How to Write a Telegram Properly 1928

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The wonders of modern telegraphy stop

This interesting document is a style guide for composing telegrams.

It was written in 1928 by Nelson E Ross and covers the then common practices associated with making sure that telegrams were being used efficiently.


 There is a lot of good information here on how to write telegrams efficiently and concisely. This was important since transmission of a telegram was charged by the word. There is also some good information on ways encrypt the transmission to save costs and insure security.

Here are some interesting examples:

How to Save Words -- Naturally, there is a right way and a wrong way of wording telegrams. The right way is economical, the wrong way, wasteful. If the telegram is packed full of unnecessary words, words which might be omitted without impairing the sense of the message, the sender has been guilty of economic waste. Not only has he failed to add anything to his message, but he has slowed it up by increasing the time necessary to transmit it. He added to the volume of traffic from a personal and financial point of view, he has been wasteful because he has spent more for his telegram than was necessary. In the other extreme, he may have omitted words necessary to the sense, thus sacrificing clearness in his eagerness to save a few cents.

If you are telegraphing the home folks that you expect to arrive on the 20th for that long planned visit, spell it out "twentieth." Two words are saved. The telegraph companies have nothing to sell but service. They undertake to transmit your message from point to point, speedily, accurately and secretly. The cheapest way of handling that message is invariably the safest way, and your cooperation is welcomed by the companies. When groups of figures are spelled out, the chance of an error in transmission is reduced to a minimum.

This apparently insignificant fact often is disregarded by users of the telegraph. Considered from the point of view of economy alone, the question of figures in telegrams is interesting. Any group of figures can be written out so that from two to three words are saved each time the group is used. Take for example the expression "one million." Written "one million" It counts two words. Written 1,000,000, the total count is seven words, and if the commas are to be sent also, the count is nine.
The suffixes "th," "rd," or "nd" appended to figures are counted as additional words. When the figures are spelled out, as in "fourth," "third," or "second," the count is automatically reduced.

How to Write Figures -- The following table illustrates the principles just set forth:
1st (two words) -- first (one word)
2nd (two words) -- second (one word)
3rd (two words) -- third (one word)
100 (three words) -- one hundred (two words)
1000 (four words) -- one thousand (two words)
1,0000 (five words) -- ten thousand (two words) etc

How Unnecessary Words Creep In -- To paraphrase, "Brevity is the soul of telegraphy." Except perhaps in the case of a long Night Letter, the practice of adding such words as "Dear Madam." or "Dear Sir," at the beginning of the message, is obsolete. This likewise applies to such phrases as "Yours very truly," "Yours sincerely," etc., commonly used in closing a letter. These words are charged for, and so accustomed is the public to telegraphic brevity, that their use often produces amusement rather than the expression of formality which the sender desired.
When telegrams are received without the well known title of "Mr." do not censure the sender as lacking in respect. To insure accuracy in transmission the title is omitted lest through inadvertence it should be confused with "Mrs." or "Miss." "Esquire" also is dropped in transmission.

An entertaining and useful little pamphlet that can help you add some telegraphic style to your next email.



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