This chapter is brought to you by Sybil Priebe.
Paper Means More Than an Email.
I’ve written and sent my fair share of letters. Because I think paper means more than an email. It takes extra time to write up a letter and mail the sucker off. Businesses are aware of this.
LET ME TELL YOU A STORY:
I have a Volkswagen, so I take it to a certain shop that specializes in imports. A few years back, they told me I needed a new oil pan because threads had come out of my current one, causing it to leak. I frowned and wondered to myself how that could happen when I hadn’t touched the oil pan. Never. The only person who could’ve caused threads to come out would be someone who would’ve over-torqued it, right? A technician. So, I paid the $300 for a new pan and when I got home, I dug through my past service records. I discovered that a service technician wrote in a past report that he/she had over-torqued my oil pan. Ugh! I copied off that report, made three copies of my letter, and sent it all to their respective places – the service place itself, Volkswagen Customer Service, and – why not – Volkswagen Headquarters. Days later, I got a few phone calls, I received a handful of apologies, and a check for $300 showed up in my mailbox shortly after.
Anyone who tells you that sending letters doesn’t do anything is full of bunk.
LET ME TELL YOU ANOTHER STORY:
When my sister was in high school and trying to get her first job, she interviewed at a local grocery store. She interviewed horribly because it was her first time, so after telling this story at a family gathering, our uncle suggested that she send a Thank You letter. She did. She explained her nervousness, she thanked him for the experience, and… yes, she got a call back! They offered her a part-time gig!
Letters vary in motivation and in their messages. Some letters are written without the need for a response, some are written with a simple message of “Hi,” and some letters are harsh and are meant to be that way.
The Difference Between Letters
The main thing that differentiates a business letter from other letters is that a business letter is a legal document. The writer can be held liable for anything written in the letter. For example, if it is stated that a project will be completed by a certain date in a business letter, the project legally must be completed by that date. However, if the project can’t be completed by that date, another letter can be written stating that the project is behind schedule and why. For this reason, business letters must be written differently than letters used for personal use.
A business letter is used primarily to request or provide information, to relate a deal, to bring or continue conversation, and/or to discuss prior negotiations. A business letter can be classified as private; however, it is typically not circulated to others, but rather meant for the eyes of the participants involved. Therefore, a business letter needs to be clear, focused, and to the point. When writing a business letter, the author should avoid interjecting personal stories.
Business letters are written messages to a person or group within a professional setting. Business letters are used when the writer would like to be formal and professional. Letters may vary in length depending on the writer’s objective, purpose, and message of the letter. The letter can address anyone including, but not limited to: clients and customers, managers, agencies, suppliers, and other business personnel or organizations. It is important to remember that any business letter is a legal document between the interested parties. These documents can be held for up to seven years, so it is important that all information is honest and legitimate.
Formatting Your Letters
- Use single spacing. There is no need to double space a business letter.
- Use a simple format with font that is easy to read.
- Leave a blank line between each paragraph. This makes it easier to follow the changes of topics within the letter.
- This paragraph should introduce why you are writing the letter and sum up the key points in the following paragraphs.
- Include a statement that shows you are knowledgeable of the audience to which your letter is directed.
- Provide background or history regarding the purpose of the letter.
- Talk about key points you are making.
- Include a justification of the importance of the main points.
- List any important dates, discussions, and conversations that are relevant.
- Ask questions, if necessary.
- A business letter needs to be concise and clear. Being too wordy is the biggest downfall in this form of writing. Keep sentences short and precise.
- Organize the letter from most important subjects to least.
- The content of the letter should be persuasive and usable.
- The tone of the letter should be formal and professional.
- Summarize the main points of the letter.
- Restate the problem and resolution if pertinent.
- Include deadlines.
- Provide contact information (Email, Phone Number, Fax, Etc...).
Always close a letter. ‘Sincerely’ would be the safest way to close out a business letter. On a typed business letter, following the closing, you should leave a space to sign your name with a pen. This will allow for a more personal touch on an otherwise bland letter. This is the only handwriting on the paper so make sure the signature is clear. Below this personal signature should be your typed first and last name to allow for easy reading. After this you can include anything else that the reader may need to know. This could include anything from job title, identification, a notation that there are copies attached at the bottom of the document, or other contact information, such as e-mail address or business phone number.
A few other general ending salutations deemed professional include:
- Kind regards,
Tips on Writing Letters
- Address the letter to a specific person whenever possible, and not the company so it does not get discarded.
- Use company letterhead to make the document more professional, if the document is related to company affairs.
- Collect all the information you will need for your letter and jot down the basic order in which you plan to cover this information. Organize your material in the most persuasive order.
EXAMPLE: RECOMMENDATION LETTER
Mildred Johnson Library
June 17, 2011
Hippie Town, ND 55000
Re: Ethel Aardvark Letter of Recommendation
As a staff member at North Dakota State College of Science, I have had the opportunity during the last few years to work with Ethel Aardvark. She is applying for tenure status, and I am honored to serve as a letter of recommendation.
Ethel certainly has a passion for teaching, and it is this passion that fuels some of her key attributes. She is willing to absorb various aspects of a topic; she will listen, draw out comments/insight from group members and contemplate the information at hand. Ethel then takes it to the next level, where she will dig a bit deeper into the topic to solidify her own perspective. She does not just take something at face value but has that researcherinstinct to “dig a bit deeper.”
