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  Writing for Business and Pleasure
  Copyright 2010 by
Stephen Wilbers

First published July 13, 2001

 Use correspondence to build relationships

by Stephen Wilbers

Can you identify the problems in the following excerpts from business correspondence?

“Your letter of July 13, 2001, is acknowledged.”

“As per your request, the above-referenced proposal has been forwarded to the below-listed parties.”

“Should you have any questions, please contact me.”

“Please accept our thanks to each of you for your help in making our conference a success.”

“The network of computer programs are operating according to specifications.”

The problem in the first three sentences is word choice. The language is bureaucratic rather than personal and natural.

Sentence four refers to the reader as a member of a group rather than as an individual. And sentence five is grammatically incorrect. The singular subject network should take a singular verb: “The network of computer program is . . .”

Here are some tips for avoiding these problems and for creating effective business correspondence:

■Open and close with goodwill statements.

Thank you almost always is a good opening. Rather than “Your letter of July 20, 2001, is acknowledged,” write “Thank you for your letter of July 20, 2001.”

Rather than conclude with the standard “Please call me if you have any questions,” add another sentence affirming your relationship with your reader, such as “We appreciate your business” or “I look forward to working with you on this project.”

■Write in a personal style with natural word choice.

Avoid bureaucratic language, especially in openings and closings. Rather than “As per your request, the above-referenced proposal has been forwarded to the below-listed parties,” write “As you requested, our proposal for reducing emissions has been forwarded to the following people.” Rather than “Enclosed please find,” write “I am enclosing,” or simply “Here are” or “Here is.”

In your closings, rather than “Please contact me,” write “Please call me.” Rather than “Should you have any questions,” write “If you have any questions.”

■Refer to the reader in the singular.

Refer to your reader as an individual rather than as a member of a group or as one of many people. The most effective correspondence suggests a one-on-one relationship, even when the message is being sent to multiple readers. Avoid expressions such as each of you, some of you, and many of you. In customer-relations letters, there’s no such thing as a plural you.

Rather than “Please accept our thanks to each of you for your help in making our conference a success,” write “Thank you for your help in making our conference a success.” Rather than “Early retirement may be a good alternative for some of you,” write “Early retirement may a good alternative for you” or “You may want to consider early retirement as an alternative.”

■Recognize the reader’s point of view.

Use your reader’s name when it seems natural to do so (but don’t overdo it). Appeal to your reader’s interests and concerns. Present your information in terms of how it will benefit your reader.

Rather than “Enclosed please find our brochure,” write “The enclosed brochure will tell you everything you need to know about ridding the workplace of annoying pests.”

■Be accommodating.

Take a problem-solving approach. For every problem, suggest a solution. Offer to do something that will benefit or will be convenient for your reader. Close by offering to take the next step. Rather than “Please call me if you have any questions,” write “I’ll call you Monday to see you if you have any questions.”

■Be professional.

Be certain that all information is accurate, including figures, dates, dollar amounts, and the spelling of names. Follow standard rules of grammar, usage, and punctuation, including pronoun-noun agreement, subject-verb agreement, appropriate verb tense, pronoun case, possessive forms, parallel construction, and comma placement. And finally, proofread to eliminate any typographical errrors – if you sea what I mean.