I’ve been writing business letters, as well as personal ones, for most of my life, but this is the first time I’m blogging about it. Over the years I’ve seen my parents struggle with composing my leave letter, friends with letters to the principals, then college-mates with love letters, and clients with letters from or to the board…one thing that hasn’t changed in all these scenarios: A lot of people have a writer’s block by default when it comes to letters.
You can get by with almost anything in a personal letter. That’s what makes them personal, but business letters are have way too much riding on it, from first impression, to goals you want to achieve.
Note: The same principles outlined here apply to emails as well. In fact they’re more pertinent to email because that’s where all the writing is today. I’m a writer-designer by day so I just use the word “letters” a lot because I’m old school that way, and use the words interchangeably
Writing compelling business letters & emails following these 7 steps:
That’s why when you write for business / work always,
1. Start with a Clear subject Line
The more clear & concise, the better the chances are of the recipient opening your letter. It’s the best way to get their attention.
For example, instead of “w.r.t. our meeting today on the launch of pipeline” say,
“Launch of pipeline: MoM”
[MoM stands for Minutes of the Meeting, btw]
Steer clear of capital letters. Nobody likes to be yelled at even if it’s to say “URGENT:”.
“Urgent:” works just as well.
2. Body: Answer When? What? Where? Why? How?
Not necessarily in that order of course! But, here’s the thing. There’s no room for ambiguity. When writing business letters, the sooner you tell the recipient why you’re in their inbox, the sooner you can get your response. If it’s an idea you’re pitching, make it crisp and engaging like an elevator pitch.
However, do make sure that your information is organized logically and that by the end of the letter, the reader knows fully well what you are talking about and where you stand on it.
3. Kill the jargon
Before we go onto the next step, now that the body of the letter is in place, do a once over and mark all the words that are industry jargon. How many do you have? 1 or 2? It’s ok to proceed to the next step. However, if you have more than say 5, or [god forbid!] 10 go back and replace them with simpler and more lively words. Fact is, that though jargon sprinkled in a conversation might make you sound more important or clued in, but in an email words automatically lower the quality of your writing.
4. Tone & Voice
It is ideal to maintain a professional tone writing business letters and by that i mean keep it confident yet courteous. The next thing to keep in mind is to not mix up the voice. If you’ve started out in “single person” which could happen with an introduction, for example. I’m Darth Vader from the Starship Enterprise…” Dont suddenly switch to “we have a great twist in the story for you”.
If you start of with “I” continue that way till the end. If you prefer third person, then say “we” and continue that throughout.
5. Writing the conclusion in a letter for business
You’ve begun composing this letters with a goal in mind. You’ve sought a certain action or series of actions from the recipient. Here’s where you reinforce that clearly.
One way to start it off is with “Looking forward to [fill in what course of action you want]” Be specific. There’s no point beating about the bush.
Another way to wrap up is with a clear Call-to-action (CTA).
For example, instead of “we hope you will keep us posted about your decision to take up our services…” it might be persuasive to go with “To reap the benefits of our seamless IT solution, send us that confirmation today. ”
6. Sign Off the letter with Thanks
The world would be a better place if we were all just a little more thankful. Honestly! Ending a letter with a little thanks, can go a long way in your favor. Even if you’re going to be turned down, a gracious letter makes a great impression. Chances are that when you go back with another request, you won’t be turned down a second time.
7. Proofread the content
Typos, no matter how common, can affect the perception that the reader has about you. And that can easily effect the impact that you’d like your message to have.
For example, a hard hitting letter can complete lose its credibility if you’re writing about the role of an insect plays in our ecosystem, but misspell it as incest. Relatively small faux pas but one that even grammarly might miss.
This is your first step to writing better. There’s lots more to come. However, none of this will help unless you shoot out a few mails and keep practicing. The more you write, the better you’ll get. I’m going to keep coming up with content to help you along the way And keep watching this space for more help scripting those business letters and emails.