How to write a business letter

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Millions of us write business letters as part of our work but few of us know the keys to an effective business letter.

Millions of us write business letters as part of our work but few of us know the keys to an effective business letter.

Too many business letters are impersonal, longwinded and difficult or tedious to read. Most writers hide behind tired phrases and an over-formal approach when writing business letters.
When you write a letter you create an image of you and your company in your reader’s mind. A good letter should be effortless reading that makes you want to read more. It should be clear and concise, with short sentences and simple words. It should keep to the facts and be easy to read and to understand.

The Seven Cs of Business Letter Writing

Effective letter writing boils down to knowing why you are writing a letter, understanding your reader’s needs and then clearly writing what you need to say. Every letter should be clear, human, helpful and as friendly as the topic allows. The best letters have a conversational tone and read as if you were talking to your reader. In brief then, discover the Seven-Cs of letter writing. You should be:
Clear
Concise
Correct
Courteous
Conversational
Convincing
Complete

When you write a letter, you are trying to convince someone to act or react in a positive way. Your reader will respond quickly only if your meaning is crystal clear.
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and write in a friendly and helpful tone. Don’t represent your company as one that cannot make a mistake and must always be in the right. Try not to reply in the normal bland and defensive way of organizations—write a sincere and helpful letter.

Show you are interested in the reader’s circumstances. If he or she has mentioned something personal in the letter, refer to it in your reply. This builds a bridge between you and the reader. Read the original letter carefully and see if there is something you can put in your letter to show your interest.

Putting your business reader first

For all writers the most important people are their readers. If you keep your readers in mind when you write, it will help you use the right tone, appropriate language and include the right amount of detail.

What do readers want from writing? They want relevant information, presented in a clear, easy-to-understand style. They don’t want muddled thinking, background information they already know, business-speak and jargon or waffle. Above all, they want to get the gist of your message in one reading—they don’t want to dig for the meaning through long sentences and a boring style. So if you always keep your readers in mind, you will have to adapt your style and content to meet their needs.

Getting a clear picture of your readers before you start to write helps to focus your writing to get your message across. The better picture you have of your readers, the better you can direct your writing.

Ask questions to get a clear picture of your readers.

Who are my readers?
What do they already know about the subject?
What do they need to know?
Will they understand technical terms?
What information do they want?
What do I want them to do?
What interests or motivates them?
What prejudices do they have?
What worries or reassures them?
What will persuade them to my view?
What other arguments do I need to present?
How are they likely to react to what I say?

If you imagine yourself in your reader’s position, you’re more likely to write a good business letter

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