Years ago, in what now seems like pre-history, I sat at a typewriter staring at the words I had just written in response to a help-wanted advertisement in The New York Times.

“I am responding to your ad,” the letter went. At some point, a light went off and I realized that scores, perhaps hundreds of other people were responding to the same advertisement, using the same words to kick off the plea to be hired. That phrase--I am responding to your ad--just doesn’t set anybody apart.

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