Letter-how-to.  Learning the basics!

The letter-how-to.  So challenging you think, but it can be oh-so-easy!  Here's a basic Letter-How-To.  Learning to write with just the basics  - and you'll be an expert!

Letter-how to.  Get a start.

Think of the letter in the most basic terms.  Three short paragraphs. 

  • A short opening - perhaps consider it an introduction.  No details here.  Just lead into the main body.
  • The middle with the details.  But keep it short.
  • The closing short paragraph - and keep the details out of this paragraph as well. 

Three short paragraphs.  Or three short sections.  The middle may have more than one paragraph, but the paragraphs will be short.

  • The best idea is to have your letter on one page only - if you can.
  • Write in Times New Roman 12-point font for best results.
  • Keep the margins consistent

Ideally, the margins should be the following:

  • 1.0 inch at the top and bottom
  • 1.25 inches at the left and right

The paragraph should be short - about two sentences.  Write directly to the reader.  A short sentence.  Use active voice.  Avoid empty phrases like the purpose of this letter is...  OR  I am writing to you to let you know that ...

Those phrases just take up too many words and add nothing to the content.  Make every word count.

Decide the purpose of the letter and get right into that purpose.

Something is not working as it should be and you want to complain.

The letter-how-to would recommend an opening like

  • The widget that I bought on February 1 is not working.

Now how much simpler can that be? 

Then, the second sentence of that opening - remember no long-winded details - will ask for some action.  What do you want the reader to do?

  • Please provide me with a new working unit or provide me with a complete refund. 

That's a very good short opening paragraph.

Or you have some question you want to ask.  Get right into that - with a polite request format.

The letter-how-to would recommend an opening like:

  • Please send me information on ...

If you are asking someone to do something for you, it's always nice to provide a compliment at the beginning.  (Actually, if you are asking someone, it's likely that you enjoy the service or have heard good things about the service - so the compliment is a very sincere one.)

  • Please send me information on....  Many of my friends have give your company excellent reviews.

And that above would be the entire first - opening - short paragraph.  Nothing more.  All the details will be in the middle of the letter.  Again - in short paragraphs.

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Letter-how-to.  The middle of the letter - the details

The middle of the letter provides the reader with the details. 

If it's a complaint, you have to tell what's wrong so that the reader is convinced.

If it is a question, then provide the question - or questions - in a bulleted-list format if you can.  Use very short points in your list to make them very easy to read and understand.  Always write for the reader's benefit.

If you provide a list, use a short introductory statement before the list and leave a blank line before the list. 

Always leave one blank line between paragraphs in your letter.  That point is so important!

Letter-how-to.  The closing short paragraph

After the middle of the letter, you will have the closing.  The short closing paragraph.  Try for two sentences if you can.

Begin with a direct request for action.

  • Please contact me at ... to

Finish up with a short goodwill comment that highlights benefits to your reader.

  • Please contact me at ... to ...  I look forward to ...

The rest of each sentence above depends on the situation.  What do you want to do for the reader?

Do you want to assist the reader? 

  • Please contact me at ... if I can assist you.  I look forward to ...

Do you want to solve a problem for your reader?

  • Please contact me at ... to let me know how you can make this situation right.

Do you want your reader to assist you?

  • Please contact me to let me know how you can help me.

If you follow this template and always begin the closing paragraph with a direct request for action (and provide the way in which the reader can contact you), your closing paragraphs will be very professional and complete!

Now, once you master the guidelines above and begin to write professional business letters and get to feeling comfortable with the letter-know-how, then you can branch out a bit and begin using your own phrasing. 

However, don't stray far.  Keep this template in mind for success!

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