Expertise in letter writing should be an indispensable part of your writing arsenal.
It goes without saying that there are manifold uses for letters. All job seekers should use a cover letter to accompany any resume which is sent out. The cover letter should introduce you personally to the prospective interviewer. The letter should specify the position you are seeking and state how you learned about it. It should explain why you are qualified for the position and how your qualifications will benefit the company. Close the letter by requesting an interview, and state when you will be available.
A properly worded letter of inquiry about a job prospect may open a door of opportunity for you. Also, sending a thank you letter to acknowledge an interview may make a difference to the interviewer.
Business letters should be clear, to the point, and correctly punctuated and formatted. Properly written, attractive letters will reflect favorably on you individually as well as any company that employs you.
It is important to confirm all important meetings, events, telephone conversations, and decisions by letter. It’s a good idea to leave a paper trail for future reference; it will go a long way to avoid misunderstandings and is always a good business practice.
There are several guidelines to keep in mind when writing a letter.
1. The heading of the letter should be centered and provide the writer’s full name, address, and telephone number. Adding an email address and cell/mobile phone number is discretionary. But you want to make sure the addressee knows how to contact you easily.
2. The date of the letter should appear directly under the heading.
3. The addressee’s address inside the letter should be the same as the address which appears on the mailing envelope. Do not omit street or avenue.
4. Use a reference line following the address to reference an order number, invoice number, a previous letter, or any other convenient point of reference. The reference should be preceded by “RE:”
5. The greeting (or salutation, as it is sometimes called), should be separated by two spaces from the inside address or the reference line, if one is used. The inside address and the greeting should begin at the left margin. The greeting should be followed by a colon for business letters and a comma for personal letters.
Typical greetings include the following:
Dear Sir (or Madam):
Dear Mr. Jones:
Dear Mrs. Smith:
Dear Ms. Brown:
Dear IRS: (or other agency if known)
Avoid using “To Whom It May Concern, “if at all possible.
6. Begin the body of the letter one line below the greeting. Don’t use shorthand or abbreviated writing. Always write with direct, full sentences. Avoid flowery or hackneyed language such as “I beg to advise,” and all slang expressions.
Wrong: Your kind favor of (date) has been received and we hasten to inform you the order has been shipped immediately following.
Better: We have received your order dated (date). The order was filled on (date) and shipped on (date).
7. Get right to the point. If you are applying for a job, begin by stating “I am applying for,” and not “I would apply for” or “I wish to apply for.”
8. As pointed out in previous blogs, as well as in my book, “The Art of Clear Writing,” (available at amazon.com/kindle books and in print), organization is essential to clear writing. This is true in letter writing as well. Group your thoughts logically. If you are applying for a job, an appropriate grouping might consist of personal qualifications, followed by experience and then references.
9. Finish the letter with a simple sentence such as:
I hope to hear from you soon, I trust this answers your letter, or
Please advise me if further information is required.
Avoid any closing that begins with a participle such as “Thanking you for your consideration of this request.” It is better to say simply, “Thank you for your consideration of this request.”
10. The closing should begin at the left margin, followed by a comma. Appropriate closings include the following:
11. Sign your name clearly and type it out four spaces directly underneath the signature using all capital letters or initial capitals. It is discretionary whether to provide a title or degree before or after the signature. A married woman may add her married name in parenthesis following her typed name. Do not follow the signature with any punctuation.
12. If you are sending a copy of the letter to someone else, add “cc [name of additional addressee]” two spaces below your typed name. Place a check mark by the “cc” on the copy being sent to designate that the addressee is getting that copy. Sending a cover letter with the copy is discretionary, depending on the circumstances.
13. If you are enclosing any document with the letter add “Encl.” following your typed name or any “cc.”
14. Miscellaneous matters. For business correspondence, only use one side of the paper; fold the letter twice horizontally in equal sections. Don’t staple or clip pages together.
Use these letter writing skills to enhance your writing credentials. Good letter writing goes hand in glove with clear writing.
Copyright © Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.