During my lifetime I have found that long-term friendships are among the most important aspects of life. One critical part of maintaining a long lasting friendship is making sure that you properly and appropriately thank your friends or colleagues after you have spent time with them, especially if they were hosting you.
I’m sorry folks, but even in this age of 24/7 texting, a text is NOT the appropriate or meaningful way to thank someone for anything. That’s because texts are so transient and are largely short blasts of random thoughts that have no long-term meaning or impact, and they disappear into the ether just as soon as they are sent. On the other hand, a properly written, brief thank you note in letter form (or even as an e-mail) will tell your friends that you really do care and appreciate your time with them.
A friendly thank you letter (or note) does not have to be long-winded at all. Two or three short paragraphs and less than one page will do. Just make sure it is sincere and heartfelt.
I recently visited a friend in another city and we had a great time doing things together for a few days. He was at work when I left to return home, so I took the opportunity to jot down a few lines, thanking him for his efforts as a host and guide as we explored his city together. I simply left the note on his kitchen counter when I departed. Two days later when I was back home I received a very nice e-mail from him, thanking me for my note and telling me how much he enjoyed our time together and how much he valued our friendship.
That simple gesture of writing a brief thank you note to my buddy is what lasting long-term friendships are made of, folks. It shows that you care, are truly grateful, and are willing to make a bit of an effort to say thanks. For important things in life you sometimes have to make a tiny bit more effort than simply thumb-typing a text as you wait in line at the airport for your mocha latte. In my opinion, a short friendly thank you letter or note is the only way to treat your true friends with the respect they deserve after they have put themselves out for you.
Bonus tip: Hand written or hard copy notes and letters to people who have done you favours at work, at school, or in any other social interaction are always appreciated. It’s true what they say: people may not remember what you say, but they will remember how you make them feel.
There is an old expression that states “the squeaky wheel always gets the grease”. My overwhelming experience over the years proves that this is absolutely true! If you don’t express your concern about a problem or issue to someone in charge, things will never change. I have also found that by far the most powerful way to express one’s concerns about an issue is via a polite formal complaint letter. This is especially true if you are dealing with a large company or government organization.
Although complaint letters aren’t always fun, they usually need to be written
In most cases, if people don’t complain, the problem agency at fault (e.g., company or government) won’t even know that the problem that you and others may have experienced even exists. Legitimate complaints, by even a few people, can (and often do) result in better service for everyone. Not only that, writing complaints down can be personally beneficial for the writer too!
That’s right. Writing complaint letters can be an empowering and therapeutic experience! It allows one to take action instead of playing the role of a victim and nursing an ongoing resentment towards a company about poor service or treatment that you received. Once the complaint letter is written and in the mail, you can let it go knowing that you have done something tangible and constructive about the situation.
In fact, properly written and handled complaint letters almost always get action!
Once I started writing complaint letters, I began receiving gracious letters of apology and contrition from senior executives including bank vice-presidents and directors of marketing for giant corporations. Getting those felt one heck of a lot better than polishing an ongoing resentment and getting even angrier the next time something bad happened. Sometimes I even received discount coupons and free merchandise!
Over the years, many people have contacted me about writing complaint letters for them. I always request that they at least give me a draft in their own words so that I can get some idea of the essence of the situation. More often than not, what they send me is an angry and rambling diatribe that just confuses the situation or issue.
If you want your complaint letter to have impact and to elicit action, there is a way to structure and write them that I have found will work without fail. I documented this in an article a few years ago titled “10 Secrets for Writing Killer Complaint Letters”. Here’s the link: http://www.writinghelp-central.com/article-complaint-letter.html
At some point in life, many of us are asked by someone we know to write a general character reference letter on their behalf. If you haven’t been asked yet, it is likely you will be at some point. In fact, keyword searches and direct requests for information and samples on “how to write reference letters” are among the most common online writing queries.
LETTERS OF REFERENCE DEFINED
As opposed to a “letter of recommendation,” which is normally very specific in subject and purpose, a “letter of reference” or “reference letter” is typically more general in nature and IS NOT addressed to a specific requester. Usually, “letters of reference” are addressed as; “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.”
