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How to Make People Read Your Emails (and Letters) and Reply Every Time

How to Make People Read Your Emails (and Letters) and Reply Every Time

Writing business letters is something we all have to do from time to time, but we don’t usually get any training in school about how to actually do it. Getting your letter format wrong can make you look sloppy and unprofessional, but once you get the basics down and have some examples to work from, it makes business letter writing that much easier.

What’s the biggest “no-no” when writing a letter?

Probably the most common problem people have when writing business letters is using improper letter format.[1] Within this format there are a few options, but for the most part this is how it is done.

At the very top of your letter should be your contact information: name, company (if applicable), address and phone number. Some people also put their email address here.

Next comes the date and the person you are writing’s contact information: name, company and address.

Then there will be a greeting — usually something along the lines of “Dear Mr./Mrs. Jones.” The body of the letter follows, then a closing (Sincerely, Best, whatever you like) and a few blank lines followed by your typed signature. When you print the letter out you can sign it with ink.

Once you have the format down, it’s the content that can still be a little tricky. Whether you’re writing a letter of resignation or a recommendation letter, there are some basic rules you can follow. Here’s a look at 10 different kinds of business letters you might need to write,[2] the letter format for each and an example you can use as a template.

Complaint Letter: Express Disappointment

A way to formally express your disappointment in an experience, report bad customer service or let a company know their products didn’t meet the expectations.

Some tips:

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  • Don’t get emotional or angry; just state the facts.
  • Be cordial, professional and brief. Let them know what happened and what you’d like them to do to make it right.
  • Close by giving them a deadline to respond before getting a third-party mediator or lawyer involved.

Sample complaint letter | Federal Trade Commission

    Adjustment Letter: Explain and Apologize

    If you find yourself on the business side of a complaint letter, you will need to respond with a letter of your own. A good adjustment letter can help you keep a loyal customer; a bad one might spread like wildfire on the Internet.

    Some tips:

    • In most cases you’ll want to actually apologize that your company didn’t meet expectations.
    • Let them know what you are doing to make it right, or explain why you’re not doing what the customer asked if needed.
    • Be professional, concise, friendly and apologetic.

    Sample adjustment letters | OfficeWriting.com

      Sales Letters: Raise Awareness and Promote Products

      Letters writing to solicit business are still important for raising awareness of your company or products/services among potential clients.

      Some tips:

      • Keep it brief.
      • Make it about them, but not about you or your company.
      • Call to action, tell them what to do and how to do it.
      • If desired, you can also include your next steps or follow-up actions.

      Sales letter templates | Letters.org

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        Letter of Inquiry: Seek Information

        Write this kind of letter when seeking information, such as an interview request, a request for a catalog or a request for a public document.

        Some tips:

        • Be specific and brief; make it easier for the person who can track whatever you need down for you.
        • Providing some context and background can be helpful, but not the whole story of why you need a document.
        • Be courteous and show your gratitude.
        • If you are asking about the possibility of work, use the cover letter format.

        Inquiry letter templates | Sample Templates

          Acknowledgement Letter: Indicate Message Received

          Acknowledgment letters indicate that you received something (like a job or scholarship application, or sales materials) but have not necessarily taken action yet.

          Some tips:

          • Be short.
          • If there is information every person who sent information needs to know, such as when a decision will be made about hiring for a position, include that as well.
          • It might be used to thank someone for donating to cause, so include in the letter with any attachments.

          Acknowledgement letters for every occasion | Template.net

            Follow-Up Letter: Nudge and Remind

            A follow-up letter is sort of a nudge for people to make sure they received an initial letter and to remind them what you want them to do. They are often sent after a sales letter, letter of introduction or letter requesting information.

            Some tips:

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            • Be short to remind the recipient who you are, what and when you requested.
            • Include deadline if the initial note didn’t.
            • Include a call to action as a reminder.

            Follow-up templates of all sorts | Write Express

              Order Letter: Place an Order

              A formal way to place an order.

              Some tips:

              • Be concise and precise.
              • Make sure you include all the information a person would need to place an order for you.
              • Include all your shipping information and payment method.
              • Show your gratitude.
              • Provide contact information for follow-up.

              Order letter samples | How to Write a Letter

                Cover Letter: Introduce Yourself for a Job

                A cover letter is a way to introduce yourself, especially when applying for a job.

                Some tips:

                • Mention the job you are applying for right up front. You don’t have to be fancy.
                • Only cover a few relevant points on your resume, especially any related experiences.
                • Remember to mention your soft skills (e.g. communication skills, leadership skills) too.
                • Include contact information and make yourself available for answering any questions the hiring manager might have.

