Tightening the belt on your outgoing correspondence

Writers and business professionals today are expected to express themselves in a simple and direct way.  Thankfully the English language has plenty of alternative words to cover all situations.  An English Teacher from Indonesia came to stay with us last year.  He was amazed that we have so many ways in which to express the same thing.  He was also surprised that there are so many words in the English language spoken the same, but they mean totally different things (eg. sore/soar, there/their, won/one, sum/some, etc).
Use phone, voicemail, office memos (between staff) or electronic mail where possible.  Keep in mind that writing a letter is sometimes the best form of corresponding as it gives a person the extra time and space to work out exactly what they wish to say.  It also offers a permanent record.  You should also keep in mind that corresponding by ‘email’ adds an extra dimension.  Emails are so easy to send that they are sometimes too quickly written and then hastily sent.  They should be considered as an electronic form of writing a letter and therefore checked over just as stringently.  Here are some handy tips to help with your outgoing correspondence:
  • Plan to do your outgoing mail at the same time as your incoming mail
  • Follow the KISS (Keep it Simply Simple) rule. Keep to a minimum, if possible one page or less.
  • Get to the point. In the first paragraph state why you are writing.
  • The first paragraph should set a polite and positive connection between the reader and the writer.
  • The second paragraph should be the main content, the purpose. Here you might provide or request information, explain a situation, or request a meeting.
  • The third paragraph is a concluding statement. Here is your chance to make a powerful statement that sums up what you have spoken about in the body (middle part) of your letter.
  • Occasionally there will be a need to have two or more paragraphs in the middle. Make sure this is a need and not just needless waffling.
  • Avoid using complex/jargon words, or extra words that are not needed.
  • Do not enclose or attach unnecessary copies and reports.
  • Dictate rather than write.
  • Copy only what is needed.  File at the same time as you file the incoming mail.
  • Before you send out the letter or email scan over it to make sure the purpose is clear and the mood is positive. If the mood is not positive it might be a good idea to sleep on it and have a look again tomorrow.
  • Check that the sentences are complete and only one idea is spoken about in each sentence.  Or if you are able to ask for someone else to check your work.

Check out these other links for more tips and hints:
Wikipedia: Business Letter
Microsoft Office Templates

Write Express
Waylink English

Did you find this useful? Check back here in a few days for some positive phrases to replace the negatives when writing a letter, email or memo.

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