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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

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                      Sarah White

                      Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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                      Last Updated on September 28, 2020

                      How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

                      How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

                      There’s no denying that goals are necessary. After all, they give life meaning and purpose. However, goals don’t simply achieve themselves—you need to write an action plan to help you reach your goals.

                      With an action plan, you’ll have a clear idea of how to get where you want to go, what it will take to get there, and how you’ll find the motivation to keep driving forward. Without creating a plan, things have a way of not working out as you waver and get distracted.

                      With that in mind, here’s how you can set goals and action plans that will help you achieve any personal goal you’ve set.

                      1. Determine Your “Why”

                      Here’s a quick experiment for you to try right now: Reflect on the goals you’ve set before. Now, think about the goals you reached and those you didn’t. Hopefully, you’ll notice a common theme here.

                      The goals you were successful in achieving had a purpose. Those goals you failed to accomplish did not. In other words, you knew why you put these goals in place, which motivated you to follow through.

                      Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Finding Purpose for You and Your Team, explains:

                      “Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best. When you can do that, you’ll have a point of reference for everything you do going forward.”

                      That, in turn, enables better decision-making and clearer choices.

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                      I’ll share with you a recent example of this in my life. Earlier this year, I decided to make my health a bigger priority, specifically losing weight. I set this goal because it gave me more energy at work, improved my sleep, and helped me be a better father—I really didn’t care for all that wheezing every time I played with my kids.

                      Those factors all gave me a long-term purpose, not a superficial short-term goal like wanting to look good for an event.

                      Before you start creating an action plan, think about why you’re setting a new goal. Doing so will guide you forward on this journey and give you a North Star to point to when things get hard (and they inevitably will).

                      2. Write Down Your Goal

                      If you really want to know how to create an action plan for goals, it’s time to get your goals out of your head and onto a piece of paper. While you can also do this electronically through an app, research has found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goal if it’s written down[1].

                      This is especially true for business owners. If they don’t schedule their time, it’ll be scheduled for them.[2]

                      When you physically write down a goal, you’re accessing the left side of the brain, which is the literal, logical side. As a result, this communicates to your brain that this is something you seriously want to do.

                      3. Set a SMART Goal

                      A SMART goal pulls on a popular system in business management[3]. That’s because it ensures the goal you’ve set is both realistic and achievable. It can also be used as a reference to guide you through your action plan.

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                      Use SMART goals to create a goal action plan.

                         

                        By establishing a SMART goal, you can begin to brainstorm the steps, tasks, and tools you’ll need to make your actions effective.

                        • Specific: You need to have specific ideas about what you want to accomplish. To get started, answer the “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
                        • Measurable: To make sure you’re meeting the goal, establish tangible metrics to measure your progress. Identify how you’ll collect the data.
                        • Attainable: Think about the tools or skills needed to reach your goal. If you don’t possess them, figure out how you can attain them.
                        • Relevant: Why does the goal matter to you? Does it align with other goals? These types of questions can help you determine the goal’s true objective — and whether it’s worth pursuing.
                        • Time-bound: Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly target, deadlines can motivate us to take action sooner than later.

                        Learn more about setting a SMRT goal here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

                        4. Take One Step at a Time

                        Have you ever taken a road trip? You most likely had to use a map to navigate from Point A to Point B. The same idea can be applied to an action plan.

                        Like a map, your action plan needs to include step-by-step instructions on how you’ll reach your goal. In other words, these are mini goals that help you get where you need to go.

                        For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you’d consider smaller factors like calories consumed and burned, minutes exercised, number of steps walked, and quality of sleep. Each plays a role in weight loss.

                        This may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it makes your action plan seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, it helps you determine the specific actions you need to take at each stage.

                        5. Order Your Tasks by Priority

                        With your action steps figured out, you’ll next want to review your list and place your tasks in the order that makes the most sense. This way, you’re kicking things off with the most important step to make the biggest impact, which will ultimately save time.

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                        For example, if you have a sedentary job and want to lose weight, the first step should be becoming even a little more active. From there, you can add more time to your workout plan.

                        The next step could be changing your diet, like having a salad before dinner to avoid overeating, or replacing soda with sparkling water.

                        Learn these tips to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

                        6. Schedule Your Tasks

                        Setting a deadline for your goal is a must; it prevents you from delaying the start of your action plan. The key, however, is to be realistic. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that you’ll lose 20 pounds within two weeks. It’s even less likely that you’ll keep it off.

                        What’s more, you should also assign tasks a start and end date for each action step you’ve created, as well as a timeline for when you’ll complete specific tasks. Adding them to your schedule ensures that you stay focused on these tasks when they need to happen, not letting anything else distract you.

                        For example, if you schedule gym time, you won’t plan anything else during that time frame.

                        Beware the temptation to double-book yourself—some activities truly can be combined, like a run while talking to a friend, but some can’t. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can both write and catch up on Netflix simultaneously.

                        While you can use a paper calendar or planner, an online calendar may be a better option. You can use it to set deadlines or reminders for when each step needs to be taken, and it can be shared with other people who need to be in the know (like your running buddy or your mentor).

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                        7. Stay on Track With Healthy Habits

                        Without healthy habits, it’s going to be even more challenging to reach your goal. You could hit the gym five days a week, but if you’re grabbing burgers for lunch every day, you’re undoing all your hard work.

                        Let’s say your goal is more career-oriented, like becoming a better public speaker. If you practice your speeches at Toastmasters meetings but avoid situations where you’ll need to be unrehearsed—like networking gatherings or community meetings—you’re not helping yourself.

                        You have to think about what will help transform you into the person you want to be, not just what’s easiest or most comfortable.

                        8. Check off Items as You Go

                        You may think you’ve spent a lot of time creating lists. Not only do they help make your goals a reality, but lists also keep your action plan organized, create urgency, and help track your progress. Because lists provide structure, they reduce anxiety.

                        There’s something else special about lists of tasks completed. When you cross off a task in your action plan, your brain releases dopamine[4]. This reward makes you feel good, and you’ll want to repeat this feeling.

                        If you crossed out on your calendar the days you went to the gym, you’d want to keep experiencing the satisfaction of each bold “X.” That means more motivation to go the gym consistently.

                        9. Review and Reset as Necessary

                        Achieving any personal goal is a process. Although it would be great if you could reach a goal overnight, it takes time. Along the way, you may experience setbacks. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, schedule frequent reviews—daily, weekly, or monthly—to see how you’re progressing.

                        If you aren’t where you’d hoped to be, you may need to alter your action plan. Rework it so you’re able to reach the goal you’ve set.

                        The Bottom Line

                        When you want to learn how to set goals and action plans—whether you want to lose weight, learn a new skill, or make more money—you need to create a realistic plan to get you there. It will guide you in establishing realistic steps and time frames to achieve your goal. Best of all, it will keep you on track when you stumble, and we all do.

                        More on Goal Action Plans

                        Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

                        Reference

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