AMA Handbook of Business Letters
eBook - ePub

AMA Handbook of Business Letters

Jeffrey Seglin, Edward Coleman

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  1. 496 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

AMA Handbook of Business Letters

Jeffrey Seglin, Edward Coleman

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About This Book

Though the fundamentals of letter writing have remained the same, the way we communicate in business is constantly evolving. With the understanding that consistently professional correspondence is essential to success in any industry, The AMA Handbook of Business Letters offers readers a refresher course in letter-writing basics--including focusing the message, establishing an appropriate tone, and getting your readers' attention. You'll also receive tips that apply to all written forms of communication on things like salutations, subject lines, signatures, and formatting. Jeffrey Seglin, communications director and professor of Harvard University's graduate and professional school, and author Edward Coleman provide over 370 customizable model letters, divided into categories reflecting various aspects of business such as sales, marketing, public relations, customer service, human resources, credit and collection, purchasing, permissions, and confirmations.With helpful appendices listing common mistakes in grammar, word usage, and punctuation, the latest version of this adaptable book--extensively updated with more than 25 percent new material--will assist professionals through every conceivable business correspondence with confidence.

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The basics

All letters methinks, should be as free
and easy as one’s discourse,
not studied as an oration
. . . .
—Dorothy Osborne (Lady Temple), letter to Sir William Temple, October 1653
Successful professionals know the importance of effective letter writing. You can’t have a good business relationship with customers if they don’t know what you’re trying to tell them in a letter. The services or products of a company can’t be marketed if a prospective customer is baffled by the service or product described. How can a salesperson expect to make a sale when, because of a muddled letter, the prospect can’t even understand what it is that’s being sold?
Letter writing is crucial to the success of every professional. Without letter-writing skills, the professional’s effectiveness is stymied.

Approaching This Book

Our objective in The AMA Handbook of Business Letters is to help you write effective letters. Ineffective letters are a waste of time and money. This realization should be enough to convince every professional of the need to be a good letter writer. Letters may not seem like the crux of your business, but if you consider that effectively written letters can increase the quality of working relationships and the quantity of business you can attract, as well as decrease wasted hours and money, you can begin to see the importance of learning to write letters well.
You should be prepared to approach this book with one chief goal in mind—to learn how to write more effective letters. Remember, too, that although letter writing is not a simple skill, with practice you can become a good letter writer. Once you learn the basics and put them into practice, your letters will get better and begin to flow more easily.

Approach of This Book

Before you begin to write more effective letters, you must learn what makes up a good letter. The first part of this book takes you step-by-step through the basics of letter writing. You’ll learn the importance of planning a letter and gathering all the information you need. The plan is put into practice when you decide on the approach your letter will take and the components necessary to achieve the selected approach. The components of a letter are effective only if you know the proper mechanics involved in a letter’s structure and appearance. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and language usage are important if your letter is to be understood and well accepted by its reader. You needn’t fear an extensive course in grammar. What you’ll receive here are the fundamental “commonsense” rules of grammar, which are easily learned and should become natural not only to your letter writing, but to all of your other writing as well.
The second part of this book consists of more than 370 sample letters, divided into categories reflecting various aspects of business. Each chapter also contains brief analyses of the strong points of many of the sample letters. Most of the sample letters are based on actual letters written and used by professionals. Names of people or corporations have been changed, but the content remains essentially unaltered. The letters chosen serve as models for ones you may have to write in your everyday business life. You can adapt them to meet your needs or use them as a touchstone to aim toward in your letter writing.
The appendixes to this book consist of helpful lists and rules to refer to in your letter writing.
As with all things, perfection can be reached only with practice. If you apply the basics learned in the first part of The AMA Handbook of Business Letters, and study the examples presented in the second, your letter-writing skills will improve greatly. The end result will be a letter that makes your readers think that what took much thought and planning on your part flowed as smoothly and effortlessly as discourse.


Planning the letter

Planning is a key factor in the accomplishment of any goal. Letter writing is no exception. To successfully construct a clear, effective letter, you need a good plan.
Some letters do not require as elaborate a plan as others. A letter to a customer detailing a proposal for a product purchase will obviously need a more elaborate plan than a thank-you note for a business lunch.
Common sense can usually dictate how elaborate your plan needs to be. If the information you need to present in a letter is limited enough for you to outline it in your head, there is no real need for a detailed outline featuring Roman numeral headings and sub-points beneath sub-points. The elaborateness of your plan should suit the elaborateness of the letter to be written.
Of course, if you, as a letter writer, are more comfortable constructing a detailed outline for each of your letters, there’s nothing wrong with following that procedure. With enough practice, however, the simpler letters should flow more easily, and the time you might have spent laboring over outline after outline can be directed to other areas of your business.
The following three steps are essential in the planning of any letter:
1. Researching the facts
2. Analyzing the subject and reader
3. Knowing your objectives and how to accomplish them
If you follow these steps as you are planning to write any letter, you should find that your letters will be clear and well received, and will achieve your desired goal.

Researching the Facts

Before you write a letter, it makes sense to know what you plan to talk about. If you wing it and write whatever comes into your head, chances are you’ll end up with a confused, ineffective letter.
Get the facts together before you write anything resembling a first draft of a letter. For example, if you are corresponding with a customer, examine all previous correspondence with him or her. Depending upon the volume of this correspondence, and assuming the customer to be a fairly good letter writer, you can learn a good deal about the personality, interests, and values of the person to whom you are writing.
As you examine previous correspondence, jot down a note or two about some key traits you discover about this customer. For example, you have gone through your correspondence file for a potential customer named Sam Johnson. From what he has written you realize the following things about him. He:
Is committed to existing business relationships.
Places importance on a personal relationship between the professional and the customer.
Often suggests ideas for improving business practices and professional/customer relationships.
Has a strong interest in reducing costs.
After jotting down this information, try to visualize the person to whom you are writing. You know something about the customer’s interests. To learn more, you might examine the file on business dealings with the customer. If you learn as much as possible about your reader, you’ll find it easier to write a letter directed to him or her.
After you have collected some facts on your customer, you should direct your attention to the topic or topics to be covered in the letter. The simplest and ultimately most effective thing to do is to take a piece of paper and write down those topics you plan to cover. Under each topic you might write some examples or a few words recalling a discussion you might have had with your customer about it.
Let’s stick with the example of potential customer Sam Johnson. You’ve already had a business meeting with Mr. Johnson and you want to write a follow-up letter. You already know something about his personality fr...

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