Notes on Writing Formal Business Letters and Emails

In a few posts, I’m doing a write-up of my notes following a Lynda course. This course is less than 40 min, but I thought it had some good tips, shown below.

 

Define Your Goals
  • First a short-term goal (or want), then the longer term goal.
  • Short-term goal is something you want someone to do right away. Action items; “Call me at…”
  • Long-term goal is what you want them to do for a bigger purpose. “I’m looking for help on….”
Research
  • Researching your topic: For instance, if replying to a job description use the language in the job post in your correspondence.
  • Researching your correspondent: Maybe you can find someone specific to send your correspondence to by searching for people on LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. When reaching out, “My research shows you’re the best person to contact. If not…”.
For Tone

The presenter suggested using a website like bab.la for phrases, especially in other languages.

Getting to the Point
  • Put the goal up front
  • Remove confusing details
  • Rearrange and check punctuation
  • Cut out unnecessary words
Phrasal Verbs vs Direct Verbs; Idioms
  • Be direct. The second phrases below are indirect and passive:
    • “I analyzed…” vs “I looked over…”
    • “I hope to…” vs “I had been hoping…”
  • Idioms: Just write it out. Idioms can be misunderstood or misinterpreted.
Follow-Up: TAP – Timeline, Alternatives, Peskiness
  • Timeline: Do you need to follow up because you need an answer?
  • Alternatives: Can you get this info from another source?
  • Peskiness: What will be the downside of following up?

Remember: Don’t assume malice or argue.

Here’s an example: I’m afraid I didn’t get a response to our letter on June 15 about booth space. A prompt reply would be appreciated as we are trying to finalize our travel arrangements. Thank you.

Rule of Thumb for Following Up
  • Don’t follow through using multiple venues. Don’t follow up through email, phone, LinkedIn, etc.
  • If you send an email and get no reply, it’s OK to ask via one other outlet if someone got your email. But don’t bombard them on LinkedIn and Twitter and phone, etc.
  • This was a tip for me, because I had been thinking the more the better!
Continuing the Conversation
  • Keep note of other email addresses, and other people in a CC.
  • People can be generous, if they’re asked. Just be polite.
3 Takeaways
  • Be concise
  • Cooperate
  • There’s a person on the other end
Final Tip

If you ever find yourself stuck with what to say, try recording yourself speaking then transcribing your message.

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