offices will make
it simple for you to meet all your printing needs.

HOW TO SAY IT® / 47

Enclosed is a map showing the new location, along with a one-time
10% discount coupon. Come in and see us while the paint’s still fresh!
Sincerely yours,
Brangwen International
is pleased to announce
that Lydia Lensky
has joined the firm
as a partner.
She will direct the
Southeast Asia Operations.
FOR: Immediate Release
Boorman, Inc. of Menzies announces the recall of its fresh and frozen
sandwiches because of the discovery of bacterial contamination during
a recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) test. Some of the sandwiches were found to contain Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that
can endanger fetuses, infants, pregnant women, the elderly, and people
with weakened immune systems.
No illnesses have been reported.
Please destroy all Boorman QuickWich sandwiches from lot 480032
or return them to Boorman for a refund.
Paul J. Maggio, D.D.S.
and Matthew J. Maggio, D.D.S.
announce the opening
of their new office
at 1099 Kenyon Road
Fort Dodge, Iowa 50501
and an open house
on July 15, 2004
Dear Bondholder:
This letter is to inform you that a portion of the July 1, 2003, debt service payment for the above-referenced bond issue was made with monies

48 / HOW TO SAY IT®

transferred from the Reserve Fund established pursuant to Section 4.09
of the Indenture of Trust dated December 1, 1997, between Simmons
International and Herbert Banking & Trust, as Trustee. Use of such
monies in the Reserve Fund does not constitute an Event of Default under
the indenture. However, the Trustee considers this information may be
of interest to bondholders and potential bondholders.
Bonnie and Steven Goldsmith
are most happy to announce
the arrival of their daughter
Emily Virginia
born in Korea May 23, 1989
welcomed home October 11, 1989
Dear Customer:
As of May I of this year, your garbage hauling fee will be increased
by $1.95 per month. We are always reluctant to raise prices, but are obliged to do so in this case by a recent ruling of the Silvius County Board
of Commissioners.
In order to conserve landfill space, all garbage collected in Silvius
County since July of 1989 has been required to be taken to the new recovery facility in Shepard rather than to landfills. However, it costs more
to “tip” a load of garbage at Shepard than at a landfill, so the County
agreed to subsidize haulers until April 30 of this year.
Although other haulers may be raising the householder’s portion of
the bill more than $1.95 (due to inflation and haulers’ additional operating
expenses), we are going to try to keep the price increase as low as possible.
It is only fair to warn you, however, that there may be more increases
in sight. The current legislature is considering raising landfill surcharges
and putting a sales tax on hauling fees, which could further increase
garbage bills.
There are several ways you can lower your garbage bills. Enclosed
are flyers with information on using a volume-based garbage hauler,
recycling, composting yard waste at home or at one of the County composting sites, and disposing properly of household hazardous waste.
For further information, call 555-1567.


An apology is the superglue of life. It can repair just about anything.

A letter is often better than a face-to-face or telephone apology because you
can take your time getting the words right. It’s also better to write when
you don’t know if the other person is willing to speak to you. A letter doesn’t
oblige them to respond immediately; there’s time to absorb the message
and decide how to react.
Whether you think of apologies as etiquette, ethics, justice, or even
good business, they are an inevitable by-product of being alive. Because
we all make mistakes, people are generally less bothered by your errors
than you are; write your apology with dignity. “If you haven’t made
any mistakes lately, you must be doing something wrong.” (Susan Jeffers)

Occasions That Call for Apologies
• belated response to a gift, favor, invitation, or major event in
someone’s life
• billing, credit, or financial errors
• business errors: incorrect information given, order mix-ups, contract
misunderstandings, merchandise that is defective, dangerous, ineffective, damaged, delayed, or that is missing parts, instructions, or
• children’s misbehavior or damage to property/pet
• damage to another’s property
• employee problems: rudeness, ineptness, dishonesty, poor service,
unsatisfactory work
• failure to keep an appointment, deadline, shipping date, payment
schedule, or promise
• insulting or insensitive remarks
• personal errors: giving someone’s name and phone number to a third
party without permission, forgetting to include someone in an invitation, betraying a secret
• pets that bite, bark, damage property, or are otherwise nuisances
• sexual harassment
• tactless, inappropriate, rude, or drunken behavior