The most common letters of reference are:
Employment-related — general reference letter
College-related — general reference letter
Character reference letter — general-purpose personal reference
General reference letter — various subjects
In addition to standard letter-writing dos and don’ts, there are a number of basic guidelines that apply specifically to most situations related to the writing of letters of reference. These are usually more “situational” than “how-to” in nature. These reference letter guidelines are important to both note and apply, since writing letters of reference is always a somewhat tricky and delicate matter. That’s because they almost always affect the reputation and future of the writer or that of another person.
REFERENCE LETTERS — TIPS & STRATEGIES
The following tips and strategies apply primarily to the writing of letters of reference in their various forms (i.e. reference letters, character reference letters, employment reference letters, college reference letters, and general reference letters).
Write It Only If You Want To If you are asked by someone to write a reference letter about them, you don’t have to say yes automatically. If it’s someone you respect for their work, and you have mostly positive things to say, by all means write the letter. There is no point saying yes and then writing a letter that says nothing good about the person, or worse still, concocting a misleading positive assessment of someone. So, whatever you do, don’t get sucked into writing a reference inappropriately out of feelings of guilt or obligation.
If You Must Refuse, Do It Right Up Front On the other hand, if someone asks you to write a reference letter for them, and you know you’ll be hard-pressed to keep it positive, say no right away. There is no point in hesitating and leading the person on to believe that the answer might eventually be yes. A gentle but firm no will usually get the message across to the person. Explain that you don’t think that you are the best (or most qualified) person to do it.
Suggest Someone Else If you feel you should refuse, for whatever reason, it may be helpful for you to suggest someone else who you think might have a more positive and/or accurate assessment of the person. That other person may be in a better position to do the assessment. Usually there are a number of possible candidates, and you may not actually be the best one. In fact, I have seen a number of cases over the years in which people requesting reference letters have not requested the letter from the obvious or logical choice. This usually happens when the requestor doesn’t like the person who is the obvious choice, and/or they are worried about what that person will have to say about them.
Write It As You See It Writing a less than honest letter of reference does no one a favor in the end. It is likely to backfire on all involved: you the recommender, the person being recommended, and the new employer. Also, most employers and head-hunting agencies check references these days. How would you like to be called up and have to mislead people due to questionable things you may have written in a less that forthright reference letter?
Be Honest and Fair Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to writing reference letters. At the same time, try to be fair and balanced in your approach. If, in your estimation a person has five strengths and one glaring weakness, but that weakness really bothers you, make sure you don’t over-emphasize the weak point in the letter based on your personal bias. Just mention it in passing as a weakness and then move on.
Balanced Is Best An overall balanced approach is the best one for a letter of reference. Even if your letter generally raves about how excellent the person is, some balance on the other side of the ledger will make it more credible. After all, nobody’s perfect. There must be some area where the person being recommended needs to improve. A bit of constructive criticism never hurts and it will make your letter appear to be more objective in nature.
Bottom Line: The most important point to take away from the above tips and strategies is that it is your choice as to whether, and how, you will write a letter of reference.
It’s an important type of letter that will have a definite impact on the future of the person about whom it is being written, so don’t agree to write one unless you are willing to be totally objective and give it your utmost attention and effort.
Recently, I was helping out both my daughter and a friend with the job application process. During this period, I was reminded of how the focus among most job applicants is almost entirely on the resume or CV. Most often, the cover letter gets lost in the rush to apply, treated as an annoying last minute must-have afterthought. I think this is a fundamental mistake that a lot of job applicants make.
After all, the cover letter is normally placed on top of the resume or CV; it’s the first thing the recipient sees. So, if yours is poorly written, shoddily formatted, or obviously deficient in any other way, you have already sabotaged yourself before the reader even glances at your resume. By submitting a weak cover letter, you’ve already told them something about yourself that is less than complimentary.
Remember: resume cover letters are used for one purpose only — to introduce yourself to a prospective employer. The most common mistake I see in cover letters that are sent to me for editing is that many tend to repeat verbatim almost exactly what the attached resume or CV already contains.
