Effective business letters are an important tool in the arsenal of every businessperson. Whether intended to sell a product or service, or simply to introduce the writer himself, an effective business letter must have a few basic characteristics to get a reader to respond favorably. The letter must call the recipient to action and convince him to do what the writer desires. All effective business letters have certain qualities in common.
An effective business letter has all of the information a reader needs to act appropriately. The letter states clearly who the letter is from and where and how to respond. It states what the letter is about, when action needs to be taken, where that action should be taken and why action should be taken now. The business letter is full of information and leaves nothing out. It has a clear call to action and tells the recipient how to perform that action.
The effective business letter is not flowery or ornate. It is spare and to the point. There are no wasted words. The language is concise in its delivery so that the reader is left with only the information needed. A business letter is not a place to show off big words or poetry. Effective business letters are short and to the point.
Benefits, Not Features
Effective business letters focus on the benefits for the recipient, not the features of the product or information. It answers the question for the reader: "What's in it for me?" A business letter takes into consideration the time constraints put on the reader and the needs that reader is bringing to the table. It caters to them, making it easy for the reader to take the desired action. Business letters focus on how the letter writer can help the reader, not why the reader should help the writer.
Use specific language when writing business letters. Tell readers exactly what they can expect from products, services or businesses. Do not use vague language that may leave them guessing. Use examples, if necessary, to further clarify language to make the business letter clear to the reader. If a promise is made in a letter, be sure that the business can back it up. Also, use action verbs instead of passive verbs to give your sentences strength.
Avoid using jargon unless absolutely necessary in an effort to communicate clearly. It is important to clarify exactly what the letter is offering and what the letter is asking the reader to do. If not, the reader may not take the action requested, and the letter will not be effective. Use clear, strong language to emphasize what the reader should do after reading the business letter. Short sentences with strong, actionable verbs are recommended to encourage the reader to act.
Be sure to follow proper etiquette in business letters. Make sure to find out the correct name and spelling of the person who will be receiving the letter. Address them appropriately. Respond to all letters that require a return reply. By following proper etiquette, a businessperson shows that he has proper respect for the person he is writing to. That respect can go a long way towards making the reader of the letter take up the call to action.
From the formatting of the letter to the appropriateness of the receiver, a business letter must hit many correct notes to be effective. Be sure that it is sent to the correct person, in the correct department, at the correct company. Be sure that the letter is going to the correct person to take the action that the letter asks him to take. Read over the letter and judge whether or not the language is correct for the person you are sending it to -- neither too formal nor informal. When ready to send it out, double check the formatting one last time for errors.