Business Letters

Cover Letters

A cover letter accompanies items or documents enclosed or shipped in a single package. The objective is to identify each of the items that are included and provide a paper trail for both the sender and the receiver.

The scope should be limited to only that information that will help the reader recognize the contents of the package and the reasons for receiving them.

Identify Your Reader

A cover letter should be addressed to a person receiving correspondence or a package in which a number of items have been included. That person's name should be placed in the inside heading and salutation of your cover letter. It should also be included on the top line of your envelope.

Remember that people do business with people first, businesses second. When you address your reader by name, you recognize their importance and value as an individual human being.

Establish Your Objective

The objective of a cover letter is to identify and explain its contents. It will provide the reader a record of the items and documents sent.

As such it should be specific and brief. If you are sending multiple pieces of information, a bulleted list will effectively highlight the contents of your package.

Determine Your Scope

The scope of a cover letter will contain a brief description of the items included in a package. Its objective is to help your reader identify those items and why they are being sent.

Organize Your Letter

Organizing your cover letter will establish a logical order in which to present your information. You have already begun this task by establishing an objective and determining your scope. Refer back to them. Together they include much of the content that will become the body of your letter.

A simple outline will get you organized. Begin by creating a list of items that your package will include and put them in the sequential order that will best help your reader comprehend the contents of your package. These points will become the backbone of your draft; your outline will become a checklist.

Draft Your Letter

Working from an outline is the simplest way to draft a cover letter. You have already organized yourself by creating a list. Refer back to it and turn each fragment into a full and complete sentence expressing a single thought or idea

In order that your thoughts and ideas are conveyed in a cohesive manner, write in as natural a sounding voice as possible.Try writing your draft quickly and then read it out loud. Concentrate on communicating your objective to your reader. Make sure that the scope of your letter contains all the relevant information included in your organizational list.

Keep in mind that you are writing a rough draft. For the moment you can ignore spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence and paragraph structure. Those are technical details that you will pay attention to in the final step when you review and revise your work.

Close Your Letter

A cover letter should close in a professional manner. Once your last paragraph is written, sign off between a complimentary close such as "Sincerely," or "Thank you," and your printed name.

If you are writing in conjunction with an official duty, place your title below your printed name. Additional information such as dictation remarks, notification of attachments, enclosures and copies sent to other individuals should be placed beneath the title line.

Review and Revise Your Cover Letter

Reviewing and revising the draft of your cover letter is a final inspection, a last check to see whether your objective is clearly stated and your scope concisely defined. Put yourself in the reader's shoes and ask whether the details are accurate and complete.

Look for obvious errors. Check for spelling, sentence structure and grammar mistakes. Your complaint should be direct and to the point, so make sure that you have used a strong active voice.

Keep in mind the overall cohesiveness of your letter. Look for accuracy, clarity and a sense of completeness. Ask yourself if the transitions between paragraphs are working and if your point of view, tone and style are consistent throughout the text.

Examine your word choices carefully. Ambiguous words lead to confusion. Jargon and abstract terms may not be understood at all and affectations, cliches and trite language serve no real purpose and will obscure your objective.

If you have not written an opening or a closing now is the time. The introduction should lead into the letter with a firm statement about the application's status. The conclusion should reiterate your objective and, when appropriate, contain an attractive inducement to a future business transaction.

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