50 / HOW TO SAY IT®

How to Say It
• Briefly specify the fault and apologize for it (“I’m so sorry about the
damaged book”) or, in the case of a customer complaint, summarize
the problem (“I understand you were twice given incorrect information”). In most cases, use the words “I apologize” or “I am sorry.”
• Thank the person for writing or calling or for bringing the problem
to your attention.
• When appropriate, convey understanding of the other person’s position: “I can see how disappointing this must have been”; “You have
every right to be upset.”
• Tell what corrective action you’re taking, if appropriate (“I will replace the shovel”; “A refund check is being sent”), or offer to make
amends. Suggest several possible solutions and ask which the person
• Assure the person this won’t happen again.
• In a business context, end the letter with a forward-looking comment
about serving their future needs.

What Not to Say
• Don’t apologize for more than the specific incident. Avoid generalizations about what a klutz you are or how these things always happen
to you.
• Don’t be overly dramatic (“You will probably never want to see me
again after what I did.” “I wish I were dead after the way I behaved
last night.” “I am very, very, very sorry.” “This is the worst thing
I’ve ever done in my whole life”). Apologize briefly once instead of
apologizing many times in different ways.
• Don’t defend or excuse yourself, justify your actions, or sidestep an
apology (“I’m sorry, but I still think I was right”). If you are going
to apologize, do so cheerfully and wholeheartedly. “A stiff apology
is a second insult.” (G.K. Chesterton) Ethicist Jeremy Iggers says an
apology must be made unilaterally. When we begin to stray into the
area of what the other person did to us, we lose the ethical base of
making an apology. Whatever anyone did to us is a separate matter
from whatever mistake we made.
• Don’t imply that the other person is at fault. Some people’s apologies
read like accusations. In business, it is probably better not to write
than to insinuate that the customer is at fault. With some ingenuity,
you can express regret without accepting responsibility for a situation
that is not entirely your fault. When the other person is partly responsible, apologize only for your share of it. Don’t mention anything else.
• Don’t blame the computer. By now everyone knows that some human
had its fingerprints all over the guilty computer; this patently untrue

HOW TO SAY IT® / 51
excuse only irritates people. And don’t say that these things are
bound to happen from time to time. Although this may be true, it
makes you look careless.
• Don’t admit negligence in writing. If negligence is a factor, consult
with your attorney, who can suggest the best approach for your letter.
In his article, “Saying You’re Sorry in a Litigious Society” (in The International Journal of Medicine and Law, no. 7/8, 1992), Ralph Slovenko
advises doctors to be careful about how they sympathize on a patient’s death. An expression of sympathy at a funeral, for example,
“could lead to an utterance which, in the hands of a skillful lawyer,
might be turned into an admission of wrongdoing.”

Tips on Writing
• Write as soon as possible. Procrastination turns writing an apology
into a major effort and you end up apologizing twice, once for the infraction and once for the delay.
• Sometimes there are mitigating circumstances—for example, a
shipment delayed because of a strike or flu outbreak. At other times,
however, explanations weaken your apology—when, for example,
you try to explain why you were rude or why a child said something
tactless but truthful.

Special Situations
• Parents of a child who annoys or hurts others or damages property
write a note of apology. However, the child should also apologize in
some age-appropriate manner. The adult’s note might say, “Of course,
Drusilla will want to apologize to you herself.”
• Employees apologizing to their boss for work-related errors or
behavior provide a written, detailed account of what happened because
their boss most likely reports to another higher-up and will need all
relevant information.
• The problem of sexual harassment has become increasingly visible
and is no longer categorized as “just fooling around” or “having a
good sense of humor.” Making sexual remarks, threats, innuendoes,
or passes is illegal. Anything that can be construed as sexual harassment requires a heartfelt apology that shows that the offender has
some real (as opposed to expedient) understanding of what was done.
The apology may not avert a company reprima