In approximately the 8th century B.C., the Greek poet Homer said, “The journey is the thing.” That is evident when we look back and consider what got us from where we were to now.
Recently, I found an old secretary’s manual from 1975. This is from the days of manual typewriters, before the invention of the fax machine and personal computers on desks and in nearly everyone’s homes and pockets. This manual was put together as the paralegal profession was coming into demand.1 The newest information in this book included the proper use of zip codes and two-letter abbreviations for the states. What still applies is basic information on office procedures, record keeping, grammar usage, letter writing, and using correct forms of address.2
According to the Complete Secretary’s Handbook, the basics of running an office smoothly are to treat people the way you want to be treated, to work towards polishing your skills, to stay up to date, and to be proud to be in a field that expects excellence.2 All of this advice still applies today.
The Handbook explained what to do and what not to do for every situation and task. There are chapters on your first job, the level of formality of the office, proper etiquette in the office such as avoiding gossip and no smoking at the desk. (!!!) There were explanations on the tickler file system and follow-up files. (Now we use Microsoft Outlook, a docket system, or our phones.)
There are many chapters that are still relevant today, such as how to receive callers and visitors, filing systems, and how to index and alpha file. There are some interesting chapters like how to oil and protect your typewriter as well as how to use carbon paper. Another chapter that is still useful today has a postal guide, discusses handling incoming and outgoing mail, and includes directions on telephone personality and efficiency. There is even a chapter on managing telegraph and cable communications.2
Surprisingly, there is a section on how to prepare legal papers with figures. The author offers detailed information on how to use legal backing paper, law blanks and carbons, and precisely how original carbons had to be signed.
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