Institut international d'administration publique Association du corps préfectoral et des hauts fonc.

Administration : the journal of business analysis and control online

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EFFECTIVE business letters are
rare. This is notably true of the
ordinary routine letters — acknowledg-
ments, and answers to inquiries, re-
quests, and complaints. Frequently
there are sales managers who can turn
out interest-compelling, desire-creating
and resultful sales letters. But it
usually escapes the attention of most
business managements that the ordi-
nary, lowly, routine letter, must per-
form the rdle of keeping business after
it has once been secured.

Any business can create for itself a
distinctive tone by the type of letters
it sends out. Letters that distinguish
themselves constitute a most valuable
advertisement for the concern that can
train its staff to produce them. On the
other hand, slovenly, ungrammatical,
verbose, or obscure letters — abounding
in "bromidic" expressions and indif-
ferently constructed — detract.

Distinctive letters are obtained by
uniformity in the excellence of their
style — construction and choice of words
— and the mechanical appearance.
It is possible for a reader in a short
time to come to recognize the writer of
a letter from its style and appearance
without reference to the letterhead or
signature. A letter which can cap-
italize a complaint in such a way as to
sooth an irritated customer, making the
answer productive of more business,
which refuses a request without in-
juring a customer's feelings, and which
induces a friendly feeling toward the
concern which sends it out, is a busi-
ness-producing medium, and an end
worthy of being attained.

* Formerly Aeaiatant Manager of the Personnel De-
partment of the Chate National Bank, New York CSty.

The responsibility for the prepa-
ration of effective letters rests jointly
upon dictators and stenographers, or
secretaries. Each piece of correspond-
ence which they produce becomes a
credit or detriment to the issuing con-
cern, depending upon its superior or
inferior qualities.

In this sense, stenographers and sec-
retaries may well be considered as
being enlisted in the aid of the adver-
tising department. Frequently, much
of the burden of executive letter-writ-
ing is entrusted to and devolved upon
secretaries. For this reason secre-
taries should aim to achieve a mastery
of the principles underlying the writing
of effective business letters. Stenog-
raphers, often being potential secre-
taries, and in all cases being responsible
for the mechanical appearance of let-
ters, should have no lesser object in

In order to secure consistently
effective business letters, the secretarial
and stenographic forces should be cor-
related with the other divisions or de-
partments of work, and trained under
an efficient office manager. Perhaps
the method by which the best and
quickest results can be secured is
through the medium of a stenographers'
and secretaries' manual, by which the
fundamental principles are prescribed.
The office manager selected to carry
out this task should not only under-
stand office procedure and methods,
but should have been trained in the
major business functions, and especially
in the principles of advertising and
sales promotion.

The following are suggestions for the
content of a stenographers 9 and aecre-

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taries' manual, which can be adapted
and elaborated to suit the needs of each
specific line of business.


The duties of the stenographer fall
under two general heads — taking dicta-
tion and transcribing notes. In taking
dictation two qualities are required,
first, accuracy, and second, speed.
Accuracy is never to be sacrificed for
speed, but increased speed should be
developed, when accuracy at given
speed can be maintained.

In transcribing notes certain rules
must be observed in order to achieve
uniformity and neatness in the mechan-
ical appearance and arrangement of
the letter or manuscript. Each office
manager will have his own ideas con-
cerning such details as dating, ad-
dressing, spacing, margins, paragraph-
ing, indentions, enclosures, etc. — which
should be incorporated in full in the
manual. The making of neat type-
written copy involves a knowledge of
the mechanism of the typewriter and
its proper use. In transcribing notes,
proper regard must also be had for the
grammar, punctuation, paragraphing,
choice of words, composition, style, etc.,
when obvious "slips" or repetitions
have been made by the dictator.
Stenographers are not privileged to
change the sense of dictated material,
but should errors in dictation be made,
or should it prove possible to better the
mode of expression, most dictators will
welcome constructive changes.

