I am usually quite confident of my writing skills, sure I am no Sylvia Plath (not even close), but bleeding on the paper with words always comes easy. Be it poetry, short stories, features, news stories, articles, reviews, opinion pieces and the likes, they are never a big task. What I flounder at – formal letters!
The mere thought of writing a formal letter makes me miserable. So whenever I have to correspond with a professional through mail, after hitting the ‘compose new’ button, I first stare at the blank space for some time, then type out something very colloquial and straightforward, then stare at that for some time. After that I start calling my close friends, shouting for help, sending them what I’ve written, getting them to edit it, write something more appropriate and neutral in tone. Then finally I edit it again and hit the dreaded ‘send’ button. And the sent letter is always so robotic, it makes me cringe!
Formal letters are the reasons why I thank God for the cell-phone! Just imagine living in the 18th century and having to reply on letters for everything. If I ever had to write a letter informing someone about the death of a loved one, I think I would end up dying myself by the end of it.
What would I possibly write?
It is with great regret that I write this letter and believe me when I tell you this, that I am heartbroken to be the bearer of such grim tidings. But one cannot avoid these things and I am sorry to inform you that your Brother met with an unfortunate accident and breathed his last yesterday evening. You must take the next train and arrive here.
That was perhaps not that bad! Off-course a lot of people would think that is just too short for a grave matter like that. I disagree. I would be more tempted to write something on the lines of:
“Your Brother met with an accident yesterday and is no more. You should come here as soon as you can”
And end there! Yes, that’s it. All of us know that the reader does not care about what we think, not on matters like these. They probably even think “Oh yeah, like you care”, when you try to sound sympathetic.
And we all also know, that most people just go online and google a sample letter, copy paste that stuff, change a few words here and there and shoot it out. I do not even see the point.
All I can say is – formal letters make me want to facepalm myself. They make me murder the free writing soul in me, make me think and then I end up spinning stuff I despise.