A resume cover letter should be a concise one-page summary that introduces you, explains why you are writing, summarizes your key skills, abilities and experience (as they relate to the specific job at hand), and asks the recipient to get back to you. Its main purpose is to capture the attention of the recipient enough to get that person to look at the attached resume with interest. Let’s look at some important tips:
1. Address It To A Specific Person Even when sending an unsolicited resume to a company you should take the time to find out the name of the appropriate person and write the letter to that person. At least it will reach their office. Resumes sent to “Dear Human Resources Manager” or “To Whom It May Concern” are almost always a waste of time. Name someone specifically and it will at least make it into an in-basket. Sometimes you will be given a specific name or title to which you should address your letter. Use it — and make sure you spell it correctly! If you’re not sure about gender, avoid guessing, and leave off the Mr. or Ms.
2. Keep It Short and Focused Remember, your resume already says it all. Keep the letter short and focused and don’t repeat verbatim what is already in the attached resume or CV. NEVER exceed one page in a cover letter.
3. Be Enthusiastic Express your interest in the job and the new company with enthusiasm. Show that you really want the job, and that you would really like to work for that particular company.
4. Focus On Needs Of the Employer Throughout your cover letter make it clear that you are interested in the needs of the employer. You are there to help them. You are part of the solution. Try to make this the message of your entire letter.
5. Show That You’ve Done Your Homework Demonstrate a good knowledge of the company and industry for which you are applying. A one-liner, or a phrase or two in the appropriate place in your letter that shows you are interested in that company, and you understand the problems it faces, will give you instant credibility (i.e. do some simple Internet research).
6. Use the Appropriate Buzzwords Every organization has its own ways of doing things and its own lingo. Look through key documents such as annual reports, corporate websites, etc. Try to spot key words, terms, and phrases that are often repeated. Every company has them. Use as many of these hot buttons as you can in your cover letter – where appropriate, of course. For example, if the “Message From the CEO” in the annual report mentions the phrase “action plan for the future” three times, make sure you work that term into your cover letter in an appropriate place. Don’t overdo it, of course. Just demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. 7. Summarize Your Skills and Abilities If possible, without making the letter too long, summarize your overall skills and abilities as strengths as they relate to the company you’re applying to. Try to relate them directly to the requirements listed in the job ad or poster. This can make them stand out in a way that they wouldn’t, if they were buried in the resume or CV.
8. Get It Right Make sure that your cover letter is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Allowing those types of mistakes to creep into your one page cover letter is a major credibility destroyer. Sloppy and unprofessional are NOT the first impressions you want to give to the reader before they even look at your resume.
The challenge of course, is to try to address all of these points in a four or five paragraph letter. It can be done!
A common weakness we see almost everywhere in day-to-day writing is poor logical flow from one idea or point to the next. This usually takes the form of a bunch of seemingly unrelated phrases thrown together with little or no sense of sequence, continuity, logic, or relativity. Not only can you see this problem in articles and blogs all over the Web, reporters for your local newspaper and TV outlets are often guilty of this same transgression.
We see letters, articles and reports in which each phrase seems to be independent of the one before and the one after; when in reality there is an actual sequential and/or logical flow. When we read these, we often find ourselves asking obvious questions that don’t get answered, such as: “So why did they do that?”, or “What happened next…?”, or “How does that relate to…?”
Consider the following three sentence example:
1. The entire building had to be searched.
2. They started the search on the third floor.
3. It took three hours to complete the search.
Notice that the three separate statements are all valid sentences. They convey the bare essential facts of a situation or event, but nothing more. In fact, they raise almost more questions than they answer. For example:
– Why was the building being searched? – What building was it? – Was it a serious incident? – Had it ever happened before? – Why did they start on the third floor? – What about the first two floors? – Is three hours a long time for that? – How long does it usually take?
Now, let’s transform these three statements, using transition or bridge words and phrases, as follows:
“UNLIKE a minor incident at the Customs Headquarters last October, this time the entire building had to be searched for trapped occupants. BECAUSE the fire was still smoking on the first two floors, they started on the third, working upwards to the tenth, covering the first two floors last. CONSEQUENTLY, it took them a full three hours before they finally completed the typical one-hour job.”
