7 Steps to Better Business Letters
Seems like people who can talk perfectly well, or write an interesting letter to a friend, suddenly freeze up and turn into someone else when they sit down to write a “serious” letter.
Serious as in “This letter needs to be good so these people will want to do business with me.” They get nervous and worried about being proper, and their letters come out sounding stiff and, frankly, pretty boring.
If that happens to you, these steps will help. First, remember that the letter has to be “about” your reader and that you are always writing to just one person – even if the letter will be broadcast to 40,000. Keep that one person in your mind, and “talk” to him or her as you write. Next, find yourself a place where you can work in solitude – you don’t need any interruptions while you’re creating.
Step 1: Write down whatever you’re thinking you want to communicate. Get all your thoughts on the paper where you can see them – and where they can’t suddenly escape. Don’t worry about putting your thoughts in order.
I especially like this step, because your creativity isn’t hampered at all, and you may find a gem of an idea when you read what you wrote.
Step 2: Arrange those thoughts into some kind of logical order to give your message a good structure.
Step 3: Polish. This is where you’d check to make sure you have good transitions between paragraphs, smooth out any awkward spots that can stop a reader cold, and even eliminate a few sentences that don’t add strength to your message. Reading it aloud will alert you to any stumbling blocks. (Yes, do it even though it feels silly.)
Step 4:Call in your inner critic. But be careful here.You’re looking for communication, not the rules of grammar. This letter needs to sound like a good conversation.
Now you can do away with the solitude for a little while for steps 5 and 6.
Step 5: Have someone else read the message to make sure it clearly conveys what you want to say. Just don’t take every criticism as gospel, because each of us has our own opinion.
Three readers could well give you three opinions. Listen to what they suggest, consider it, and then accept or reject a change based on your own instincts.
This step is scary for a timid writer – believe me I know! But consider this: Wouldn’t you rather hear from a friend that a sentence is unclear than have a customer round file your message because they didn’t quite “get it?”
Step 6: Get someone to proofread your work for the sole purpose of making sure you haven’t missed any typos. When you know what you’ve written it is far too easy to miss a spot where you might have written something like: “it it far too easy” in the sentence above. Have them also check for misuse of words like there and their, your and you’re. Those can stop a reader cold as they try to decipher what you meant.
Step 7: Back to the solitude – Relax, smile, and think about the positive responses your letter will bring. It’s called using the Law of Attraction.