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7 Essential Letter Writing Strategies

7 Essential Letter Writing Strategies

Based on the feedback that I have been getting from visitors
to my writinghelp-central.com Web site, letter writing is
definitely the area where most people are looking for help
or guidance when it comes to day-to-day writing.

Over 55% of the visitors to my site are seeking some sort of
letter writing information or assistance. The following
lists the Top Ten letters that people request information
on, in order of popularity:

* recommendation letter

* resignation letter

* thank you letter

* reference letter

* business letter

* complaint letter

* cover letter

* sales letter

* introduction letter

* apology letter

The 7 Strategies

Here are a few practical letter-writing tips and strategies
to help you when writing that next letter:

1. Keep It Short And To The Point

Letters involving business (personal or corporate) should be
concise, factual, and focused. Try to never exceed one page
or you will be at risk of losing your reader. A typical
letter page will hold 350 to 450 words. If you can’t get
your point across with that many words you probably haven’t
done enough preparatory work. If necessary, call the
recipient on the phone to clarify any fuzzy points and then
use the letter just to summarize the overall situation.

2. Make It Clear, Concise, And Logical

Before sitting down to write, make a brief point-form
outline of the matters you need to cover in the letter.
Organize those points into a logical progression that you
can use as your guide as you write the letter. The logical
blocks of the letter should be: 1. introduction/purpose,
background/explanation, summary/conclusion, action required
statement. Use this outline process to organize your
approach and your thoughts, and to eliminate any unnecessary
repetition or redundancy.

3. Focus On The Recipient’s Needs

While writing the letter, focus on the information
requirements of your audience, the intended addressee. If
you can, in your “mind’s eye”, imagine the intended
recipient seated across a desk or boardroom table from you
while you are explaining the subject of the letter. What
essential information does that person need to know through
this communication? What will be their expectations when
they open the letter? Have you addressed all these issues?

4. Use Simple And Appropriate Language

Your letter should use simple straightforward language, for
clarity and precision. Use short sentences and don’t let
paragraphs exceed three or four sentences. As much as
possible, use language and terminology familiar to the
intended recipient. Do not use technical terms and acronyms
without explaining them, unless you are certain that the
addressee is familiar with them.

5. Use Short Sentences And Paragraphs

Keep your sentences as short as possible, and break the text
up into brief paragraphs. Ideally, a paragraph should not
exceed two to three sentences. This will make the letter
more easily readable, which will entice the recipient to
read it sooner, rather than later.

6. Review And Revise It

Do a first draft, and then carefully review and revise it.
Put yourself in the place of the addressee. Imagine yourself
receiving the letter. How would you react to it? Would it
answer all of your questions? Does it deal with all of the
key issues? Are the language and tone appropriate? Sometimes
reading it out loud to one’s self can help. When you
actually “hear” the words it is easy to tell if it “sounds”
right or not.

7. Double Check Spelling And Grammar

A letter is a direct reflection of the person sending it,
and by extension, the organization that person works for.
When the final content of the letter is settled, make sure
that you run it through a spelling and grammar checker. To
send a letter with obvious spelling and grammatical errors
is sloppy and unprofessional. In such cases, the recipient
can’t really be blamed for seeing this as an indication as
to how you (and/or your organization) probably do most other

The foregoing basic letter writing strategies and tips are
mostly common sense. Nevertheless, you would be amazed how
often these very basic “rules of thumb” are not employed
when people write letters.

© 2005 by Shaun Fawcett