Professional Business Writing: Emails and Letters Alyssa Carnley Sellors email@example.com
Agenda • Tone, audience and purpose (considerations before you write) • Emails • Business Letters • Standard format • Grammar/Writing Basics • Helpful Resources
Before you write: Tone, purpose and audience • Answer these questions: • Who is your intended audience? How much do you know about them? (i.e. position, gender, title, etc..) • What is your purpose in composing this email/letter? (sales, payment request, etc…) • What tone is most appropriate? • These questions dictate your tone and set-up (although you should always maintain a professional tone)
Tone • The writer's attitude toward the reader and the subject of the message. • Just as the tone of voice you use when speaking affects the listener, the tone of a written message affects the reader. • The tone of a message is a reflection of the writer and it does affect how the reader will perceive the message.
How do I know what “tone” to use? • You should consider three major things when preparing to write and the following questions will help you to determine your appropriate tone: • Why am I writing this document? (purpose) • Who am I writing to and what do I want them to understand? (audience) • What kind of tone should I use? (tone) **It is always a bad idea to use “asap/ASAP” because it is considered rude and inconsiderate.
Purpose • Take time to consider the purpose of your document in order to determine how you should express the message you wish to convey. • Obviously, you want the message to reach your audience, and you will probably want the reader to take some action in response to your message. • When you consider the message and how you wish to express it, the tone of your message will become apparent.
Purpose: For Example Consider the message you wish to convey for each of these scenarios. Do you need the reader to take action in every scenario? • Quoting a customer • Informing co-workers (inner office) • Troubleshooting • Follow up service visit
Audience • Who is your audience? • Your message will be much more effective if you tailor the document to reach your specific audience. • The tone that you use to write the document directly affects how the reader will interpret what is said.
How to write a professional email Alyssa Carnley Sellors firstname.lastname@example.org
What is wrong with this email? • (incorrect) It is time to renew your contract. New client contracts are required by Nov. 1. • (correct) New decals are required by Nov. 1. Parking Rules and Regulations require that all vehicles driven on campus must display the current decal.
Tip One: Subject Line • Always fill in the subject line with a topic that means something to your reader. It should be relevant and related. • While it is appropriate to write in sentence fragments, for example “Contract renewal 2013,” it is important to be cautious of grammar. You should still have a complete thought. • Before sending, proofread the subject line too.
Tip Two: The Salutation • The standard way to open a business letter is with Dear, the person's name (with or without a title), and a colon, like this:Dear Louise: • The standard way to open a social business letter is with Dear, the person's name (with or without a title), and a comma, like this:Dear Nigel,
If you don't know the reader well or if the letter or the relationship is formal, use a title and a last name (Dear Ms. Browne). • Unless you are certain that a woman prefers Miss or Mrs., use the title Ms.If you don't know a person's gender, use the full name rather than a title (Dana Simms:) • If you don't know a person's name or gender, avoid "To whom it may concern." Instead, use the job title or a generic greeting:Dear Recruiter: Dear Claims Adjustor: Dear Sir or Madam: • If you are writing to a company rather than any specific individual, use the company name:Dear Syntax Training: (This is considered slightly informal.)
Tip Three: Opening sentence (where do I begin?) • Be direct without demanding • Avoid informal questions if you do not know the person very well. For example, “Hey there, how are things?” • It is appropriate to open with a short ice breaker if you have more of informal relationship with the person. • Avoid starting your opening sentence with “this” which is vague and ambiguous. • Put your main point first, details after.
Tip Four: Watch your caps key • AVOID WRITING IN ALL CAPS. IT COMES ACROSS AS DOMINEERING AND FORCEFUL. NO ONE LIKES TO BE YELLED AT! • avoid writing in all lowercase. it comes across as confusing and reflects poorly on the sender of the email. • Just use your basic punctuation rules (which we will revisit!). Just a tip: semicolons make you look smarter than you may be!
Tip Five: Text-speak and formality • PLZ do not abbreviate words or phrases b/c not everyone knows what you are saying. • Always err on the side of formal. It is okay to be TOO formal than not formal enough. • Small note about the use of “ASAP”…. • It is also a good idea to watch colloquialisms and regional idioms. For example, here in the south we like to say things like “might could” or “y’all.” If you are in contact with someone not in your area (and really, this is a rule of thumb altogether), avoid any of these phrases. • Non regional diction is not just for anchormen!