Notice the use of the transition words: UNLIKE, BECAUSE, and CONSEQUENTLY. Using these three words has allowed us to easily connect the three independent sentences and give them a sense of chronological order and logical flow. They also allow us to answer ALL of the obvious questions, either with the transition word itself, or by adding a couple more words.
In short, transition words/phrases have turned three dry independent phrases into a little story that makes sense to the reader.
These types of words/phrases are ideal for allowing one to easily connect thoughts, and create logical sequences between sentences and paragraphs. They are usually inserted at the beginning of a sentence and normally refer directly back to the previous sentence and/or paragraph without repeating the specific subject.
The following paragraphs list some of the more common transition words and phrases that will help make your text more understandable and interesting to the reader. For each one, I have included a typical example of how the word/phrase might be used in a typical sentence. (Note that we have capitalized the transition words/phrases for emphasis and easy identification).
CAUSE AND EFFECT… THEN, he moved on to the next work station. AS A RESULT, the team lost the game. FOR THIS REASON, she always went home for the weekend. THE RESULT WAS always predictable. WHAT FOLLOWED was as painful as it was inevitable. IN RESPONSE, he quickly upped the ante. THEREFORE, the aircraft overshot the runway. THUS, it was just a matter of time. BECAUSE OF THIS, the results were always the same. CONSEQUENTLY, he was no longer friends with Frank. THE REACTION to this event was swift and decisive.
IN CONTRAST TO… UNLIKE last year, this one was highly profitable. DIFFERENT from this, was our approach to manufacturing. IN SPITE OF the dot com bust, the company prospered. ON THE OTHER HAND, earnings per share have increased. ON THE CONTRARY, the impact was less than expected. OPPOSING that idea was the move to new technologies. HOWEVER, that approach may actually prove better. CONTRARY to his findings, the revenue picture is good. NEVERTHELESS, something still appears to be missing.
SEQUENCE AND RELATIVITY… THEN, each one followed in numerical sequence. IN ADDITION, a fourth material was added to the mix. TO ENUMERATE, first was the car, second was the boat, third… NEXT in line for cuts was the marketing division. NEXT IN THE SERIES was the “outrigger” brand line. BESIDES THAT, there were two other possible sources. SUBSEQUENTLY they moved on to the next polling station. FOLLOWING the concert, there was a reception in the atrium.
SIMILARITY AND COMPARISON… LIKE always, he took the company on a risky course. SAME as before, he managed to meet all of the requirements. SIMILAR things were known to happen at certain times. CLOSE to that was the result of the second round of voting. LIKEWISE, they made similar changes in the factory. ALSO, there were the worker’s families to consider. NEAR that one, was where we found the faulty component.
EXPLANATION AND EXAMPLE… FOR EXAMPLE, last year’s model was under-powered. ONE SUCH occurrence was last week’s power outage. FOR INSTANCE, earnings this year are higher than last. TO ILLUSTRATE, he went to Chicago just to make his point. ALSO, there is a new approach to sheet-metal molding. THAT TOO, just goes to make my point even stronger. TO DEMONSTRATE, I will use the new model throughout.
Bottom line: Smooth, orderly and logical transitions from one thought to the other, one sentence to the next, and one paragraph to another, are key to creating clear meaning and flow in any document. Appropriate use of transition words and phrases will achieve this for you.
One of the key pieces of advice I include in all of my letter writing kits is that you should always try hard to keep a letter on a single page.
Regardless of the subject of your letter, you should be able to make your key point(s) on one page. That doesn’t mean that you won’t sometimes have supporting documents as attachments. However, even in cases where attachments are necessary, you should always try to make the covering letter a one-pager.
I’m sure you’ve received letters that overflow onto a second page for the sake of a few words or a sentence or two. Such letters tends to look very tacky and unprofessional, and they’re very wasteful to boot. So try to avoid doing that when you are writing your own letters – especially business letters.
Nowadays it’s easy to do this. With standard word processing software there are a number of handy little tricks that you can use to help squeeze your letter (or other document) onto a single page.
So, here are some page squeeze tips:
Move both the left and right margins out about 1/4 in. closer to the edge of the page. No more than that, however, as it will look too obvious.
