Basic Approach to Content
Whether a letter of inquiry, request, complaint, or termination, the letter should contain an introductory paragraph that clearly states the document’s purpose. Follow with a main body that outlines the points that need to be made. A complaint or termination letter may need more detail than a request or new hire letter, so the subject will dictate the length. The concluding paragraph will outline action to be taken by any involved parties.
Know Who You’re Writing For
Effective business letters are written with the reader(s) in mind. Organize thoughts beforehand and once you start, keep it brief. People at work are busy, and wordiness can lead to scanning and people possibly setting your letters aside altogether.
Do’s & Don’ts of Business Letters
- Use a formal voice, even if you are familiar with the recipient. You cannot anticipate who else may need to read the letter at some point.
- Do not use “don’t” or “can’t” or any other contractions. Always go with “do not” or “cannot.”
- Outside of academia or medical and scientific letters, usage of large words should be kept to a minimum.
- Avoid pointing fingers even if you want to. Conversations can cover the specifics, but letters don’t need to. Don’t write, “You should have seen this project through.” Go with, “There is no reason why this project was not completed on time.”
- Stay away from the passive voice.
- Never use slang.
- Address people by their titles.
- Carefully proofread. Do not rely on your word processor’s tools to review the document. If possible, have another set of eyes review the letter.
- Whatever your letter’s intent, try to end with a conclusion conducive to all parties.
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