Business Letters

Keep To The Point

When you write a business letter, you must try not to waste your reader's time. The first step in any writing task is to set down your aim. Ask yourself, Why am I writing? and What do I want to achieve? The clearer you are in your own mind about what you want to achieve, the better your letter. These questions help you focus on the information that supports your central aim, and to cut information that's irrelevant. By doing this, you'll find you keep to the subject and perhaps write a document that is a third shorter than you would otherwise draft.

People read to find out information. You can write the clearest letter or report, but if it doesn't say anything worth knowing, it's a useless document. You have to learn to present the most relevant information for your readers' needs. Then having said what you need to say—stop.

The more specific information you give, the better. You need to be ruthless in cutting out the padding most of us put into letters. It just wastes readers' time and clouds your message.

To help you to keep to the point of your letter, you can draw up an outline to plan your letter. Follow these steps:

  • Make a list of the topics you want to cover but don't worry about the order.
  • Under each topic, list key words, examples, arguments and facts.
  • Review each topic in your outline for relevance to your aim and audience.
  • Cut out anything that's not relevant to your aim or audience.
  • Sort the information into the best order for your readers.

You don’t have to stick rigidly to your business letter plan as it may change if you discover new information. It should help you shape your thinking but not be a straitjacket. Let your outline focus your thinking to make your writing coherent.

The advantage of spending a little time setting out a plan is that it not only helps the reader, it also helps you write. By breaking down a complex topic into subject areas, you'll find it easier to concentrate on the most relevant information.