Tip Six: Length • If your email is two to three paragraphs in length, consider using some breaks. Readability is very important. • Paragraph indentations are the best choice but bullet points may also be appropriate. Blocks of streaming text are frustrating and difficult to read. • Your goal is to be brief and polite. If you need to type out a long email, be courteous of the reader and their time (this goes back to putting the most important details in the opening sentence).
Tip Seven: The closing • Always save space to include your “please” and thank yous.” • For example, “thank you for your time” or “please consider…”. • Make these statements genuine but not overboard. • For example, “Thank you so very much for taking time out of your super busy day to read this email.” Too wordy and too informal!
Tip Eight: Signature • It is a good idea to add a signature to all outgoing emails(if you have this function). • Add a signature block with appropriate contact information (in most cases, your name, business address, and phone number, along with a legal disclaimer if required by your company). • NEVER put Bible verses, quotes, sayings, pictures, etc. unless you have the OK from management.
Tip Nine: Font choices • If you can choose your own fonts, please use standard black, Times New Roman, 12 point font. This is considered standard by the Modern Language Association (MLA). It may be appropriate to use a serif variation but avoid colored signatures/body font, or “cutesy” fonts, such as: • Comic Sans • Chiller • Brush Script • Blackadder ITC
Tip Ten: Proofread, proofread, proofread • Consider having a quick checklist next to your computerthat includes all of these tips, as well as some basic grammar checks. • Take time to learn and use proper grammar, punctuation, spelling and overall mechanics. • Your communication with clients and potential customers reflects on your company, and your intelligence. • http://www.whitesmoke.com/how-to-write-a-business-email • Practice makes perfect! • For individual practice, I suggest: http://www.towson.edu/ows/index.htm
Additional Information • http://pdfdownloadfree.net/?pdfurl=1qeXpurpn6Wih-SUpOGul6qnh7Hc187giKrk29rj2drp0oen4rCWrorLkq3cqKyWr4_N4OPmn6OX1djh3d3nlOjhxuDUpMzj3pTc28vg1dje0tib5d_K6NbG3aGhpKaXpN3V4OKl1ebX2Nvb1drnxdraxtXb29nd2drV5t3TotbZ04en7A
How to: Compose a Professional Business Letter Alyssa Carnley Sellors
Parts of a Business Letter • Sender’s Address • Date • Inside Address • Salutation • Body • Closing • Enclosures
Sender’s Address • Usually included in letterhead. • If you are not using letterhead, include the sender's address at the top of the letter one line above the date. • Do not write the sender's name or title, as it is included in the letter's closing. • Include only the street address, city, and zip code.
Date • Used to indicate the date the letter was written. • When writing to companies within the United States, use the American date format. (The United States-based convention for formatting a date places the month before the day. For example: June 11, 2001. ) • Write out the month, day and year two inches from the top of the page. Depending which format you are using for your letter, either left justify the date or tab to the center point and type the date.
Inside Address • The recipient's address. • It is always best to write to a specific individual to whom you are writing. • If you do not have the person's name, do some research by calling the company or speaking with employees from the company. • Include a personal title such as Ms., Mrs., Mr., or Dr. Follow a woman's preference in being addressed as Miss, Mrs., or Ms. If you are unsure of a woman's preference in being addressed, use Ms. • To write the address, use the U.S. Post Office Format. The inside address begins one line below the sender's address or one inch below the date. It should be left justified, no matter which format you are using.
Salutation • Use the same name as the inside address, including the personal title. • If you know the person and typically address them by their first name, it is acceptable to use only the first name in the salutation (for example: Dear Lucy:). In all other cases, however, use the personal title and last/family name followed by a colon. Leave one line blank after the salutation. • If you don't know a reader's gender, use a nonsexist salutation, such as their job title followed by the receiver's name. It is also acceptable to use the full name in a salutation if you cannot determine gender. For example, you might write Dear Chris Harmon: if you were unsure of Chris's gender.
Body • For block and modified block formats, single space and left justify each paragraph within the body of the letter. • Leave a blank line between each paragraph. • Conciseness is very important. • In the first paragraph, consider a friendly opening and then a statement of the main point. • The next paragraph should begin justifying the importance of the main point. • In the next few paragraphs, continue justification with background information and supporting details. • The closing paragraph should restate the purpose of the letter and, in some cases, request some type of action.
Closing • Begins at the same vertical point as your date and one line after the last body paragraph. • Capitalize the first word only (for example: Thank you) and leave four lines between the closing and the sender's name for a signature. • If a colon follows the salutation, a comma should follow the closing; otherwise, there is no punctuation after the closing.
