Business Letters

The Right Tone

When you write a business letter, it’s important to use a tone that is friendly but efficient. Readers want to know there’s someone at the other end of the letter who is taking notice and showing interest in their concerns. Try to sound—and be—helpful and friendly.

To do this, write as you would speak and talk on paper. This doesn't mean you should use slang, bad grammar or poor English, but try to aim for a conversational style and let the reader hear your voice.

Imagine that your reader is sitting opposite you at your desk or is on the telephone. You’d be unlikely to say “please be advised” or “I wish to inform you”; instead you’d be more informal and say, “I’d like to explain” or “Let me explain” or use other everyday expressions.

Here are some ways to change your writing style to a conversational style.

Use Contractions

Using contractions such as it's, doesn't, I'm, you're, we're, they're, isn't, here's, that's, we'll gives a personal and human feel to your writing.

If there are no contractions in your writing, put some in. You don't have to use contractions at every opportunity. Sometimes writing do not comes more naturally than don't. When you speak, you probably use a combination of these styles—try to reflect this in your writing.

Use Personal References

Use words such as I, we, you, your, my, and our in your writing. Don't be afraid to identify yourself—it makes writing much more readable. This is a useful trick to make writing look and sound more like face-to-face talk.

Using I, we and you also helps you to avoid using passive verbs. It makes your style more direct and clear.

So instead of writing:
Our address records have been amended ...

We’ve changed your address in our records ...

Instead of writing:
The company policy is ...

Our policy is ...

Using active verbs with personal references is a quick and dramatic way to make your writing readable and more direct.

Use Direct Questions

Direct questions are an essential part of the spoken language. Using them gives your writing much more impact and is a common technique in marketing and advertising material. Marketing people use this technique to put information across clearly and to give their writing impact.

In much business writing, we hide questions in our writing by using words such as whether to introduce them. Look for these in your writing and change them into direct questions. For example:

Original:We would appreciate your advising us whether you want to continue this account or transfer it.
Redraft:Do you want to continue your account or transfer it?

Original:Please inform us whether payment against these receipts will be in order.
Redraft:Can we pay against these receipts?

Apart from making your style more conversational, direct questions liven up your writing—it’s as though you change the pitch in your voice. There’s nothing like a direct question to get some reaction from your reader and to give your writing impact.