John Adams to John Quincy Adams
My dear John
There is no Accomplishment, more usefull or reputable, or which conduces more to the Happiness of Life, to a Man of Business or of Leisure, than the Art of writing Letters. Symplicity, Ease, Familiarity and Perspicuity, comprehend all the necessary Rules. But these are not acquired without Attention and Study. The Habit you now form will go with you through Life. Spare no Pains then to begin well. Never write in haste. Suffer no careless Scroll ever to go out of your hand. Take time to think, even upon the most trifling Card. Turn your Thoughts in your Mind, and vary your Phrases and the order of your Words, that a Taste and Judgment may appear, even in the most ordinary Composition. I cannot offer you my Example, with my Precept.
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Mr. Adams. June 1784”; docketed, also by JQA: “My Father—June 1784.” On the third page of the letter, at the top, JQA wrote at a somewhat later time: “Very good advice, and easily comprehended.” At the bottom of the page, JQA wrote in quotation marks, also in a somewhat later hand: “Nothing has so much influence over the human heart as the voice of undoubted friendship; we know that our friend may possibly be mistaken, but we are certain he can never deceive us; we may differ from him in opinion, but we can never treat his <
unself> counsels with contempt.”