The stenographer should hold her-
self responsible for the accuracy of her
work. Accordingly, every transcribed
letter or manuscript should be verified
by examining it carefully before it is
returned to the dictator or before
mailing it, as the case may be. If
changes in copy become necessary,
they should be made neatly, so as to be

as nearly invisible as possible. Other-
wise copy should be rewritten.

The success of stenographers and
secretaries, and consequently the qual-
ity of letters produced, depends largely
upon the qualifications and training
which the stenographers and secre-
taries possess. Some of the principal
qualifications are :

1. Oood character, health, and habits.
These are the foundations upon which any
successful career rests, and are to be culti-
vated, if not already acquired.

St. Interest in the work performed. No
great success can ever be attained by any-
one not having her heart in her work.
Those unable to develop an interest in
stenography or secretarial work, should
drop it and take up something else.

S. Agreeable personality. The stress laid
nowadays upon the value of personality in
business has become trite and hackneyed.
Personality in business is the ability to
carry conviction and to make people like
you — like to work with you.

4. Accuracy. The chief element of weak-
ness with most stenographers is inaccuracy
in transcribing notes. Taking dictation is
an exact science, and if the stenographer
has mastered her subject, notes should be
transcribed exactly as dictated, except
when, as before stated, dictation has been
incorrectly given.

5. Trustworthiness. The stenographer is
in a position of trust and confidence which
must never be forgotten. Whatever may
be learned from dictation or otherwise
must be considered confidential.

6. Diligence. The stenographer must
be capable of being trusted to do her work
without supervision.

7. Loyalty. The stenographer must be
loyal to the business and to her chief, and
have their best interests at heart. The
stenographer should inspire her superiors
with the feeling that she is absolutely
worthy of trust. The stenographer's own
convenience and plans must often be sub-
ordinated to the interests of her chief and
of the business whenever conflicts arise.
Conditions requiring overtime work call
for cheerfulness. The chief does not work
late through preference, but because

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Vol. HI
No. 6

the interests of the business demand it.
8. Promptness. Promptness not only
in attendance but in reporting on any as-
signment which may be entrusted to the
stenographer for completion is essential.
Procrastination is not tolerable, and each
task should be completed within the al-
lotted time.

0. Orderliness and neatness. Papers,
records, notebooks, supplies, and work in
process should be neatly arranged and
classified so that they can be quickly lo-

10. Poise. The stenographer should
have sufficient poise to meet the customers
of the concern when necessary, and not
become easily excited or nervous.

11. Deportment. The stenographer should
always conduct herself in a businesslike
manner and observe the ordinary rules of
business etiquette.

Stenographers should realize that
the preliminary course of training in a
commercial school is never complete.
They must become adapted to the par-
ticular needs of individual concerns.
In many of the larger business institu-
tions, stenographers are regarded as a
recruiting ground for executive secre-
taries. If stenographers are fully
aware of their own best interest and
advancement, they will constantly
endeavor to assume responsibility and
to make themselves invaluable to their
chiefs. Stenographers must not ex-
pect to assume the responsibility
attached to a secretarial position with-
out adequate training and experience.
Regardless of the extent of previous
training in business schools or colleges,
stenographers should determine to
learn all they can about the following

1. English composition and business cor-
respondence, including spelling, grammar,
punctuation, sentence and paragraph struc-
ture, choice of words, style, business forms
and phrases, etc. Every stenographer
should read the following books: "The
Stenographer's Manual" (Kilduff), "Lan-

guage for Men of Affairs" (Clapp and
Lee), and "Handbook of Business English"
(Hotchkiss and Kilduff).

2. Elementary bookkeeping. Bookkeep-
ing is the fundamental science of business,
and no one can hope to fully understand
business operations and problems without
a knowledge of this subject. It is essen-
tial to know bookkeeping in order to be a
good secretary and a good executive.