                Cover letter format | Monster

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                  Letter of Recommendation: Help or Reference Someone for Their Applications

                  This type of letter is often written by a teacher to help a student applying for a scholarship or internship or for admittance into a school or program. You might also write one to recommend someone for a job, fellowship or other opportunity.

                  Some tips:

                  • Be honest about the person you are writing about.
                  • Don’t gush or agree to write a letter for someone you wouldn’t support or don’t know very well.
                  • Use specific examples to highlight the person’s skills and abilities.
                  • Write something about why you would give this opportunity to the person you are writing about.
                  • Thank the reader for their time and include contact information should they have questions.

                  Sample recommendation letter | the Muse

                    Letter of Resignation: Resign From a Position

                    Don’t give in to any urges you might have to send an incendiary letter of resignation; you never know when you might cross paths with these people again.

                    • Keep it short and to the point: “This letter serves as notice that I am resigning my position as x effective x. Thank you for the opportunity” says enough.
                    • Consider your words very carefully if you are in a high-profile position and your letter is likely to be released publicly.
                    • You can include a reason if you like, but it isn’t necessary.
                    • Thank your boss and/or the company for the opportunities you’ve had there.

                    Resignation letters for many purposes/reasons | the Balance

                      For many other possible letters you could need in your business career, check this exhaustive list from the Balance.

                      Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

                      Reference

                      [1] English Sherpa: 7 Common Mistakes of Writing Business Letters). Writing a cover letter for a job application or a sales letter to gain clients is not like writing an email to a friend; certain rules need to be followed.

                      You also need to make sure that you use proper grammar and spelling, are not too casual in your writing and that you remove all of the parts of any template you may be using that should have been filled in (like a dummy mailing address at the top or the wrong date).

                      Know the basics of business letters, they are more useful than you think.

                      If you’re writing a business letter that’s going to be mailed, there are some common letter format rules that will help you get started.((The Balance: Format for Writing a Business Letter

                      [2] Houston Chronicle: 10 Types of Business Letters

                      More by this author

                      Sarah White

                      Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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                      Last Updated on December 9, 2019

                      7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

                      7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

                      The world has become a very distracting place, you don’t need me to tell you that. Where once we could walk out of our house or office and disappear into our own world with our own thoughts, we are now connected 24 hours a day to a network that’s sole purpose is to make us available to anyone and everyone at any time they choose to disturb us.

                      Of course, it is very easy to sit here and say all you have to do is turn off your electronic devices and just allow yourself several hours of quiet solitude; but the reality is far harder than that. There is an expectation that we are available for anyone whenever they want us.

                      However, if you do want to elevate yourself and perform at your best every day, to produce work of a higher quality than anyone expects and to regain control over what you do and when you will need to regain some control over your time, so you can focus on producing work that matters to you…

                      The good news: You do not have to become a recluse. All you need are a few simple strategies that will allow you enough flexibility in your day to stay focused to do the work that matters and still allow you to deal with other people’s crises and dramas.

                      Here are 7 ways you can stay focused and be less distracted.

                      1. Find out When You Are at Your Most Focused

                      According to research, brilliantly documented by Daniel Pink in his latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, our brains have a limited capacity to stay focused each day.[1]

                      From the moment we wake up to the time we turn in for the day, we are using up our brain’s limited energy resources and, depending on the time of day, we will be moving between strong concentration and low concentration.

                      This means that for most people, their optimum time for sustained concentration and focus will be soon after they wake up. For others, it could be later in the evening—a kind of second wind—but that is rare.

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                      Once you understand this, you can take time to learn when you are at your best and to protect that time on your calendar as much as possible. If you can, block it off and use that time for the work you need to do that requires the most concentration each day.

                      2. Get Comfortable Using ‘Do Not Disturb’ Mode

                      We have the ability to switch our electronic devices to do not disturb mode. Where all notifications are off and your phone or computer will not alert you to a new email or message.

                      Now after testing this function for a number of years, I can happily report that it does work.

                      When I sat down to write this article, I put all my electronic devices to do not disturb, closed down my email and began writing. I am safe in the knowledge that until this article is written, and I turn do not disturb off, there will be no interruptions or distractions.

                      Of course, it is not really about whether do not disturb works or not, it is whether you are willing to turn it on or not.

                      Most people believe they have to be constantly available for their boss or customers. This is not true at all. What has happened is because of your always available status, you have conditioned these people to turn to you first whenever they have a problem.

                      You are not actually helping them at all. You are preventing them from having to think for themselves and develop the skill of problem-solving. By not being so readily available, you help them a lot more.

                      What it comes down to is your boss and customers are going to be far more positive with you, if you deliver your work to the highest quality and on time than you being available 24/7. Trust me on that. I also tested that one.