Move the top and bottom margins out about 1/4 in. closer to the edge of the page. Again, no more than 1/4 in.
Take a good look at your draft letter and see if there are any paragraphs that have an ending sentence that overflows onto an additional line for the sake of one or two words. If so, make a minor edit or two in the paragraph to shorten it a little so that it will no longer overflow onto the following line. Don’t forget to reread to make sure it still makes sense!
Another thing you can do is, try reducing the size of the font size by 1 point, say from 12 to 11 points. Note: your font size should never be smaller than 10 points.
If your letter still doesn’t fit, but it is close, there’s one final thing you can try if you are the author of the letter. Go back and edit it one more time. Look for redundant thoughts and phrases, or those that can be combined into one sentence rather than two. Is every word and phrase absolutely essential to your message? You’ll be amazed at the space savings that this final edit process can result in.
Try the above methods in sequence, one-at-a-time, checking each time to see if your latest change has done the trick for you.
Did you know that the ability to write for practical purposes can be a very important and powerful ability? Really! Becoming proficient at letter writing, for both business and personal purposes, can help you advance in many different aspects of your life.
As evidence of this, the following paragraphs describe a real-life example from my recent past.
I own (and live) in a unit in a multi-unit condominium building. As with most condo buildings, mine is managed by an elected committee of co-owners. About two and one-half years ago, I was asked by members of our condo board if I would be interested in running for election to the committee at the annual general meeting. Having never done that before, I thought I would give it a try, so I agreed to run and I was elected. I ended up staying in that position for two years before I decided to resign and move on to other things; about six months ago.
What does this have to do with writing, you might be asking right about now? Everything actually! Early into my two-year term as a member of the condo management board, I realized that writing letters and support documents was one of the most important activities for the efficient day-to-day functioning of our building. These documents include such things as numerous letters and notices to residents, instruction lists and checklists for janitorial staff, as well as letters to contractors and government bodies.
So, after I resigned from the board I compiled a group of the most common types of condo-management letters and notices and turned them into generic examples so that I could post them online. I believe that such “real-life examples will help a lot of people who are involved in the management and administration of their building; whether it’s a condo building, a co-operative, or a rental building.
Even if you aren’t directly involved in such activities, I suggest you take a look at some of the examples I have posted so that you can get a clear idea as to how important practical writing skills can be, and why you should continue to develop yours.
Remember, this is just one example of how strong practical writing skills can be important in your day-to-day life.
There are two main types of application letters; job application letters and college admission application letters. These letters are very important because they are the first thing about you that the addressee of the letter will see. That’s right; they will see your application cover letter before they have had a chance to review the detailed application support material that is normally attached or enclosed. So, if you mess up the covering application letter you already have one strike against you even before they look at your support material.
Also known as letters of application, or application cover letters, these letters should normally be short one-pagers that do three key things:
Introduce the applicant by name and title.
State clearly and specifically, the position or program for which the applicant is applying.
Briefly summarize the primary reason(s) why the applicant should be accepted for the job or program for which they are applying.
Although one page is ideal, in some situations a second page may be needed to cover all of the relevant information. For example, some college and university programs may dictate a number of specific points they want covered in the application letter, making a slightly longer letter unavoidable. Nevertheless, except whenever impossible, an application cover letter should not exceed two pages.
Job-related application letters are usually accompanied by a resume or CV. In college admission situations, the application letter normally covers an overall application package, as per the requirements of the institution.
Important: Over the years we have been asked to review/revise many different application letters for both employment and college program admission. The single biggest strategic mistake that we see in many of the letters is that the writer has not made a point to find out the specific individual (and/or position) to whom the letter should be addressed. If it is a serious application letter, you need to take the time and trouble and find out exactly to whom you should be writing. Generally speaking, an application letter addressed “To Whom It May Concern” just won’t cut it. If you do that, you will be shooting yourself in the foot.
For years now, the most requested letter samples and templates have been different types of “introduction letters” or “letters of introduction.” As usual, there is a lot of confusion as to exactly how one defines “introduction letters,” and how best to write them. Many times, people have sent their draft letters for editing and/or revision, referring to them as introduction letters, when they were actually something else. Typically, these have included such letters as: job application letters, cover letters, recommendation letters, and reference letters, among others. These of course are all legitimate letter types, but they ARE NOT introduction letters.
