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.