The thread we spin from, when we weave the business message, is our knowledge of the fundamentals of good writing: grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and, of course, vocabulary and sentence structure. Just as no chain can be stronger than its weakest link, so also no business letter can be sure of effectiveness, or safe against the risk of making a bad impression, unless the materials it is made from are good in Effective Business Writing. In commerce and industry, there are three kinds of contacts between business firms and their customers-personal contacts, telephone calls, and letters. By far the majority of business contacts are made by letter!
Recently the business magazine, Advertising Age, estimated that the cost of business letters totaled $12,000,000 every business day-more than is spent for all other forms of advertising combined! Advertising writers are skilled technicians who must have specific training before they are permitted to attempt their writing jobs. It should be even more important that letter-writing employees be skilled technicians. Despite this fact, many business letters are antiquated, unattractive, and ineffectual.
The techniques needed to communicate ideas effectively through letters can be quickly and easily mastered. In this unit you will acquire a working knowledge of the basic requirements for good letter writing, both business and social. A discussion of general letter writing principles is illustrated by exercises and by specific examples of the types of letters most frequently encountered in the business world and in social relationships. You will be given a method, based on the rules, which will enable you to analyze and improve not only the letter examples in this unit but also the letters which you write and receive.
EVERY LETTER A SELLING LETTER
First of all, remember that your letters represent you or your organiza¬tion to the recipient or reader. If he has not met or talked with you, his opinion of you or your organization is formed from the way your letter appeals to him. If it makes a favorable appeal, you have sold yourself to him. If the appeal is negative, you have not sold the reader your idea. The fundamental principle of good letter writing, then, is this: Every letter is a selling letter. The aim of every letter is to sell one or more ideas. The one idea that should be included and sold in every letter is good will. Additional ideas included in the letter will depend upon the writer's purpose. Of course, certain letters are specifically called sales letters. They are designed to get an order or to aid in getting an order for some product or service. In the average business organization, sales letters are considered the most important of all. But consider the selling problem of the writer who must refuse an adjustment, refuse credit, or demand payment, but who still wants to retain the good will of the customer. He, indeed, has a difficult problem.
Keep in mind, then, that all letters should have the aim of being silent salesmen of good will, but in addition will usually include other ideas. How does a successful letter sell its ideas? It does so in two ways: first by its appearance, and second by its contents.
APPEARANCE OF THE LETTER
Letters, like salesmen and window displays, depend upon their appear¬ance for a favorable first impression. If a letter is slovenly, careless, or unattractive, it gives the same impression as a salesman with unshined shoes and unpressed clothes, or as a dusty, dingy window display. The message is all-important and cannot be overemphasized, but if the appearance is not attractive, the potential customer may reject the messenger-whether salesman or letter-before he hears or reads the message. Based on the principle that every letter is a selling letter, the first rule of effective letter writing is that the letter must be pleasing in appearance and correct in form. The appearance of your letter depends upon many things. The color and quality of stationery (good enough quality to take careful erasures), the way the letter is set on the page, its form, the perfection of the typing-all these create the fleeting, but important, first impression.
So that you may recognize the main features of good mechanical layout of a letter, they are discussed briefly here. This discussion applies to social correspondence as well as business letters, since etiquette authorities now approve the typing of most personal letters.
BUSINESS AND SOCIAL LETTERS
1. EVERY LETTER A SELLING LETTER 3
2. APPEARANCE OF THE LETTER 4
3. CONTENTS OF THE LETTER 8
4. BE COURTEOUS AND CONSIDERATE 8
5. BE INFORMAL AND NATURAL 10
6. BE CLEAR AND CONCISE 12
7. INTRODUCTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS 14
8. ANALYZING LETTERS-Four-A Check List 16
9. BUSINESS LETTERS 20
10. SOCIAL CORRESPONDENCE 34
11. SUMMARY OF LETTER WRITING 40
Key to Correct Answers 41
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