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Letter Writing: It's Easier Than You Think
By Jane Watson   Printer Friendly Version

Over 7 billion letters are produced each year in Canada. They relate to jobs, relationships, fund-raising, public relations and sales.

Most of us are capable of writing intelligent, persuasive letters. However, many writers fall down in the attempt because they are applying outdated writing styles to today's business requirements. This causes their written materials to be cold, long-winded, and difficult to read.

The key for writing in the 90s is to produce letters that build relationships. Here are some tips to ensure your writing style is reflective of the 90s.

1. Write with the reader in mind: what does he want to know; what does he need to know. Omit all other details.

2. Use words the reader can easily understand. If he or she is familiar with jargon, use it. Otherwise, choose simpler words.

3. Don't waste your reader's time with cold, useless phrases: as per, we are in receipt of, we wish to acknowledge… Jump in with why you are writing: I need your assistance to, As you requested, here are…

4. Make it easy for your reader to interpret the message. Use plenty of white space and wide margins. Keep sentences short. Readers' attention drops off after the 18th word. If you add a 19th, it better be good.

Long paragraphs intimidate. Opening and closing paragraphs should run no longer than three lines and nothing in the body over ten lines.

5. Keep the tone warm. Use the reader's name. Write about what you can do - not what you can't. If your purpose is to inform or persuade, use the word you more often than the words I, we or it.

6. Always give your readers a WIIFY. What's in for you. Too many writers stress their own importance, or the wonders of their product/service without spelling out the benefits to the reader.

7. Close with what you want the reader to do next. If you have a date, give it. Never use the ambiguous term as soon as possible. Wrong and overused: If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me. Better: If you have any questions, please call me at.

Remember, today's readers are drowning in paper, and they don't necessarily have time to read and follow up on your correspondence. However, if you write in a warm, easy-to-understand, concise style, your chance of having your message acted upon will greatly increase.

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