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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
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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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                      Last Updated on July 21, 2021

                      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

                      The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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                      No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

                      Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

                      Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

                      A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

                      Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

                      In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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                      From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

                      A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

                      For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

                      This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

                      The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

                      That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

                      Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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                      The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

                      Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

                      But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

                      The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

                      The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

                      A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

                      For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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                      But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

                      If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

                      For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

                      These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

                      For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

                      How to Make a Reminder Works for You

                      Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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                      Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

                      Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

                      My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

                      Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

                      I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

                      More on Building Habits

                      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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                      Reference

                      [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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