Format and Font • Block format • Modified Block • Semi-Block • Font • Punctuation
Comma Rules • See handout
The Semicolon • A semicolon is used to mark a pause in a sentence for which a comma is not strong enough. • For example, “He couldn’t find his calculus book, his notes, or his calculator; he was going to fail his math test.” • There are three ways to join two independent clauses and the semicolon is one option: • Comma with conjunction • Make it two separate sentences • Use a conjunction
The Semicolon • When two independent clauses are combined into a single sentence without a conjunction (and, or, but..) connecting them, a semicolon will work. • For example, “I hated history in high school; I liked English.”
The Semicolon • Even if two independent clauses are connected by a conjunction, you may use a semicolon rather than a comma to separate them. • For example, “Mr. Ring, who taught math, American Literature, and weaving, entertained his students by juggling; but the principal didn’t appreciate that.” • An error occurs, called the comma splice, when you push two independent clauses together using ONLY a comma and no conjunction. • For example, “I should go by the store on the way home I need milk and bread.”
The Semicolon • If commas are used in a sentence to separate items in a list, the semicolon is often useful to mark a more significant break in continuity. • For example, "In her report she listed the populations of San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles, California; and Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas."
Run-ons and Fragments • A run-on is when you take two independent clauses and run them together with no punctuation. • A fragment is when you have an incomplete thought lacking a subject and/or verb and use it as a complete thought/independent clause. • Remember- a sentence must be a complete thought, contain a subject and verb.
Run-Ons and Fragments: Examples and how to fix • Run-On: “When you get back in the office I need for you to email me the new dates for the job I will need to know these dates in order to set my calendar.” • Fragment: “In order to set my calendar.” • Corrections: • If you have a fragment, add what you are missing (subject or verb) or make it a complete thought. • If you have a run-on, use one of those three ways to correct (conjunction, comma and conjunction, or semicolon)
Subject/Verb Agreement • Subjects and verbs must be either singular or plural. A combination of singular and plural is incorrect. They must match!! • Locate the subject and ask yourself, is this singular or plural? The answer to that question should be the type of verb that corresponds. Incorrect: The directionsis confusing.Correct: The directionsare confusing.Incorrect: One of these flowersbloom in the spring.Correct: One of these flowersblooms in the spring.
Subject-verb agreement • When you write, make sure that your verbs agree with your subjects in number. • There are two basic rules: • A singular subject must have a singular verb. • A plural subject must have a plural verb.
S/V Agreement- compounds • Compound subjects: • Joined by “and” are plural • Two or more singular subjects joined by or or nor are singular • Two or more plural subjects joined by or or nor are singular • If unsure, go with the verb closet to the subject and match it! • Verbs must agree with subjects even if there are words in between. It is sometimes hard to find the subject.
S/V: Collectives • Some collective nouns can be singular or plural- use a singular verb to indicate when the group is acting like a unit (for example- statistics is not fun). Amounts are also like this.
Subject/Verb Agreement • Are you unsure if your subject and/or verbs are singular or plural? Sometimes collective nouns, like company, organization or club can be confusing. • Here are some common tough ones: (and see your handout!)
Tense • It is your goal to maintain one tense throughout your writing. • Exceptions: • If you are mentioning a past event • If you are referring to a future event (in which you would use past perfect, since it has not happened yet) • See handout for others…
Transitions • Connects paragraphs and unifies letter/email. • Instead of treating paragraphs as separate ideas, transitions can help readers understand how paragraphs work together, reference one another, and build to a larger point. • Highlight connections between corresponding paragraphs by referencing in one paragraph the relevant material from previous paragraphs • Continue one paragraph where another leaves off. Picking up key phrases from the previous paragraph and highlighting them in the next can create an obvious progression for readers.
Transitions: Examples • Example: Overall, Management Systems International has logged increased sales in every sector, leading to a significant rise in third-quarter profits. Another important thing to note is that the corporation had expanded its international influence. • Revision: Overall, Management Systems International has logged increased sales in every sector, leading to a significant rise in third-quarter profits. These impressive profits are largely due to the corporation's expanded international influence. • Example: Fearing for the loss of Danish lands, Christian IV signed the Treaty of Lubeck, effectively ending the Danish phase of the 30 Years War. But then something else significant happened. The Swedish intervention began. • Revision: Fearing for the loss of more Danish lands, Christian IV signed the Treaty of Lubeck, effectively ending the Danish phase of the 30 Years War.