[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 13:30 GMT
Saying thank you in style
Girl writing a letter
Letter-writing is in danger of becoming a lost art. Yet there's really only one way to thank Aunty Grace for sending that Christmas present - by putting pen to paper. Since a good letter depends on good grammar, the Magazine has a competition in mind...

The only chore about receiving gifts is writing the thank you letters.

What to say is the easy bit. How to say it requires more thought. The beauty of e-mail and texting is their informality - one needs to pay only scant regard to the rules of grammar. Phoning is, of course, even easier.

Writing a Christmas thank you letter requires more rigorous attention to detail, especially if it's to be grammatically correct.

Two years ago author Lynne Truss hit the Christmas best-seller list with the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves, subtitled "The zero-tolerance approach to punctuation". The title alludes to how punctuation, or a lack of it, can utterly change the meaning of a sentence.

Now compare the following two thank you letters which are identical but for the punctuation.

    Dear Aunty Grace,

    What a surprise to receive a nice gift from you when I had not sent you my new address. I had thought you would not be able to send a present this year.
    Wasting good money at this time of year, it is common for people to send presents that are far too big, like those giant toy clowns.
    You always insist on sending me great presents, like this year's. Our incredible walks on Xmas day were particularly fun this year. Without you too much food and drink was consumed in haste.

    Rebecca

    Dear Aunty Grace,

    What a surprise! To receive a nice gift from you! When I had not sent you my new address I had thought you would not be able to send a present this year - wasting good money. At this time of year it is common for people to send presents that are far too big, like those giant toy clowns you always insist on sending me. Great presents like this year's are incredible! Walks on Xmas day were particularly fun this year without you. Too much food and drink was consumed.

    In haste,

    Rebecca

With this in mind, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP), in association with the BBC News website Magazine, challenges readers to write a thank you letter with two meanings. Just use the same words - or words that sound the same - but change the punctuation. It's harder than you think.

Each letter should be about 100 words, so a submission will entail two 100-word letters.

The Magazine will publish a selection of entries and the winner will be selected by the SfEP.

Send in your two entries using the one form below.


Name
Your e-mail address
Town/city and country
Your two letters

The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.





PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific