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Why Communicate with the Dead?
By Jane Watson   Printer Friendly Version

Many people prepare their business correspondence as if they were writing to the dead. These writers take great care to explain the details they consider important and then ask the reader to do something-buy a product or service, send information, answer questions, or follow-up with some specified activity.

But why should the reader? What's in it for him or her? Of course, you may have such a high standing in the office hierarchy or the issue may be so critical the person is forced to get back to you. However, what's the incentive to have them reply immediately? Or to take care in doing so?

Sales people learn all about features and benefits when dealing with their customers face to face. The same premise applies to writing. If you merely outline features and leave it up to the readers to figure out the benefits, nine times out of ten your letter will end up in the trash.

Tone is also important. Too many writers choose words and adopt a tone more appropriate for a 1920s reader. Why? These people are no longer in the business world. For example, Pursuant to your letter of May 6, ... (1920s style) Better: In response to your letter of May 6 ... (1990s style). As per your letter of recent date ... (1920s style) Better: As requested in your letter of June 3 ... (1990s style).

In addition, use people's names. Show that you know who you are writing to and that you have taken the time to consider their needs.

That brings us to another point. Keep it short. Your reader is not waiting for your letter or memo. He is busy. If the communication is long and complicated, the reader will ignore it, may misunderstand your intentions, or delay in responding. Tell the reader what he wants to know and what he needs to know. Omit anything else.

Always keep in mind who you are writing to-a live, busy person who probably has the same vocabulary level as you and who enjoys seeing some warmth and friendliness in his correspondence. Don't write to the dead.


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