The main reason why I started my network of writing help websites more than a decade ago was to provide people with practical letter writing help. Even though I later branched out to cover a wider variety of writing-related and publishing-related subjects, letter writing is still the number one subject that draws the majority of visitors to my writing help websites. In fact, more than 50% of the millions of annual visitors to those websites are seeking some sort of letter writing help, info, tips and/or templates.
I believe that the primary reason for the continued popularity of “letter writing” on my websites over the years is because that subject/activity is still very relevant in the day-to-day lives of most people. Yes, even in these days of e-mails, texting, and social media posts; when one wants to get the deal done in a professional and lasting way, a well written business or personal letter is still the accepted gold standard worldwide for “sealing the deal”.
So, if you want to ensure that your business and personal letters are up to an acceptable standard, make sure you follow these essential guidelines:
Keep It Short and To the Point
Letters involving business (personal or corporate) should be concise, factual, and focused. Try to never exceed one page or you will be at risk of losing your reader. A typical letter page will hold 350 to 450 words. If you can’t get your point across with that many words you probably haven’t done enough preparatory work. If necessary, call the recipient on the phone, or e-mail them, to clarify any fuzzy points and then use the letter just to summarize and formalize the overall situation.
Make It Clear, Concise and Logical
Before you sit down to write, make a brief point-form outline of the matters you need to cover in the letter. Organize those points into a logical chronological progression that you can use as your guide as you write the letter. The generic logical blocks of the letter should be: introduction/purpose, background/explanation, summary/conclusion, and a bottom/line and/or action required statement. Use this outline structure to organize your approach and your thoughts, and to eliminate any unnecessary repetition or redundancy.
Focus On the Recipient’s Needs
While writing the letter, stick to the information requirements of your audience, the intended addressee. If you can, in your “mind’s eye”, imagine the intended recipient seated across a desk or boardroom table from you while you are explaining the subject of the letter. What essential information does that person need to know through this communication? What will be their expectations when they open the letter? Have you addressed all of the necessary issues?
Use Simple and Appropriate Language
Your letter should use simple straightforward language, for clarity and precision. As much as possible, use language and terminology familiar to the intended recipient. Do not use technical terms and acronyms without explaining them, unless you are certain that the addressee is familiar with them. Any required technical and/or background information should be relegated to attachments.
Use Short Sentences and Paragraphs
Keep your sentences as short as possible, and break up the text into brief paragraphs. State your points as briefly and succinctly as possible using the shortest sentences you can, and don’t let the paragraphs exceed three or four sentences. This will make the letter easier to read, which will entice the recipient to read it sooner, rather than later.
Review and Revise It
Do a quick first draft, and then carefully review and revise it. As you do this, put yourself in the place of the addressee. Imagine yourself receiving the letter. How would you react to it? Would it answer all of your questions? Does it deal with all of the key issues? Are the language and tone appropriate? Sometimes reading it out loud to one’s self can help. When you actually “hear” the words it is easy to tell if it “sounds” right or not.
Double Check Spelling and Grammar
A letter is a direct reflection of the person sending it, and by extension, the organization for which that person works. When the final content of the letter is settled, make sure that you run it through a spelling and grammar checker. To send a letter with obvious spelling and grammatical errors is sloppy and unprofessional. In such cases, the recipient can’t really be blamed for interpreting such lapses as indications as to how you (and/or your organization) probably do most other things.
The foregoing basic letter writing strategies and tips are mostly common sense. Nevertheless, you would be amazed how often these very basic “rules of thumb” are not respected when people write letters.
For more letter writing tips, and direct access to almost 400 additional free writing help resource articles and templates, go to my main website at:
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