S. Filing systems. A knowledge of fil-
ing systems is essential because it increases
orderliness, efficiency, neatness, and speed,
making it possible for the secretary by
proper classification of the information to
produce papers and other data without de-
lay. Bead Chapter XVI in "Office Ad-
ministration" (Schulze).

4. Business psychology. Stenographers
should endeavor to make a study of the
personal characteristics of their chiefs and
other persons with whom they come in con-
tact to the end that the work may be per-
formed with the least friction and with
the maximum results. Bead "Character
Beading" (Fosbroke).

5. Office procedure. The stenographer
should be acquainted with office adminis-
tration, methods, and procedure, and
should understand the use of various office
appliances. Bead "Office Administration"

Just as a stenographer is a potential
secretary, so is a secretary a stenogra-
pher plus. All that has been said con-
cerning a stenographer's qualifications
and training applies equally well to

While it is the chief function of an
executive to make decisions, it is the
function of the secretary to relieve her
chief of routine and detail matters. A
secretary saves the time, energy, and
nerves of her chief to the fullest possible
extent, and wherever possible, acts in
her chief's stead, carrying each parcel
of work as far toward completion as
possible. When the chief asks for in-
formation upon a subject, the secretary
should bring to his attention data and
information upon related subjects in

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order that the broadest aspects of the
subject may be before the executive.
In this way the chief is given an op-
portunity for making an intelligent
decision in the shortest time.

Since executives differ in their habits,
methods of procedure, and mental
processes, and the field and activity of
one executive differ from those of
another, secretarial positions necessa-
rily differ in their requirements. The
fundamentals of all secretarial positions,
however, remain the same. These
fundamentals must be interpreted by
the secretary in terms of the individual
executive and his range of interests.
Consequently, the secretary should
study her chief's field of activity and
business habits, thereby growing with
the executive. She should gradually
assume in a quiet and unostentatious
way increasing responsibility with a
view to disposing of detail and routine
matters in the way the chief would
have them done, and with as little
supervision as practicable.


In addition to the fundamental
qualifications for a good stenographer,
a secretary should possess the following

1. Ability to write letters and memoranda
without dictation from facts which may be
briefly stated.

St. Ability as a legible and rapid penman.

3. Tact, judgment, and discretion, es-
pecially, are required in meeting and tak-
ing care of customers, friends, or casual
visitors, and in handling telephone calls.
Much of the success of a secretary depends
upon the exercise of qualities governing
which no general rules can be prescribed.
As far as possible the wants of the chief
should be anticipated. When it is known
that certain data are recurrently wanted, it
should be regularly placed on the chiefs
desk without making it necessary for him
to ask for it.

4. Unobtrusioeness. The secretary should
not obtrude her personality in any way but
should keep in the background. The sec-
retary should not be officious or assume
the powers of her chief in relation to others,
except in so far as they may be delegated.

5. Training in the chief $ special field.
In a bank, for instance, if the chief's special
field of activity is investments, the secre-
tary should strive to gain a comprehensive
knowledge of the principles underlying in-
vestments, as well as a knowledge of spe-
cific issues of securities, their market price,
intrinsic value, interest or dividend dates,
etc If the chiefs field is credits, the sec-
retary should become a student of the prin-
ciples of credit granting, and bank credit
department methods. Should the field be
loans and discounts, the secretary should
understand the elements of loan transac-
tions, such as lines of credit, rates, legal
restrictions, collateral requirements, ma-
turities, etc

In addition to the supplementary
training suggested for a stenographer,
a secretary might well profit by a knowl-
edge of banking, corporation finance,
and investment principles, general eco-
nomics, income taxes and regulations,
commercial and financial statistics, and
general business conditions.

While the requirements of individual
executives differ from those of others,
certain specific duties are common to
all executives. In the following para-
graphs the specific duties are discussed
which are most likely to fall to the lot
of every secretary.

