Write A Strong Opening
Your first job in writing any letter is to gain your reader’s
attention. It’s an important principle of effective
writing to put the most important information first. Your
opening paragraph is both the headline and the lead for the
message that follows in the rest of the letter.
Don’t weigh down the front of your letter with boring
repetition of information that your reader already knows.
Many letters fail to start well because they follow the standard
paragraph of every business letter. Here are some typical
examples of openings in business letters
Thank you for your letter of 8th March 1998, which has been
passed to me for my attention.
I refer to previous correspondence in respect of the above
and note that to date we have not received your cheque for
the outstanding arrears.
I write with reference to our telephone conversation yesterday
regarding the above matter.
Starting with a reference to the incoming letter is weak
and wastes your reader's time. Most readers skip it, looking
to the second and third paragraphs to get the answer to their
questions. If you step right into your subject in the first
paragraph, you’ll show your reader you do not intend
to waste valuable time. So get rid of any opening reference
to the reader's letter and answer the most important question
or give the most relevant information in your first sentence.
Make your first paragraph do something other than just referring
to known information—so plunge straight into your message
and don’t waste your reader’s time. For example,
- answer a question
- ask a question
- explain an action taken
- express pleasure or regret
- give information
As the opening paragraph sets the tone for your letter, try
to avoid using tired phrases that are wordy, give little information
and create a formal and impersonal tone. Using the classic
business-speak opening of Further to... almost guarantees
the rest of the letter will be a typical, long-winded, standard
piece of business writing.
These opening phrases are so popular because we don’t
have to think of what to write. Watch out for standard phrases
in opening paragraphs. Examples are:
- Further to my recent
- I am writing
- I refer to my letter dated
- I refer to previous correspondence
- I write in reference to
- In respect of the above
- Recent correspondence
- With reference to
- With regards to
So be sure your opening paragraph sets the right tone for
your letter. Be direct and use your words positively so your
reader has a good impression from the beginning of your letter.
Decide what is the most important information—and put
it in the your first paragraph. Don’t be afraid to start
your letter strongly.