PLANNING BUSINESS LETTERS
Business letters require clarity and tact. You must make a good impression, writing clearly without being pushy. To do so, you must approach your audience with a personal tone – treating them as people, not machines.
Approaching Your Audience
Style In business letters, you want to sound natural; you are, after all, one human being addressing another. You can use several stylistic strategies to achieve a natural sound. First, use the first-person I and we and refer to the reader in the second-person These productions will give your letters the natural, conversational style needed for personal communication. Second, write in plain English. The “businesses” style of writing sounds like a poorly programmed robot rather than a person. Consider this brief passage:
pursuant to our discussion of February 3 in reference to the L-19 transistor, please be advised that we are not presently in receipt of the above-mentioned item but expect to have it in stock with week. closed here with please find a brochure regarding said transistor as per your request.
Such stilted, awkward prose is so common in business correspondence that many young writers think they are supposed to write that way. Here is the paragraph rewritten in a more direct style: I’ve enclosed a brochure on the L-19 transistor we talked about on February 3.
Our shipment of L-19’s should arrive with in a week.
The new phrasing is more conversational, and it makes the contents much easier to grasp. The “You” Approach The “you” approach is a matter of tone – your attitude toward your subject and your reader. When you write a letter, the personality you reflect is often as much the message as the contents. The wrong personality can obscure the message. The basic way to set a tone that puts the reader at ease is to adopt the “you” approach.
The “you” approach requires only a common-sense awareness of human nature. Be professional, not emotional. Talk to the other person as you would like to be talked to. Talk person to person, using “I,” “we,” and “you.” #
Considers the difference in the following two examples, both of which start a letter intended to explain why a manual did not accompany a mariachi.
There was a question asked by you in regard to the complete fulfillment of contract 108XB (Manual Effector Arm Robot A).Complete documentation of same has not been fulfilled.The specifications are interpreted by this office to mean that no such documentation was required
I’m writing response to your phone call about the technical manual, which you understood was to accompany your new robot.We did not feel that the contract called for a manual. Since this is an important concern, we would like to explain our actions.
Which one would you rather receive? Probably the second. It sounds like one human talking to another.
To look at it another way, the “you” approach requires an analysis of each reader’s point of view, which is invariably different from yours. If you have to respond to a complaint, for instance, that some equipment you sold was defective, try to show an understanding of the customer’s position. Here is the body of a “you” approach letter to a person with a complaint. Notice how the writer deals with the emotions in the situation.
Let me start by apologizing for the shredded conveyor belt realize from our earlier (and happier) conversation how important that conveyor system is to our operation. I have already taken steps to fix the problem. First, I have shipped you a new belt. It left here today, so I hope it arrives before this letter does. Since the defective better is under warranty, the new belt is free. Second, I reviewed your problem with our design engineer. She feels that the belt exactly fills your specifications, and so the fault must be in the metal limbs that join the rubber lengths. As your employees install the new belt, would you have them check the pins that attach the limbs to the rubber? The limbs should not “wobble” on the pin. If they do, please call me immediately. Third, our sales representative will inspect the part on Friday, June 19. If you have other concerns, he will be glad to answer them.
Again, let me apologize for the inconvenience. Your business is polestars to us.