Do you have an email in-box full of messages that still need replies? While we can’t help you write everyone back, you might be able to find a little solace — and, hopefully, an end to your procrastination — in this short article from 1922 which details the exact same issue… but regarding the physical form of correspondence.
Do it now
by Mary Marshall Duffee
One of the requirements of good manners is promptness.
The man or woman who is put down as well-bred and possessed of good manners is no laggard. Not only does it show indifference and inefficiency to put things off that you know you must do some time, but it shows lack of breeding.
“I meant to write that letter acknowledging your gift, but you know how hard it is to get down to write letters theee days.”
“I certainly should have written a letter of condolence to Mary, but my address book was mislaid and I couldn’t remember her address. I’m really ashamed of myself.”
“I surely should have sent Jane that money I borrowed from her before this, but there were so many other things to attend to, and finally she had to ask for it.”
“I don’t know what Mrs Jones thinks of us. She asked us to dinner, and I didn’t get around to answering her note till the morning of the dinner.”
These statements are ones you hear repeatedly from people who fall just below par in the social life around them. They have never been taught the almost sacred obligation that rests upon us to answer invitations, pay personal debts and to write letters of condolence or congratulations with promptness. And they have never acquired the habit on their own account.
But they do not have any more time to do other things just because of this neglect. In fact, they spend as much time regretting their omissions in this regard as they would in attending to them promptly.
One young woman, and a very busy young woman she is, has made it a rule never to go to bed at night when she had a letter that called for an answer in her desk. This does not refer to correspondence, but to those letters that require promptness in answering.
“It doesn’t take any more time to answer a letter first as last,” she remarks, “and now that I have acquired this habit, I never have to dread an overdue correspondence that is always such a bug-a-boo to every one.”