Below is a quick review of what “introduction letters” are all about, and how best to approach writing one.
Introduction Letters Defined
In general, an “introduction letter” or “letter of introduction” is quite simply a letter that is used to introduce one party to a second party. There are three main types of business introduction letters: business-to business, business-to-customer, and personal introduction letters.
Business-to-Business Introductions Letters
These types of introduction letters are used to introduce a company, or one of its representatives, and/or its products or services to another company or organization. Examples: introduce new sales representative, new product, new branch manager, etc.
Business-to-Customer Introduction Letters
This type of introduction letter introduces a company or organization and/or one of its products or services to individual clients and/or consumers. Examples: introduce new product/service, new dealership, new location, etc.
Personal Introduction Letters
Personal introduction letters are used to self-introduce the author to the addressee, or the author can write one to introduce someone else who they know. Examples: introduce former colleague, introduce former employee, introduce a friend or neighbor, self-introduction of independent sales rep to new customers, etc.
Of the above, the most commonly written introduction letter is the business-to-business introduction letter for a wide variety of business types and situations.
How To Write An Introduction Letter
Regardless of which one of the above types of introduction letters you may need to write, the approach to writing one is essentially the same. To see real-life samples of more than 20 introduction letters click on the following link:
After scrolling through seemingly endless lists of jobs on hundreds of job websites, you finally come across a job opening that you know you would fit perfectly.
So you prepare your resume, tailoring it to the specific position, and craft your cover letter to present your skills and illustrate your experience. At this point, all that’s left to do is to send the email and wait for your interview, right?
These days, most job applications are sent by email or through a job-posting website such as Indeed.com or Monster.com. This means that, in addition to sending your resume and cover letter, you’ve got to write a short job inquiry email introducing yourself and stating that the required documents are attached.
But what do you write in the job inquiry email? Haven’t you already said all you wanted to say in your cover letter?
It may seem like a hassle, but it’s important to put in the effort to make your very first impression the very best it can be. Here’s how.
Writing a Job Inquiry Email
As with most business emails, strive to be clear, polite, and concise in your job inquiry email. Your future employer should be able to understand the purpose of the email in the subject line and in the first sentence. Make it clear who you are and which position you’re applying for.
This is especially useful for employers that are hiring for more than one position, as it helps them to keep all their emails organized. Make it as easy as possible for your potential employer to start you on the right track toward being hired.
When writing the job inquiry email, use formal language and style. Try to match the email, however brief, to the tone of your cover letter, showing consistency in your writing.
It may seem obvious, but it’s also vital to ensure that you attach your resume and cover letter to the email and that you inform the reader the documents are attached. Forgetting to add the attachments or communicate what they are is a costly mistake, as potential employers will likely ignore your job inquiry email altogether.
Also note that you should never just copy and paste your resume or cover letter into the main text of the email. It ruins the formatting and can make your beautifully crafted application documents look sloppy. Save them as PDF files first and then attach them to the email.
After introducing yourself, stating the position you’re applying for, and directing readers to the attached documents, end the email with a polite goodbye and restate your name and contact information.
Here’s an example of a well-crafted job inquiry email. You can use it as a guide when writing your own email to a potential employer.
Hello Mr. Fuller,
My name is Jane Doe, and I am applying for the Marketing Assistant position offered by CompanyXYZ.
I have experience in the field of marketing, having graduated with a degree in digital marketing and worked as social media marketer for the past three years. I know you will see that my qualifications make me an excellent candidate for this position.
I have attached my resume and cover letter, as requested. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Jane Doe 111 Queen Street Portville, ON X3X X3X Canada (555) 555-5555
Before you get excited and hit “Send,” be sure to reread the email to catch any mistakes you might have missed. Double-check that the correct documents are attached and that you are sending the job inquiry email to the right email address.
Now all that’s left to do is wait for your phone to ring! If you really want to increase your chances in the job hunt, explore Inklyo’s How to Write a Resume course and discover the difference a professional resume can make.