This article on business letters is the first in a series. The ability to write effective business communications is an important skill for all business professionals. The hints and suggestions in these articles will help you to take your business writing skills from blah to fantastic!
Connecting with the reader
Have you ever read a long rambling letter and struggled to find the purpose of the letter? Or have you read a letter and felt that the writer had no clue about the information you needed? Many people tend to write from their own perspective instead of focusing on the reader and the primary objective of the message.
It’s a natural tendency to write letters from our perspective. After all, we understand our needs the best, and we naturally see the situation from our viewpoint. However, writing letters from your perspective will weaken your letter.
Your letter should strive to make a personal connection with the reader. Your writing should demonstrate that you have considered the situation from the reader’s point of view. When the readers feel that you understand their point of view, they are more likely to respond positively to your message.
You must develop an attitude that demonstrates to the reader that he or she is the most important person in the relationship. A letter that focuses on the reader has the following characteristics:
- Shows how the reader can benefit
- Describes the situation from the reader’s point of view
- Is tactful and considerate
- Demonstrates appreciation to the readers
- Offers readers the information they need to know
Focus on the reader You and not the writer I
As a client, do you think about what your purchase will do for the company? Not likely. When you make a purchase, you are only interested in how the purchase benefits you and not how the purchase benefits the company. Your letter should concentrate on what the reader wants or needs to know rather than what we, as the writers, need.
For example, if you receive a letter that is promoting next year’s car model, you want to hear how the new features of the latest model will benefit you. You don’t want to hear how these new features are going to improve the company’s reputation and lead to higher sales.
When writing a business message, you should aim to minimize any occurrences of I in your writing. It isn’t necessary to remove all instances of I or we. Just try to place more emphasis on you, the reader.
The sentence below focuses on the writer by using I.
‘I would like to inform you of the exciting new features that have been recently added to ZRD-Soft.’
By making a few small changes, the sentence below focuses more on the reader.
‘You can now benefit from the exciting new features that have recently been added to ZRD-Soft.’
When to avoid using You
In a negative letter, you should avoid using you if it suggests blame or if it criticizes the reader. You should focus on the solution to the problem rather than the cause of the problem.
Avoid any reference to the reader’s story or point of view that might indicate that you disagree with the reader’s interpretation. Always be fair and demonstrate this fairness along with an understanding of the reader in your choice of words.
The sentence below focuses on the reader by using you, but the sentence is very critical of the reader.
‘You were very rude to the client …’
The sentence below focuses on the solution to the problem and avoids offending the reader.
‘Company policy states that we must always speak to our clients in a courteous manner…’
Want to learn more about writing business letters?