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Getting our letter writing right

headshot2013One of the disappointing things that continue to let businesses down is their inability to write good business letters and emails. This is can be because a whole swathe of us never learned grammar at school and partly because most business managers assume people know how to write in a business-like way and leave them to their own devices.

When we write to customers to tell them about our quality products the letter needs to reflect that quality and yet many do not. I remember being shocked and surprised to get a letter from my son’s school written, amazingly, by the Head of English, which broke almost every rule in the book. And as a result, I moved my son to another school.

So why letters?  I heard on the radio this week that letters written on good paper still have a gravitas that emails can never achieve.  Letters get taken more seriously and cannot be accidently deleted before being read.


It is not difficult to write clearly and concisely. A well constructed and easy to understand letter can be achieved by following some simple guidelines.

First be clear why you are writing – your objective or purpose should always be at the front of your mind to stop you going off at a tangent.

Your letter should be divided into three main sections.

The opening paragraph describes the situation and puts the message into context by introducing the topic or referring to what has happened so far.

The middle paragraph allows you to develop the message. Here is the main body of the letter in which information is set out clearly and logically.

The closing paragraph covers action to be extended or is required from the customer, together with a courteous final statement.

Remember then to:

Write in short sentences no more than 10/15 words maximum.

Each paragraph should contain a minimum of two sentences.

Each new topic introduced requires a separate paragraph

Before sending your letter, it should be proofread by either yourself which is often tricky if you have been working on it for some time or by a colleague who can see the spelling or typo mistakes and to help to spot punctuation problems.

jo smythe

The most obvious mistakes are the misuse of apostrophes and choosing whether to use that or which, not to mention who. The easiest to spot are the errors caused by an over-reliance on spellchecker that cannot know when you mean for example ‘their or there,’ ‘from or for’ or indeed ‘right or write!’

It is not difficult to write well once you understand the rules, and it tells your customers that you care about your brand and your reputation for quality.

Charlotte Mannion

reportcover (3)Report Writing Made Easy contains lots of advice on writing accuartely, briefly and clearly.

Business Letters & Emails Made Easy coming soon both as elearning module and eBook.  Email me for more details at charlotte@quicklearn.co.uk




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