In the matter of handling mail, the
secretary should first ascertain to what
extent her chief desires to have his mail
opened, and how he wishes the contents
to be disposed of, and follow that pro-
cedure. It is important that the sec-
retary read all but the executive's
personal correspondence in order to
become familiar with matters admin-
istered by her chief. She should sort
it so that the most important letters —
those requiring immediate attention —

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Vol. Ill
No. •

are placed on top of the pile. Thus,
the chief is permitted to begin with the
most important, and finishes with the
least important mail, or with corre-
spondence that comesto his deskmerely
for informative purposes and requires
no reply.

In reading over the mail, the secre-
tary should promptly obtain any in-
formation or data which may be re-
quired in dictating replies, and arrange
it so that it will be easily available.
It is also important that the chief be
assisted as far as possible in answering
any inquiries. To this end the secre-
tary may write replies to such inquiries
as she feels competent to answer, so
that her chief needs only to affix his

The personal correspondence of the
chief should be kept in a special file for
ready reference. A card index of all
names and addresses of personal cor-
respondents should be maintained.
In the absence of the chief, all official
letters and telegrams should be referred
to another official for proper disposition.

Information obtained, whether offi-
cial or personal, through association
with the chief, should be treated as
strictly confidential. Confidential pa-
pers or letters should not be left on the
desk or in the typewriter, where they
will be the subject of scrutiny of the
casual passerby who has no interest or
right to see the contents.


In the matter of meetings, appoint-
ments, and engagements, the secretary
should, as in other matters, consult her
chief as to how he wishes to have them
handled. A good executive regards
his appointments as inviolable, and
every effort should be exerted that they
be kept.

For this purpose it is necessary that
the secretary keep a calendar on which

the various meetings and engagements
of her chief may be journalized, the
hour and description of the appoint-
ment being indicated. The various
boards or committees of which the
chief may be a member usually have
fixed or recurrent dates on which their
regular meetings are held, and it is
advisable at the beginning of the year
or quarter to enter these dates and
hours on the calendar pad. This will
prove to be a great help in making
appointments for future dates, and
in avoiding conflicting appointments.
These dates must be systematically
checked and revised. If the notice of a
regular meeting fails to appear, the sec-
retary should investigate immediately
to find out whether the meeting has
been canceled; otherwise the chief's
time may be wasted.

From the calendar pad and other
sources of information, a list of each
day's meetings and appointments should
be typewritten, and placed on the
chief's desk early in the morning.
Secretaries should see that any en-
gagements made during the course of
the day are accommodated to this

Frequently requests for appointments
are made during the day. If the mat-
ter concerning which the party requests
an appointment with the chief is im-
portant, it should be fitted in as early
as possible. If the matter is not of
immediate importance, an appoint-
ment should be made later in the day
at a time when the chief will be in and
probably free. Whenever a tentative
appointment is made without consulting
the chief, the secretary should use suffi-
cient tact to be able to modify the com-
mitment if, upon notifying the chief, it
is found that for any reason it cannot
be kept.

To prevent a chief from overlooking
an appointment, the secretary had
best keep a copy of the schedule of each

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day's appointments on her own desk as
a reminder. The secretary should, in
fact, journalize all pending and in-
complete matters even though she may
believe that her chief has already made
a memorandum of them. The chief
will be glad to have a check upon his
memory or memorandum of appoint-
ments, and will come to rely upon his
secretary more and more, as he finds
her dependable. Matters undisposed
of should be carried forward on the
calendar pad, until finally completed.

