Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How to Make People Read Your Emails (and Letters) and Reply Every Time

Writing business letters is something we all have to do from time to time, but we don’t usually get any training in school about how to actually do it. Getting your letter format wrong can make you look sloppy and unprofessional, but once you get the basics down and have some examples to work from, it makes business letter writing that much easier.

What’s the biggest “no-no” when writing a business letter?

Probably the most common problem people have when writing business letters is using improper letter format.[1] Within this format there are a few options, but for the most part this is how it is done.

At the very top of your letter should be your contact information: name, company (if applicable), address and phone number. Some people also put their email address here.

Next comes the date and the person you are writing’s contact information: name, company and address.

Then there will be a greeting — usually something along the lines of “Dear Mr./Mrs. Jones.” The body of the letter follows, then a closing (Sincerely, Best, whatever you like) and a few blank lines followed by your typed signature. When you print the letter out you can sign it with ink.

Once you have the format down, it’s the content that can still be a little tricky. Whether you’re writing a letter of resignation or a recommendation letter, there are some basic rules you can follow. Here’s a look at 10 different kinds of business letters you might need to write,[2] the letter format for each and an example you can use as a template.

Complaint Letter: Express Disappointment

A way to formally express your disappointment in an experience, report bad customer service or let a company know their products didn’t meet the expectations.

Some tips:

  • Don’t get emotional or angry; just state the facts.
  • Be cordial, professional and brief. Let them know what happened and what you’d like them to do to make it right.
  • Close by giving them a deadline to respond before getting a third-party mediator or lawyer involved.

Sample complaint letter | Federal Trade Commission

Adjustment Letter: Explain and Apologize

If you find yourself on the business side of a complaint letter, you will need to respond with a letter of your own. A good adjustment letter can help you keep a loyal customer; a bad one might spread like wildfire on the Internet.

Some tips:

  • In most cases you’ll want to actually apologize that your company didn’t meet expectations.
  • Let them know what you are doing to make it right, or explain why you’re not doing what the customer asked if needed.
  • Be professional, concise, friendly and apologetic.

Sample adjustment letters | OfficeWriting.com

Sales Letters: Raise Awareness and Promote Products

Letters writing to solicit business are still important for raising awareness of your company or products/services among potential clients.

Some tips:

  • Keep it brief.
  • Make it about them, but not about you or your company.
  • Call to action, tell them what to do and how to do it.
  • If desired, you can also include your next steps or follow-up actions.

Sales letter templates | Letters.org

Letter of Inquiry: Seek Information

Write this kind of letter when seeking information, such as an interview request, a request for a catalog or a request for a public document.

Some tips:

  • Be specific and brief; make it easier for the person who can track whatever you need down for you.
  • Providing some context and background can be helpful, but not the whole story of why you need a document.
  • Be courteous and show your gratitude.
  • If you are asking about the possibility of work, use the cover letter format.

Inquiry letter templates | Sample Templates

Acknowledgement Letter: Indicate Message Received

Acknowledgment letters indicate that you received something (like a job or scholarship application, or sales materials) but have not necessarily taken action yet.

Some tips:

  • Be short.
  • If there is information every person who sent information needs to know, such as when a decision will be made about hiring for a position, include that as well.
  • It might be used to thank someone for donating to cause, so include in the letter with any attachments.

Acknowledgement letters for every occasion | Template.net

Follow-Up Letter: Nudge and Remind

A follow-up letter is sort of a nudge for people to make sure they received an initial letter and to remind them what you want them to do. They are often sent after a sales letter, letter of introduction or letter requesting information.

Some tips:

  • Be short to remind the recipient who you are, what and when you requested.
  • Include deadline if the initial note didn’t.
  • Include a call to action as a reminder.

Follow-up templates of all sorts | Write Express

Order Letter: Place an Order

A formal way to place an order.

Some tips:

  • Be concise and precise.
  • Make sure you include all the information a person would need to place an order for you.
  • Include all your shipping information and payment method.
  • Show your gratitude.
  • Provide contact information for follow-up.

Order letter samples | How to Write a Letter

Cover Letter: Introduce Yourself for a Job

A cover letter is a way to introduce yourself, especially when applying for a job.

Some tips:

  • Mention the job you are applying for right up front. You don’t have to be fancy.
  • Only cover a few relevant points on your resume, especially any related experiences.
  • Remember to mention your soft skills (e.g. communication skills, leadership skills) too.
  • Include contact information and make yourself available for answering any questions the hiring manager might have.

Cover letter format | Monster

Letter of Recommendation: Help or Reference Someone for Their Applications

This type of letter is often written by a teacher to help a student applying for a scholarship or internship or for admittance into a school or program. You might also write one to recommend someone for a job, fellowship or other opportunity.

Some tips:

  • Be honest about the person you are writing about.
  • Don’t gush or agree to write a letter for someone you wouldn’t support or don’t know very well.
  • Use specific examples to highlight the person’s skills and abilities.
  • Write something about why you would give this opportunity to the person you are writing about.
  • Thank the reader for their time and include contact information should they have questions.

Sample recommendation letter | the Muse

Letter of Resignation: Resign From a Position

Don’t give in to any urges you might have to send an incendiary letter of resignation; you never know when you might cross paths with these people again.

  • Keep it short and to the point: “This letter serves as notice that I am resigning my position as x effective x. Thank you for the opportunity” says enough.
  • Consider your words very carefully if you are in a high-profile position and your letter is likely to be released publicly.
  • You can include a reason if you like, but it isn’t necessary.
  • Thank your boss and/or the company for the opportunities you’ve had there.

Resignation letters for many purposes/reasons | the Balance

For many other possible letters you could need in your business career, check this exhaustive list from the Balance.

Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com


[1] English Sherpa: 7 Common Mistakes of Writing Business Letters). Writing a cover letter for a job application or a sales letter to gain clients is not like writing an email to a friend; certain rules need to be followed.

You also need to make sure that you use proper grammar and spelling, are not too casual in your writing and that you remove all of the parts of any template you may be using that should have been filled in (like a dummy mailing address at the top or the wrong date).

Know the basics of business letters, they are more useful than you think.

If you’re writing a business letter that’s going to be mailed, there are some common letter format rules that will help you get started.((The Balance: Format for Writing a Business Letter

[2] Houston Chronicle: 10 Types of Business Letters

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