“Take a letter, Miss Jones, or Smith or Brown”… for example, was common in the days beforeelectronic equipment was introduced into the office. In would go the secretary, notebook and pencil in hand ready to take dictation from her boss for typing up afterwards. The dictation was usually taken in shorthand, gleaned by would be secretaries in evening classes at the local college. A popular stereotypical image of a secretary was someone who tottered in high heeled shoes, took down a couple of letters, typed them and then sat filing her nails. If such a one existed, it was perhaps very much the exception rather than the norm and probably cooked up by the media or some comedian. It does make me smile to think that the other end of the spectrum would apply to ladies who worked for a government who were often depicted as much less glamorous.
When I left school I considered enrolling for shorthand lessons at night school but decided that my hearing perhaps wasn’t up to taking fast dictation but fortunately it was never a problem. Whilst I was in office employment I worked for a man who preferred to write out his letters in long hand, complete with crossings out and scribbles, the second man likewise – typing up could be quite a challenge sometimes. Al this was done on heavy manual typewriters. I think the former employer didn’t want to pay anyone for the privilege of being able to dictate as the wages were quite poor. By the time I returned to the office environment, after having our two daughters and undertaking university studies, the world had moved on to electric typewriters (soon to be computers) and electronic dictaphones. All dictation was done in this way since they allowed the user to erase material if they wanted to rephrase it.
Now I am writing this up on a modern laptop. Times do change and in the world of work one has to change too, like it or not. I often think of the family I knew in my junior days who left Kettering for Derby because the man of the house was a manager at the traditional Sainsburys in the High Street and the company were having a modern supermarket being built fronting Gold Stteet (about where McKays is now) . This man did not want to be in charge of the supermarket and Derby still retained a traditional shop.
What would the apostle Paul make of it all, when you contemplate his many writings. Same applies to numerous other writers of the Scriptures. Do you suppose they had crossings out and arrows showing a different place for the text? Were they constantly rewriting sections of their work for neatness and ease of reading? They would have to really, otherwise nobody could have made any sense of what they had written. Another alternative, which would have slowed them down, would be to have thought each sentence through very carefully before writing. There were people who wrote out things for other people, scribes, and maybe that played a part. The one thing I am sure of is that Paul did not say “Take a letter, Miss Jones!”