In the movie Christmas Vacation, Clark W. Griswald anticipates the arrival of his annual Christmas bonus, only to find that what should’ve been a hefty check was instead an enrollment into the “Jelly of the Month” club. Before gaining the knowledge of the less-than generous gift, he reads on, his face changing from happy to angry, then finally going into “brief-nervous break-down” mode. There is almost no way to ease the blow of this message, but without a doubt, the message was understood.
Effective letter writing, regardless of the news, is an art. It entails the use of catchy and professional wording and the knack to effectively deliver a message. Regardless of the type of business, several factors play into a letter’s effectiveness: empathy, persuasion, tone and service perspective (Thayer, 2002). Used to the reader’s advantage, these factors will prove to effectively convey messages, both good and bad alike.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when composing business correspondence is to consider the recipient’s psychological understanding of the message. Empathy, or the ability to recognize the emotion of another, is a major assistant for the business letter composer (Wikipedia, 2006). Considering the reader’s reaction to the message is helpful when determining the wording for your message.
Likewise, the type of font, paper and even the casing of letters used will all play roles in the reaction of the proposed message. Font, such as Comic Sans, could bring happiness out of the reader, while standard font, such as Times New Roman, especially if all in caps, could derive an adverse reaction from the reader, or even worse, absolutely no interest in the message whatsoever. Persuasion and tone are also important to the delivery of an effective letter. Every letter is an attempt to sell something (Thayer, 2002).
Whether or not you can influence the reader to “buy” will be determined by details such as directly addressing the reader by using words like “you”, and in what tone the letter is perceived. Does it reek of confidence…perhaps overconfidence? Does it convey a message of insecurity on the writer’s behalf? Letter casing, in addition to wording, will have an affect on the reader. As a standard, all caps can be considered “yelling”, while a mixture conveys “business”, and finally lower casing throughout suggests casualness.
Finally, service perspective, or the way the business is expressed, will aid the reader in understanding that the business is not just there to generate a profit, but rather that it genuinely cares about the people it services (Thayer, 2002). From news of the annual picnic to the enforcement of cutbacks, delivering a message is more than just delivering a message. Empathy, persuasion, tone and service perspective are all keys in making the good news exciting, and the bad news bearable. Proper understanding of writing a letter on the writer’s part will determine proper understanding of the message on the reader’s part.