Letter and missive refer to a written communication addressed to one or more people normally sent by mail or email. Letter is the general term and is used particularly when the message bears the conventional format of a hand- or typewritten letter, rather than being an email or text. Missive is a rather formal, less familiar synonym for letter, often used for an official or public communication (the CEO’s missive to shareholders), but it can be used for any message or announcement that is directed towards an individual or group (the latest in a string of Twitter missives from the Governor). It’s not entirely clear why missives are more often said to be “fired off” than letters are, but its shared root with “missile” (miss- meaning “send”) may have something to do with that.
Corrupt and venal apply to a person or act, especially in public office, whose motives are mercenary and self-interested, without regard for honor, right, or justice. Corrupt, the much more familiar term, is used of institutions (corrupt government, corrupt system) as well as individuals (corrupt politicians), whose morals have been eroded by temptations of power, especially bribery. Venal, which originally meant “for sale,” tends to be used of individuals and their actions (venal politician, venal motive). It often implies a more repulsive, personal quality, one that is shamelessly open to bribery, willing to sell patronage, and thoroughly debased before they entered office.
You’ll never trip over these two words again: awkward and gauche refer to a person or behavior that causes social discomfort or embarrassment by violating expected manners. For a while there, it was popular to say “Awkward!” in an embarrassing situation, because awkward often characterizes the effect of an ill-timed or graceless remark or action on all those involved: put me in an awkward position; an awkward silence descended on the meeting. Of course the offending behavior can also be described as awkward: an awkward question. Something gauche is a slightly more serious social misstep, reflecting more poorly on the offender because it stems from a lack of awareness of or sensitivity to what is appropriate or tasteful–especially within a particular social class. In terms of class, it might be gauche to clap between the movements of a sonata, put ice cubes in your wine, or ask someone how much money they make. It could also be considered gauche to complain about first-world problems when news of a human catastrophe is on everyone’s minds.