The best writers are masters of clarity and brevity. They understand the value of choosing exactly the right work, and making their points in an orderly and persuasive manner. So be natural. Write as you talk. Imagine the person as sitting in front of you. What would you say to him or her ? Use simple words; not ‘In reference to your esteemed letter’, “I acknowledge receipt of your letter and beg to thank you for the same.” Rather: “Thank you for you letter of ….” should be enough. The simplest way to say it is the best in business writing.
Make your letter look attractive. Neat, with paragraphing that makes it easy to read. Sometimes subheadings, e.g, Material: Costs: Delivery Time:, can make reading easier. The ability to communicate is the prime requisite of a promotable executive. The higher a person’s professional goals, the better writing skills he or she will need. Skillful business gives you a definite competitive advantage.
In letter writing, as in all writing, there are two fundamental steps’; (1) “Exactly what to I wish to say” and (2) “In what order”
First, state in the simplest way possible the basic elements of your message. Example (1) We no longer produce A; (2) We produce product B which does all product A ever could and more; (3) Product B costs five percent more but is immediately available.
Next, determine the order of the ideas. Most business letters have a major idea and minor idea. Which will you put first ? The major idea or the minor ? The order depends on the excepted reaction of the reader. A read will react in one of the following way.
|Reaction||Type of Message|
|Pleased||Letters that say “Yes” (letters of promotion, admission, permission, award and the like)|
|Displeased||Letters that say “No” (request denials, regret letters, permission refused and the like)|
|Neither pleased no displeased||Other letters that call for action, information, reservation, purchase and the like.|
Briefly, you can say this :
A. In ‘Yes’ letters, put the main idea (good news) first, follow with the details, end on a pleasant note.
B In ‘No’ letters, put a neutral idea first, then the reasons, then the bad news in tactful terms, end on a pleasant note. Putting the ‘No’ first would tend to close the reader’s mind to the force of the reasons. So reasons before ‘No’, not ‘No’ before reasons.
C In other letters, follow the PPRA formula (Purpose, Position, Reasons, Action)
When you’ve finished, go through the letter gain checking for tone, clarity and adequacy of the contents.
Letters Calling for Action
Letters that say neither ‘Yes’ nor ‘No’ but call for information or action require a different framework. Here is a framework that many have found useful: PPRA
P. State purpose of letter, identify yourself, show your connection with the subject – Purpose
Second Paragraph :
P Summarize your opinion on the matter. Position
Third, Fourth, etc:
R Set forth your arguments, one point per paragraph; that is, each paragraph should have one reason or point only.
A Set forth the action, outcome, changes or improvement you favor. This is ‘the bottom line’.
Business letters are not neutral. Each letter you write creates either a favorable or an unfavorable image of your organisation and yourself. Each letter you write induces either cooperation or resistance. Each letter you write, one might add, either enhances or reduces your prospect of promotion. The letters you write then are not, as it were, non-aligned. They tilt the reader one way or the other.
Facts speak loudest. Emotional outburst are self-defeating. Present criticism in constructive manner, preferable suggesting a concrete alternatives.
For action letters, then remember the framework: Purpose, Position, Reason(s),Action.
Sample Business letter
As General Secretary of the Jamshedpur Contract Labor Workers’ Union, I write to you this morning in connection with the implementation of the Minimum Wages Act as applied to house construction workers, employed by the four contractors in charge of the construction of the new colony at Shantinagar.
I would like to call to your attention two violations of the Minimum Wages Act that are currently obtaining with regard to workers engaged in these building operations. I have brought these infringements to the attention of the contractors but they have taken no remedial action.
The first violation is the failure of the contractors in questions to pay their workmen ‘seven days pay for six days’ work. These workers are not receiving pay for their off day as the Act entails (Section 13B) .
The second violation is that of failure to compensate workmen for overtime (Section 14). The four contractors in charge of the construction are keeping their workmen 30-45 minutes overtime every day and yet this extra work is not compensated in their pay packet.
Consequently, I would ask that, as quickly as possible, you inspect the area and check to see whether the situation is as indicated or not, and that upon verification these contractors are be made:
- to discontinues this practice
- to reimburse the illegally withheld wages, as well as
- to pay appropriate compensation for the hardship sustained by the workers dues to infringement of their rights under the Act.
Writing Persuasive Messages
Here’s a formula that is helpful for persuasive messages, letters that are meant to induce action. Notice the next sales letter you receive. It very likely will follow the AIDA formula.
I – Interest
1. Attention :
Begin every persuasive message with an attention getting statement that is personalized, you-oriented, relevant and not extravagant. This can be a provocative headline, or questions, a testimonial from a credible person, a starling incident or statistic, a statement that makes the reader feel unique or special, or one that identifies a need. Think of the kinds of headlines in a newspaper that are most likely to catch your eye and get you to read. Imitate those.
Continue the opening theme in greater detail, enumerate the related benefits. Stress problems and show how your product or service solves the problem. A good salesperson doesn’t sell product but solutions to problems.
The point is to get the reader to think; ‘I really need this’. Present relevant evidence to prove your claim. Draw attention to any enclosures. Specific facts are required in this part.
The ending should suggest a specific but reasonable action step the audience may take. Make the action step as easy as possible. Close by describing precisely what you like to happen, and restate how the audience will benefit by acting as you wish. Readers must be convinced to take specific steps or purchase the product. Use inducement: positive (savings) and negative (deadlines, limited, availability).
AIDA and the ‘You Attitude’
A ‘you attitude’ is a writing style that focuses on the reader rather than on the writer. In persuasive message, use the ‘you attitude’, not an ‘I’ or ‘We’ attitude. The latter may suggested a disinterest in the reader. In that case the message tells what the writer wants and the reader is expected to go along with it. If you want to get your message across, you have to adopt the ‘you attitude’, that is, talk in terms of your receiver’s needs, hopes, interests and preferences. If you talk about the other person, you are sure to talk of something that interests him or her.
Here are some examples:
So that your application can be processed promptly, please send us another copy of your bio-data. – Yes
We are pleased to announce our new daily flight scheduled from Bhubaneswar to Delhi. – No
Now you can fly from Bhubaneswar to Delhi every day. – Yes
We offer motorcycles in three color : red, back and blue. – No
Take your pick of motorcycles in three colors : back, red and blue. – Yes
Take your pick of motorcycles in three colors : back, red and blue. No
In your efforts to improve productivity within your department, you need software that offers multiple user capabilities. – Yes
We wish to remind you that your invoice should accompany the shipment. – NO
Sending your invoice with the shipment means quick receipt of your payment. – Yes
We are now offering a course in ORACLE for office-goers. – No
Improve your promo ability by learning ORACLE. – Yes
“Knowing your product and knowing the market is no longer enough today ”, says a prominent sales communication consultant. “Salespersons must sharpen their communication skills. Getting a meaningful and memorable message through to customers and prospects is one of the hardest challenges facing salespeople.” This is true, not only for salespersons but for all with an idea to sell. Remember the ‘you attitude’.