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                      3. Schedule Focus Time Every Day

                      This technique is a lot easier than you may think.

                      First, you figure out when you are least likely to be disturbed. For me, that is between 6 and 9 am. for a lot of my clients, they find the first 90 minutes in the morning at their workplace is when they are not likely to be disturbed. This is important because you want to be building consistency.

                      Most people start their day by checking their email and other messages. While they are doing that, they are not going to be bothering you. Now there is no rule about when you should be checking your email. The chances are email is not going to be where you want to spend your most focused time, so you can decide to check your email at say 10:30 am.

                      Dedicate 30 minutes from 10:30 am to 11:00 am for email processing and use the first 90 minutes of your day for doing your most important work. You will surprise yourself by how much work you get done in that ninety minutes.

                      4. Plan Your Day the Night Before

                      One of the inevitabilities of life is there is always a plan for the day. The choice is whether the plan you have is a plan of your own making or not. If you don’t have a plan, then the day will take control of you. Other people’s priorities, urgencies and dramas will fill your day. As the late Jim Rohn said:

                      “Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

                      If you take control and make it a habit to plan out what you want to accomplish the next day before you go to bed, you will find yourself staying more focused on your work and be less likely disturbed.

                      Now when I say plan your day the night before, I do not mean you need to spend an hour or so planning and mapping out every minute of the day. Planning your day should only take you around 10 to 15 minutes and you only need to decide what 10 things you want to complete — 2 “must do” objective tasks and 8 “would like to do” tasks. What I call the 2+8 Prioritisation Technique:

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                      Do not be tempted to go beyond 10 tasks for the day. When you do that, you do not have enough flexibility in your day to handle crises and other unknown issues that will pop up throughout the day.

                      When you do not build in flexibility, you will soon stop planning your day. Only plan tasks that will have the biggest positive impact on your work and projects.

                      5. Learn to Say “No”

                      I am sure you’ve been told this before. We are wired to please and this results in us wanting to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way. The problem is we cannot do everything and every time you say “yes” to one opportunity, you are saying “no” to another opportunity. You cannot be in two places at the same time.

                      Jay Shetty shared an inspiring video on JOMO “Joy Of Missing Out”. Here’s the video:

                      Rather than allowing ourselves to be succumbed by FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out), we should replace that ‘fear’ with the “joy” of missing out. Because of our need to please, we say yes to things we really don’t want to do; yet when we do that, we miss out on doing things that bring us joy—creating something special, spending time educating ourselves and just having some quiet alone time with ourselves.

                      Learn to say “no” every time you get a notification to your phone. Ignore it. Learn to say “no” to your colleagues when they want to gossip. Learn to say “no” to volunteering when the thing you are being asked to volunteer for does not excite you. Just learn to say “no”.

                      By saying “no” to opportunities, distractions and interruptions, you are saying yes to better and more meaningful things. Things you do want to focus your attention on.

                      6. Create a Distraction-Free Environment for Your Focused Time

                      This has been possibly the most powerful tip I learned when it comes to focusing on what is important. Have a place where you do only focused, high-concentration work.

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                      Now this place needs to be clean and only have the tools you need to do your work. If it is writing a report or preparing a presentation, then it needs a table and a computer, nothing more. Files, paper and other detritus that accumulates on and around people’s desks need to go. A clean, cool and well-lit environment is going to do a lot more for your focus and concentration than anything else.

                      The dining table in our home is where I go for undisturbed, focussed work. I take my laptop or iPad, and only have my writing app open. Everything is closed down and the computer is in “do not disturb” mode. There is nothing else on the dining table just my computer and my water tumbler.

                      Because that is my designated focus area, I only go there to work when I have something that needs total focus and concentration. I am there right now!

                      7. Be Intentional

                      The reality is, if you absolutely need to get something done then you need to be intentional. You have to have the intention of sitting down, focusing and doing the work.

                      There’s no magic tricks or apps that will miraculously do all your work for you. You need to intentionally set aside time for undisturbed focus work and do it. Without that intention, you can read as many of these articles as you like and you still will not get the work done.

                      It is only when you intentionally set yourself up to do the work, turn off all notifications and do whatever it takes to avoid distractions will the work get done.

                      The Bottom Line

                      The strategies and tips I shared in this post will go a long way to helping you become better at focusing on the important things in your life. No matter what they are, you are in control of your time and what you do with it and where you spend it, never give that control away to anyone else.

                      Protect it and it will be your servant. Give that control away and it will become your master and that is not a good place to be.

                      More About Staying Focused

                      Featured photo credit: Manny Pantoja via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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