Ethel is NOT a procrastinator, which I personally feel is a critical trait when tackling graduate school. During break, Ethel can be found working ahead on course improvements because she likes to get things done and done right. She puts pride into her work and will give the effort required to complete a quality project.
She is motivated in his tenure pursuit and will certainly succeed. NDSCS would be fortunate to have her as a tenured faculty member. If you have any other questions, please contact me.
Miss Tough Gal, Librarian
EXAMPLE: COVER LETTER
555 70th Avenue West, #555
Fargo, ND 58555
January 30, 2013
c/o Flint Communications
101 North 10th Street
Fargo, ND 58107
Dear Mr. Person:
I am writing to you to apply for the open position of Production Artist. I am an excellent candidate; I have strong communication skills, I’m a quick learner, and I have a fun, creative personality.
I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from North Dakota State University. I chose this educational path because I am a strong communicator and I enjoy expressing myself. My writing abilities are exceptional; while my specialty is creative writing, I excel at technical writing as well. Not only did my education allow me to sharpen these skills, but my employment experience played a large part as well.
For example, at Integreon, a company which provides document support services to law firms and other corporations, I spent nearly three years corresponding with clients (mostly attorneys and legal secretaries) via email and telephone. Through these exchanges, I would follow a particular process: receive request to format, edit, or proofread a legal document; delegate the request to the appropriate coworker; review said request; and, return the request by the requestor’s preferred timeline. I learned how to understand their needs and complete their requests accordingly.
While polishing my communication abilities, I was fortunate to become skilled at many different types of software. The training team at Integreon did an amazing job with its employees. Most training courses were required while others were available to expand your computer skills and complete a wider range of project requests. At every job since my time at Integreon, I have had fellow employees approach me and tell me that my computer and software skills are impressive. It is a true testament to both their training and my ability to learn quickly.
With many types of software, I have been able to create and design different documents. At Warner and Company Insurance, I created a recipe booklet of potluck favorites for the employees. At Integreon, I created the first team-specific newsletter which included images, quotes, short stories, and tips and tricks. At Vogel Law Firm, I acted as CoCaptain for the United Way drive and created certificates for prizes and “kudos” cards for employee appreciation.
In these experiences, I learned to communicate with clients to meet their needs, expand my computer knowledge and skills, and use my ability to create beautiful documents for many purposes. Please refer to my resume for further information. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you about how I can become an asset to your company.
Very truly yours,
EXAMPLE: COMPLAINT LETTER
555 10th Ave North
Wahpeton, ND 58075
February 3, 2016
801 Broadway N
P.O. Box 2010
Fargo, ND 58122-0001
Dear Sanford Health,
I recently signed up and logged into the MySanfordChart portal, and, at first, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was to have access to my test results, schedule an appointment, and message my doctors. Unfortunately, recently, I realized that the first item listed under “My Medical Record” isn’t Test Results or a Health Summary… no, it’s my supposed BMI.
I am EXTREMELY offended by this, not only because listing it first means – somehow – that it’s the most important, but that under that tab, I’m supposed to have goals to remedy this? What? Excuse me!? Let me tell you why this offends me so much: The BMI chart is archaic; rumor has it that pharmaceutical companies created it in order to prescribe patients drugs for their “obesity.” Even if it wasn’t archaic and built by drug companies, the BMI chart in no way determines health because it doesn’t take into account muscle mass.
Secondly, health is more than weight. There’s even recent movement about the whole idea: the HAES movement = Health at Every Size. Eating less, restricting, leads to binging. Focusing a patient, constantly, on their size or weight leads to major mental issues – obsessing over food and exercise. That’s not healthy. Diets don’t work; studies show that only 5% of people can keep the weight off beyond the 5-year mark.
Here are my two solutions: A) Remove any mention of the BMI chart from the MySanfordChart unless a patient has high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. And even then, don’t place it at the top of the “My Medical Record” area. Don’t let them focus on that. They’ll be happier that way. B) If you can’t remove the BMI crap, then at least remove it from the top ESPECIALLY for patients like myself who don’t have any issues related to “obesity.”
Since I want to end on a positive note, let me say how much I adore the two doctors who’ve recently taken care of me: X in Wahpeton and Y in Fargo. They are both so personable and quick to relay information.
Thank you for reading, and I hope to hear from you soon regarding MySanfordChart.
EXAMPLE: THANK YOU LETTER
Dear Dr. Julie Jackson:
Thank you so much for the opportunity to sit down with you and Dr. Bob to discuss the Lab Assistantship at Harvard. I am grateful to be considered for the position. I think I will be an asset to your department, especially given my experience with dissecting frogs.
I was nice to chat with you about how much you adore the TV show Big Brother, and I really appreciate the natural lighting that you have all added to the employee lounge; I’m sure it will encourage people to hang out a while longer, thus increasing morale.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Assignments and Questions to Consider
Write a complaint letter or complimentary letter to a company of your choice. At the minimum, include the following criteria:
- Structure: opening, body, closing/signature
- Three reasons - with evidence - as to why you’re writing
- A professional tone
36 “Professional and Technical Writing/Business Communications/Letters.” Wikibooks, The Free Textbook Project. 26 Mar 2016, 21:00 UTC. 11 May 2016, 18:31 .