Business Letters / December 3, 2018 / Loraine Cohen
Readers do not like repetitive messages so do your best to avoid that. Scan every sentence and make sure they are essential to your message. Anything less than that should be deleted from your letter. Be Courteous and Polite This should be mandatory in writing these letters especially if you are talking to someone in a higher position. Depending on the nature of your message every appropriate courtesy should be extended to your reader. Make sure you address him properly as befitting his position. If you are writing a letter addressed to someone in a lower position do not appear condescending. Be Positive This is important especially for sales oriented letters. Use a positive tone of writing when creating your sentences. Substitute negative terms with positive ones. Using the proper words will help keep your reader interested in reading your message. Forget Creativity A business letter is not the medium for you to express your creativity. Do not use fancy words or use flowing narratives that you normally use in creative writing.
There is an answer though. Use the formality of structure that makes the business letter the bullet-proof form of communication it has come to be. Combine that with the short straight-talking style of writing more common to emails and you have a good compromise. Let s start with the structure - or rather the etiquette which supplies the structure. There are variations between accepted etiquette used in the different English language markets. Here are the main British forms of address. I have also included the US/Canadian equivalents where I know them but I m afraid I m not aware of those used in Australia NZ or SA. Formal letters The addressee will either be a title e.g. "The Chief Executive Officer" or to an organization or company when you don t know to whom your letter should be addressed.
When you write to a title the salutation is "Dear Sir " "Dear Madam " or if you want to play it safe "Dear Sir/Madam." When you write to an organization it s "Dear Sirs " Dear "Mesdames " or again if you want to play it safe (but labor the point) "Dear Sirs/Mesdames." Your sign off will be "Yours faithfully" (UK) or "Yours truly" (US and Canada.) Less formal letters This is where you have a name. And this is where you can get into hot water if you re not sure of the gender of the person. Someone called J C Jennings could be a Jack or a Joanna. Someone called Leslie Matthews could also be either (traditionally the female version of the name is spelled "Lesley" and the male "Leslie " but I know at least one lady Leslie.) Equally beware of unisex names like Jody Jo Bobbie Alex Rob Robin Carol (yes really ) Billie Chris Darryl Eddie Sam Jackie Nicky Frances (f) vs Francis (m) Freddie Gabrielle (f) vs Gabriel (m) Georgie Gerry/Jerry Charlie Nat Harry Jessie (f) vs Jesse (m) Stevie Mel Pat Ronnie Sacha Sandy etc. And that s before we get started on names from non English-language cultures. People these days usually don t advertise whether they re "Mr" or "Ms" or whatever.