This work grew out of teaching English to college men who were beginning their studies in Engineering. It seemed for various reasons desirable to give such students - along with their work in pure literature and technical English - some instruction in English as adapted to buying and selling, advertising and correspondence.
There seemed however to be no text-book quite available for such a purpose. A purely elementary text-book, ignoring all high-school English and some of the grammar-school instruction, would not do. Nor could the need be supplied by some more advanced book devoted to the principles of correspondence. What was needed was a book which took into consideration the best standards and scholarship of college teaching, and applied the established principles of composition to the special problems of business, with due reference to the vocabularies of commerce and commercial law.
From this point of view, then, the text of the book was written. When finished, much of it was seen to be within the grasp of younger students. It was then determined to simplify the text a little further, and to construct exercises which would make the book serviceable in the third and fourth year of technical and commercial high schools, in the first year of technical colleges, in business colleges, and in correspondence work. The manner in which this adjustment has been made may be seen at a glance in the exercises under Argument (p. 58.)
The book is detailed. It goes rather minutely into the general subject, and into some subjects (for example, compound words) more minutely than any other text-book now published. Yet the details are business details, and a large amount of literary information usually included is here omitted. The illustrations, whether of good English or faulty, have been taken from actual letters, trade journals, business magazines, and books on business.
The tone of the book is deliberately colloquial, and follows the principles laid down in the chapter on Tone, or Degrees of Dignity. Yet a sharp line has been drawn between colloquialism and vulgarism. Every effort has been made to show the difference between the direct conversational tone of an educated business man and the tone of an uneducated and careless speaker.
What we want in students of composition is the formation of correct habits and the development of practical power. These ends cannot fully be attained except by constant writing about real situations and under constant criticism. Neither school nor life ever affords a perfect combination of these two conditions. The best substitute which school can offer is, we believe, a systematic course of exercises adapted to the student's age and the normal interests of his type of mind at that age. Business interests are stronger in most boys than most teachers appreciate, and due consideration of them will often arouse constructive power in minds which respond to no other stimulus.