Before you send that email...

Dear writer,

Thanks for checking out my website and thinking enough of what you see there to ask my advice, or give me a compliment, or thank me for the content. I appreciate knowing that people still read this site and find value in it, I really do.

Before you click here, though, I have a request.

I'll admit to being raised in an era where "instant messaging" was dad yelling from the family room for another glass of iced tea, and computers weighed in at close to a hundred pounds just for the DESK. I had good conscientious teachers who wanted me to read, and study, and in general do well in life, just as you have now.

I'll admit to being 57, nearly dead in the way the your generation - indeed, every generation under the age of twenty - reckons age.

Before you email me for advice, let me make a request. Recognize that I am not one of your friends on the other end of an expensive cell phone with a 3" screen. Have enough respect for yourself and for me that you actually take the time to think about what you want, and most importantly

Learn how to write.

I know, I know, I just showed my age even better than the Grecian Formula that keeps trying to jump into my shopping basket (that wire thing with wheels at the grocery store, not the virtual construct at the latest online crap seller). Fact is, you're asking me questions that you will soon have to repeat to college and university guidance counselors, and they're likely to be far less forgiving than I am.

Let's start with the basics:

Dear Mr. Morris,

That's called the salutation, and it's how you start a piece of correspondence. My name is plastered all over my damn website. It's not hard to come up with. Even Dear Bill, would work, since you're not within arm's reach.


Do you see those little marks on the previous line? No, you can't polish them off your screen, they're supposed to be there. It's called punctuation and it makes what you send me readable. It divides your ideas into manageable chunks. There's more than those three, but we won't stress your endurance. We'll start slow, okay? God help you when we get to semi-colons.

Do you have any advice about [which college I should attend] [what courses I should take] [how to break into the business]?

Those sub-clauses - sorry, the words in the brackets - what? Oh, damn it all...the words inside the square-ish bits on the preceding line - are called specifics and they give me an idea of what you want. Ask me, "Do you have any advice?" and it's a crap shoot what you'll get. On that particular day, I might feel like pontificating on the care of hamster testicles, and you, being a - just taking a shot in the dark, here - junior high school age girl, are likely to be offended by that.




Thank you,

Your name

This one's probably the most challenging, and we'll take it slow. That first thing there, that's called thanking someone. It's showing that you appreciate the effort I'm presumably going to make on your behalf, inspired no doubt by the glowing prose you're itching to send with that little mouse-click. You might even try Sincerely, though it strains credibility. Beggars, as they say, can't be choosers.

That second thing tells me who you are, and saves me having to reply with, "Dear anonymous moron,".

Ask your English teacher or professor about Strunk & White. Not only will you gain a valuable resource, but you have the added pleasure of causing a myocardial infarction in another human being.

I hope you this guide finds you well, and now, better educated.

Sincerely, and I do mean it,



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