The matter of handling callers is im-
portant, and in certain instances re-
quires considerable tact and skill.
There are usually during the day a
large number of callers of varying de-
grees of importance, and others whom
the chief would prefer not to see. If
the caller is known to have an impor-
tant mission, an effort should be made
to get him in touch with the chief with
as little delay as possible. If the chief
is in conference or otherwise engaged,
explain that he is busy, and inquire
whether some other official can handle
the business. If the caller is unknown,
an effort should be made to ascertain
his name, whether he is known to the
chief, his business connection, and the
subject concerning which he desires to
see the chief. If the subject pertains
to business but is of no urgent impor-
tance, and the chief is to be free later in
the day, the caller may be advised to
come in later when it will probably be
possible for him to see the chief. If,
on the other hand, the caller is a sales-
man, or desires to see the chief on a
matter which may prove annoying,
advise the caller to state his business
in a letter, upon receipt of which a re-
ply will be forwarded, if the chief
should be interested.

It is always desirable whenever the

chief is engaged with a caller, or in con-
ference, and it becomes absolutely neces-
sary to refer any matter to him while
so engaged, to communicate by means
of a memorandum and not verbally.
It is likely to be confidential, and
should not be overheard by a third

The procedure in handling telephone
calls affords an excellent opportunity for
a secretary to demonstrate qualities of
judgment, tact, alertness, courtesy, and
common sense. During the course of
a day the chief is likely to receive many
telephone calls. Some of these will be
of the greatest importance, others less
so, and still others, objectionable. On
an incoming call the first step is to as-
certain who is calling. If the person
calling is not known to the secretary, it
is well to find out the business concern-
ing which he desires to speak. Ex-
perience gradually will teach the sec-
retary the subjects with which her
chief does not wish to be annoyed.
Calls of this character the secretary
must get rid of with the best grace

After ascertaining the name of the
person calling and the subject of the
call, say that you will see whether your
chief is in and at liberty. In case he is
not engaged the secretary can then ask
her chief whether he wishes to speak to
the person calling and about the sub-
ject indicated. If he does not, the
person calling must be put off in what
may seem the best way possible, in
view of the circumstances.

If the chief is engaged it may be well
to tell the person calling that he is in
conference but will be called promptly
when he is at liberty. The chief must
then be notified, and the call made, if
the chief is willing to talk with the per-
son who called. Some executives will
wish the secretary to place a memo-
randum of all calls on their desks.
Others will wish the secretary to call

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Vol. in
No. 6

the person later, and on the secretary's
own initiative.

On an incoming call, when the chief
indicates that the call is acceptable,
the person calling should be on the
wire before the chief is connected. On
the other hand, when the secretary has
occasion to call an outsider, whether an
executive or otherwise, he should be on
the wire to receive the answer. He
should not, as a matter of business
courtesy, handle an outgoing call in
such a way as to lead the party at the
other end to believe that the chief him-
self is calling.

When telephone calls are made for
the chief, names, addresses, numbers,
and amounts should be verified. Care
should be taken to understand all mes-
sages before transmitting them. In-
coming calls in the absence of the chief
should be referred to another official
in case the secretary cannot properly
dispose of them.

Frequently secretaries are asked to
administer their chiefs 9 bank accounts
and check-books, although some execu-
tives prefer to handle these matters
themselves. When the secretary is

expected to do it, great care should be
taken to see that checks are properly
drawn — to the right payee and for the
exact amount — and that entries in the
stub-book are made correctly.

When a secretary discovers that her
chief makes certain periodical pay-
ments, they should be anticipated and
the letter of transmittal and check
made ready for the chiefs signature.

Entries of deposits should be made,
balances carried forward in the stub-
book, and balances struck daily in
order to keep advised of the amount on
deposit. The check stub-book must be
reconciled with the statement received
from the bank each month.

The filing of form letters for future
use is a valuable aid to a secretary if
not overdone. Form letters which the
chief uses in disposing of certain types
of situations are quite certain to grow
up in the course of time. Such form
letters should not be blindly followed
where in subsequent cases the circum-
stances are sufficiently different to
warrant modification of the form.
Variations are necessary to meet spe-
cial contingencies.

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Online LibraryInstitut international d'administration publique Association du corps préfectoral et des hauts foncAdministration : the journal of business analysis and control → online text (page 103 of 115)