Whether you are writing a thank-you note, a cover letter, a resignation letter, a note of apology, or a letter of complaint, there are a few strategies that you should consider before you begin:
1. 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 any words you probably haven’t done enough preparatory work. If necessary, call the recipient on the phone to clarify any fuzzy points and then use the letter just to summarize the overall situation.
2. Make It Clear, Concise, And Logical
Before sitting 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 progression that you can use as your guide as you write the letter. The logical blocks of the letter should be: 1. introduction/purpose, background/explanation, summary/conclusion, action required statement. Use this outline process to organize your approach and your thoughts, and to eliminate any unnecessary repetition or redundancy.
3. Focus On The Recipient’s Needs
While writing the letter, focus on 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 these issues?
4. Use Simple And Appropriate Language
Your letter should use simple straightforward language, for clarity and precision. Use short sentences and don’t let paragraphs exceed three or four sentences. 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.
5. Use Short Sentences And Paragraphs
Keep your sentences as short as possible, and break the text up into brief paragraphs. Ideally, a paragraph should not exceed two to three sentences. This will make the letter more easily readable, which will entice the recipient to read it sooner, rather than later.
6. Review And Revise It
Do a first draft, and then carefully review and revise it. 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.
7. Double Check Spelling And Grammar
A letter is a direct reflection of the person sending it, and by extension, the organization that person works for. 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 seeing this as an indication 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 employed when people write letters.
This article was written by Shaun Fawcett. See the original post here.