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Preface to the First Edition

Preface to the First Edition

Several years ago, I was asked by a financial publisher to write a book on letter writing for bankers. I was puzzled about the need for such a book. Surely bankers who had risen to any level of responsibility knew how to write. Why did they need a book to show them the way?

I agreed to write the book. Dozens of generous bankers offered to open their files to me. I was shocked. Not only was there a fundamental lack of basic letter-writing skills, there also was a dearth of bankers who knew basic writing skills. The bankers who helped me with that book kept telling me how unskilled the writers were with whom they dealt. But I was surprised to find the volume of correspondence that was going out with grammatical mistakes, usage problems, unclear statements, and nonstandard letter formatting.

Several thousand copies and a second edition later, I am more convinced than ever that bankers are clamoring for a book that shows them how to write better letters. But I've also become convinced that the need doesn't stop with bankers.

Professionals in all walks of the business world are in need of a book that can help them hone their letter-writing skills. The AMA Handbook of Business Letters is designed to answer that need. It will arm professionals with both the skills needed to be good letter writers and more than 270 model letters on which to base their own correspondence. The AMA Handbook of Business Letters will not just show you how to write better letters; it will show you how to write better.

Sections on grammar, usage, and word processing in the first part of the book complement the sections on basic letter-writing skills. The second part of The AMA Handbook of Business Letters is the heart of the book. Here, more than 270 model letters have been collected. The vast majority of them are based on actual letters that were used in business. They were chosen to represent the broad spectrum of the type of letters professionals will most commonly have to write. The names of the people, companies, and products have all been disguised. If a name resembles an actual name, it is purely by coincidence. Part III features a host of appendixes that give you the tools you can use to build better writing skills. Sections giving tips on punctuation, frequently misused words, and abbreviations are featured. The Grammar Hotline Directory lists dozens of telephone hotlines around the country that will answer your grammar questions. These hotlines can be a saving grace to the professional trying to put the finishing touches on an important letter.

The only way that a book like this could ever have been completed is through the cooperation of many professionals who were kind enough to open their files to me and let me pore over their correspondence. Among the professionals without whose help the book would never have reached completion are: Peggy R. Broekel, W. Loren Gary, Lisa T. Gary, Beall D. Gary, Jr., of Haskell Slaughter & Young, Dr. Lindsey Harlan, Martha Jewett, Joan Kenney, Jim Lewis, Sam Mickelberg (owner of Sam's Camera Shop), Howard Palay, Patti Palay, Louis J. Roffinoli, owner of Woodcraft, Matthew Rovner, Lester Seglin, Nancy Seglin, Mark Stoeckle, Bethany Coleman, and John Waggoner.

Donna Reiss Friedman, director of the Writing Center and Grammar Hotline at Tidewater Community College, Virginia Beach, Virginia, was kind enough to grant me permission to reprint the Grammar Hotline Directory that her center compiles every year.

Adrienne Hickey, my editor at AMACOM, worked with me patiently to get the manuscript in the best possible shape for publication. Her suggestions for organization and letters were invaluable.

Evan Marshall, my agent, was once again a wonderful sounding board for the project. On many occasions he was able to get me out of a quagmire that resulted from hundreds of letters cluttering my office.

Robert Roen, publisher of the book division at the Bank Administration Institute, has been a diehard supporter of this project. Bob is responsible for the original idea of a book on letter writing for bankers. It is as a result of his idea and his support on this and countless other projects that I was able to complete this book.


Jeffrey L. Seglin
Boston, Massachusetts
July 1989

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