29 June 2010


Letter Writing
* To understand what makes an effective letter
* To gain an overview of the types of letters and the steps involved in the letter writing process
In any business organisation, a letter is a powerful medium of communication. Any letter can be said to serve two functions: that of a messenger and that of an ambassador. Just as a messenger carries a message, a letter is essentially a means of conveying information and just as an ambassador acts as a representative of one country in another country, a business letter that is sent to a particular company represents the company that sent it. A well-written letter creates a good impression of the company and the sender while a poorly written letter creates an unfavourable impression.
1. An Effective Letter
As with all kinds of communication, letters are written to achieve specific objectives. A letter is effective when it achieves the writer’s objectives. However, for the writer’s objectives to be achieved, the reader must react positively to the letter. So, an effective letter can be said to be one where the reader reacts positively to the writer’s goals. As such, it is very important that you take into consideration the reader’s perspective when you write letters.
2. Types of Letters
Broadly speaking, there are two types of letters:
Those addressed to people outside one’s organisation.
Those addressed to people within one’s organisation, often referred to as memos.
Apart from a difference in audience, the other real difference between the two is in format. In terms of length, both can be long or short depending on the complexity of the situation and shared information between the writer and the reader. In terms of formality, both can be formal or informal depending on the context, the subject of the message and the writer-reader relationship. In the series of handouts on letter writing, the word ‘letter’ is used as a generic term to refer to all types of business correspondence that includes letters, memos, and even emails. It is only in the discussion of format that a distinction is made between these three types of correspondence.
3. The Letter Writing Process
The letter writing process will usually involve the following four stages:
This involves developing an accurate understanding of the situation/problem, identifying the objective of the letter, and analysing your reader(s).
This involves selecting relevant content and outlining the specific pieces of content in a way that would effectively achieve your writing objective, meet the needs of your reader(s) and address their concerns.
This involves expanding the outline into full sentences and full paragraphs, making sure that attention is paid to style and tone and strategies to enhance the persuasive effect of your letter.
This involves assessing the overall effectiveness of your message by reviewing its content and structure, the appropriateness of its style and tone, and its conformity with standard business letter format. Necessary revisions are then made based on this objective assessment of your message.