Whether you use Word for nothing more than printing labels or if you’re the de facto vending machine for sales or invitation letters, each official communication carries a high level of responsibility–put the company in the best light possible. (Same goes with online communication but that’s for another post.) Sure, we can always rely on templates, but these become outdated and will tend to misrepresent our company and its message if not checked.
An effectively written letter minimizes repeating processes and establishes a relationship between the writer/sender and the recipient. So, with that in mind, it’s important to revise and improve how we write purchase or request letters, responses to customers, official announcements, even internal memos. While some may argue that it’s needless work, it’s really not as tedious as it sounds. Here are five quick checks for an effective business letter:
Get the names right.
You really don’t want to fail on this part. Trust me, you don’t want anyone freaking out when you don’t get “Senior Assistant for Pedantry Compliance” written correctly. And you can pretty much forget writing another letter to them if you misspell his/her name or use “To whom it may concern”. Seriously, you may not care for the person but it pays to respect the protocol. We’re all in it to win it.
Letterheads get you through the door.
Business letters should always be printed on the official company letterhead. Why? Because it tells tthe recipient that you’re not just dropping names, that you really have important matters to discuss. what’s more, the letterhead contains information on where the recipient can reach you.
Keep it short.
As much as possible, stick to a one-page letter. Say everything you need to in short sentences leading with the all-important details. Nothing gets that letter piled with the not-so-urgent documents than pompous introductions. Also, it’s OK to be conversational but, I mean, just don’t overdo it, get me? It’s a business letter, not rap lyrics.
Organize your ideas.
So you’ve enumerated all the great ideas you want your recipient to know about and you can’t wait to start working with them. But when you call them to follow-up, you find your client (for example) doesn’t know what you’re talking about. Turns out you lost them one paragraph into your letter because you kept skipping back and forth on a topic. Either that or you put in too much info they lost interest altogether. Tip here is to sing that Sesame Street song in your head.
Three of these kids belong together
Three of these kids are kind of the same
But one of these kids is doing his (her) own thing
Now it’s time to play our game
It’s time to play our game
After you’ve checked and re-checked your letter, have a friend read it back to you one last time before sending. Sometimes, staring at the thing too long will cause your brain to fill in gaps that a first-time reader wouldn’t be able to do. Ask that friend if they get what your main idea is and how you intend for the reader to help you make it happen.