Before starting this article let me define a term used throughout the article. Remington Raider: This is a term used in the military to define the support personnel, those using a typewriter to do their job. The manual typewriter brand that was used was “Remington”, thus the term “Remington Raider”. I use the term to define anyone not making their living by the sweat of their brow…like insurance agents….
Since I started my Remington Raider training there have been tremendous changes in the technology of communication. The most advanced technology I had access to was an IBM selective typewriter. There were no word processors, computers, FAX machines or email.
Not only has the technology of communication changed so have the roles of executives and their assistants. No longer can our inadequate communication skills be hidden behind our secretaries. The secretary has been replaced by administrative assistants and email makes communication instant. The business executive is forced to write his or her own communications (thank God for spelling and grammar check).
When I first started my business career I didn’t have access to any means of communication except the telephone; no typewriter, FAX machine or email. I had a choice of dictating letters to the secretary or hand writing the letter or memo and having the secretary type it for me. It was always my choice to hand write the letter which gave me a chance to review and edit before having it typed.
Although technology has changed, the essential elements of good business communication have not changed. Following are the seven “C’s” of a good business letter:
- Have you given all the facts?
- Have you covered the essentials?
- Have you answered all his/her questions?
- Did you PLAN what you said?
- Will it win good will?
- Have you used positive, “pleasant-toned” words?
- Have you used “I appreciate,” “please”, and “thank you” somewhere in your message?
- Would you enjoy reading what you have said?
- CONSIDERATE: The YOU-Attitude
- Have you put the client first?
- Have you floodlighted his/her interests?
- Have you walked in his/her moccasins?
- Have you talked his/her language?
- Have you used familiar words, short sentences?
- Have you presented only one idea in each sentence?
- Have you avoided “business” and technical terms?
- Have you used the reader’s language?
- Have you plunged right into the subject of the message?
- Have you avoided rehashing the reader’s letter?
- Have you said enough, but just enough?
- Have you avoided needless “filler” words and phrase?
- Have you given the crisp details the client needs?
- Have you made the details razor and needle-sharp?
- Have you flashed word pictures, made facts vivid?
- Have you checked all facts for correctness?
- Have you spelled the reader’s name correctly?
- Have you verified all numbers and amounts?
- Is the appearance of the letter effective? Is it clean, well-spaced?
- Have you checked your spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.?
The chief art in writing is to know:
- How much to put in.
- What to leave out.
- When to quit.
The test is this: Will your inclusion of the material make it easier to understand? Will it help the message achieve its purpose? No letter is too long if a reading proves every word necessary.
From the time I served as a “Remington Raider” in the army to the present day it has been part of my job to write letters or memos to be sent out to hundreds of recipients. It didn’t take me long to learn if the communications didn’t follow the seven “C’s” there would be confusion and a lot of calls for clarification.
One thing I always remember when writing a business letter is most people are not going to read beyond the first paragraph, so it is important to have the purpose of the letter in the first paragraph. When we send out cancellation letters we don’t take the chance they might not read even the first paragraph. In all capital letters above the first paragraph we type in bold letters “NOTICE OF CANCELLATION OF SERVICES”.
After the first paragraph is the time to explain the why, when, actions needed and so forth. At times it might seem harsh not to explain the reasons for your action prior to getting on with the purpose of the letter. I remember receiving a memo at a company I worked for that informed everyone of the closing of our Reno warehouse. It was the third paragraph before they actually acknowledged the warehouse was closing. The first two paragraphs were filled with reasons for the closing – sales not meeting projections, need to cut expenses, etc.
Poorly written letters not only decrease the confidence clients have in your business, but can also cause confusion and potential liability.
A final thought about writing (letters or anything else) edit… edit… edit….