A letter of inquiry is a request for information that the writer believes the reader can provide. Regardless of its subject, the objective is to get the reader to respond with an action that satisfies the inquiry.
The action taken can benefit either the writer or the reader, and sometimes both. That being the case, the scope must include enough information to help the reader determine how best to respond.
Identify Your Reader
An inquiry letter should be addressed to the person who is most likely to respond in a positive and helpful manner. If you are unsure of who that might be, try making a few phone calls to identify a contact person. That person's name should be placed in the inside heading and the salutation of your inquiry. 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 in an inquiry letter is to make a request. It will either ask the reader to provide something beneficial to the writer, or take advantage of something the writer has to offer.
Your inquiry should be specific and brief. If you are asking more than one question you might consider highlighting them in a bulleted list.
Determine Your Scope
The scope of an inquiry letter should provide enough information for the reader grasp your objective, make an informed decision and respond in a timely manner.
Consider your reader and get to the point. Do they have what you want? Can they do what you ask? Think about what your reader will need to know in order before making a decision and sending you a response.
If you are to receive some benefit, it may help to explain for what purpose the benefit will be used. If the reader is to receive some benefit, it may help to offer an incentive to respond.
Organize Your Letter
Organizing your inquiry 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 relevant points and place them in the sequential order that will best help your reader. comprehend your inquiry. 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 an in inquiry 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
An inquiry 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 the 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 Inquiry Letter
Reviewing and revising your inquiry letter is the final step in the writing process. You will check your draft in this step, making sure that your objective is clear and your scope is concise. Put yourself in the reader's shoes as you examine the rough draft. Ask yourself, as the recipient, whether you are able to comprehend the request quickly and if enough information has been included to enable a timely response.
Look for the obvious errors first. Check for spelling, sentence structure and grammar mistakes. Remember that a passive voice is not as commanding as an active one. You want your inquiry to be strong, so write with an active voice.
The important thing to keep in mind is the overall cohesiveness of the whole unit. 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. You want to help your reader understand exactly what it is that you want, so remove all that is not helpful.
And finally, if you have not written an opening or a conclusion now is the time. The introduction needs to lead into the body of your letter with a firm statement about the subject of your inquiry and enough supporting information to keep the reader reading. Your closing remarks need to reiterate your objective with a question that calls for an action.