I mean the old-fashioned letter with a date, inside address, a salutation, body of the letter, closing and signature. What passes as a “business” letter in email is really nothing more than some phrases and short-cuts like BTW (by the way) TTYL (talk to you later). Emails are piling up in our mailboxes. Half of them we delete without even reading them. I wonder how much impact these emails are having and whether an honest-to-goodness formal letter might actually cut through the clutter.
Now you would think it’s easy to write a letter. I accept that the new style of writing is informal (credit the Internet) and most often your letter will be read in an email. People nowadays want to get information in short takes. So the new rules of letter writing are:
• Get to the point quickly. What is the purpose of the letter? To inform, to educate, to sell something? Tell the reader upfront. Be sure to use complete sentences that make sense – you know, the old-fashioned subject, verb, object construction still has something going for it.
• Include supporting facts if you want the reader to do something.
• Summarize the action you want to the reader to take.
• Include the timing of next steps. Are you going to do something for the reader or do you expect the reader to do something for you? By when? It takes time to write a compelling short letter. As the philosopher and writer Blaise Pascal famously said, “I made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short.”