Letter writing is essential in business communications, though many of us – even the brightest and most able - can often have trouble with the written word. In fact, some of us would rather go toe to toe with a Powerhouse Wrestler than attempt to write a professional, well written letter or email.
Letter writing is of noble ancestry and has been a major way of communicating for thousands of years. In today’s world, emails have largely replaced informal letters but still remain an important part of all business correspondence.
90% of all business communication is through letters and emails, though nowadays letters have become known as snail-mail compared to email which is delivered in seconds, which has revolutionised the way we do business.
However, hand delivered letters still have their place in modern business and having a professionally written correspondence is a powerful instrument in today’s corporate world.
Letters rather than emails can often be necessary when you need to show that you mean business. Filing for compensation or putting red lettering on an email just isn’t enough compared to a typed and signed letter, where you lay out your argument and demand some kind of action.
There are several ways of constructing your letter depending on your target recipient. Some are personable while business letters tend to follow a more formal guideline.
Commercial correspondence should always use a polite and businesslike vernacular. Even in today's evolving business environment people send emails cluttered with slang and unnecessary information that sends out a really bad message - literally!
The majority of business letters follow a similar format with their content and style, including a professional greeting or salutation. Following specific guidelines for your content will introduce your point and build your case quickly and as concisely as possible.
A well-formatted letter conveys an immediate sense of professionalism to your reader, particularly if it is printed on quality paper and folded neatly, letting the recipient know that you took the time to craft it carefully, even before the person reads the content.
When typed on official letter-headed paper, they create a visual impact that invites readership and establishes the integrity of your message. This is achieved not just with graphics however, but how the letter is written and constructed through the use of paragraphing and spacing - giving it a professional edge.
A good business letter must carry the message of your organisation to your customers, employees or suppliers, ensuring that there are no misunderstandings or confusions that could result in disputes, while providing a physical record of your correspondence and clearly spelling out the terms of your professional encounter, so both parties fully understand the business at hand.
It’s shocking how many professional companies send out poorly written emails that struggle to make a point, with every email sent from your company reflecting directly on your business - after all a professional image is important to your business’s success.
For the most part, an email should be composed in the same way you would a letter, though emails tend to be a little less formal. However, this is no excuse for bad composition or the use of slang. It is still a company document and should always begin with a greeting or salutation, taking into consideration the proper use of paragraphs, spacing and a suitable valediction.
Emails that get to the point quickly are very effective, especially as time is money and most busy professionals don’t
have the time to read poorly worded emails. Making sure you use a meaningful subject line is much more likely to be opened quickly.
Email response within 24 hours or, even better, the same working day is good email etiquette and shows you are an easy business to contact.
Email in business is an inexpensive way of communicating with colleagues and customers quickly across large distances.
Depending on the type of message you are trying to send, sometimes a hand delivered letter is more appropriate.
No matter how big or small your company is, being able to implement email allows for better customisation of your business, as well as greater employee interactions.