Consulting an expert within a field gives you the chance to benefit from her years of experience and likely skill. While you may not have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with an expert in your particular occupation or area of interest, you may be able to contact them via letter and ask for advice. To increase the chances that your letter is met with a response, take care when composing your correspondence, creating one that is clear and professional.
Select an expert. Choose someone who is a leader in the industry about which you are trying to obtain knowledge, but also someone who is accessible. This may mean selecting an expert who has not yet attained notoriety as this person may be easier to get into contact with than a more famous individual.
Open with a salutation. Start your letter with a polite “Dear” followed by the individual’s full name. Use a title such as "Mr." or "Ms." to add formality to your salutation.
Introduce yourself and explain your reason for writing briefly in the introduction. Keep this section short, only telling the expert the most basic information about yourself. Avoid rambling in this paragraph at all costs, as an overly long introductory paragraph could completely turn off your reader and cause her to set down the letter.
Pose specific questions in the second paragraph; come right out and say what you want. By posing specific questions instead of more general ones, you can ensure that the information you receive in response is specifically what you were looking for.
Conclude by expressing your gratitude. Concisely tell the letter recipient how much you appreciate him taking the time to reply to your correspondence, potentially increasing the chances that he chooses to do so.
Provide contact information. Don’t depend on your recipient to look at the envelope's return address for your contact information, but instead give it to her directly, putting your address along with your email and phone number on the letter itself.
Add an appropriate closing and sign your name. Use a common “Sincerely” or “Yours Truly” as these are quite appropriate for people with whom you don’t have a pre-existing relationship.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.