He sighed; he read through his mail; he shouted “Msgoun,” which meant “Miss McGoun”; and began to dictate.
This was his own version of his first letter:
“Omar Gribble, send it to his office, Miss McGoun, yours of twentieth to hand and in reply would say look here, Gribble, I’m awfully afraid if we go on shilly-shallying like this we’ll just naturally lose the Allen sale, I had Allen up on carpet day before yesterday and got right down to cases and think I can assure you—uh, uh, no, change that: all my experience indicates he is all right, means to do business, looked into his financial record which is fine—that sentence seems to be a little balled up, Miss McGoun; make a couple sentences out of it if you have to, period, new paragraph.
“He is perfectly willing to pro rate the special assessment and strikes me, am dead sure there will be no difficulty in getting him to pay for title insurance, so now for heaven’s sake let’s get busy—no, make that: so now let’s go to it and get down—no, that’s enough—you can tie those sentences up a little better when you type ’em, Miss McGoun—your sincerely, etcetera.”
This is the version of his letter which he received, typed, from Miss McGoun that afternoon:
Homes for Folks
Reeves Bldg., Oberlin Avenue & 3d St., N.E
Omar Gribble, Esq., 376 North American Building, Zenith.
Dear Mr. Gribble:
Your letter of the twentieth to hand. I must say I’m awfully afraid that if we go on shilly-shallying like this we’ll just naturally lose the Allen sale. I had Allen up on the carpet day before yesterday, and got right down to cases. All my experience indicates that he means to do business. I have also looked into his financial record, which is fine.
He is perfectly willing to pro rate the special assessment and there will be no difficulty in getting him to pay for title insurance.
So let’s go! Yours sincerely,
As he read and signed it, in his correct flowing business-college hand, Babbitt reflected, “Now that’s a good, strong letter, and clear’s a bell. Now what the—I never told McGoun to make a third paragraph there! Wish she’d quit trying to improve on my dictation! But what I can’t understand is: why can’t Stan Graff or Chet Laylock write a letter like that? With punch! With a kick!”
The most important thing he dictated that morning was the fortnightly form-letter, to be mimeographed and sent out to a thousand “prospects.” It was diligently imitative of the best literary models of the day; of heart-to-heart-talk advertisements, “sales-pulling” letters, discourses on the “development of Will-power,” and hand-shaking house-organs, as richly poured forth by the new school of Poets of Business. He had painfully written out a first draft, and he intoned it now like a poet delicate and distrait: