Writing letters for professional success: 10 steps to perfect wording


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Write letters works fast eMail- and social mediaa-ZAge old at first tip old-fashioned: But if you can formulate well, you can use it to write yourself practically to professional success. 10 steps. Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®

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Professor Dr. Martin-Niels Däfler Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®Prof. Dr. Martin-Niels Däfler teaches at the University of Economics and Management (FOM) in Frankfurt am Main.

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Why are letters useful?

If you want to make a career, you have to convince with more than specialist knowledge. Above all, polite manners, professional working techniques and a modern style of communication are basic prerequisites for progressing in the profession. Because professionalism and a high level of communication are very popular with superiors and customers - especially in the course of fast-paced digitization.

No wonder the ability to write good letters is underestimated Success Factors, because they only look old-fashioned at first glance. On closer inspection, it is precisely these skills that make them successful.

eMail vs. letter

Even if eMails have an increasing share of the correspondence, they could not completely replace the classic letter. On the contrary, (individual) letters are of greater importance today than they used to be.

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Because the recipients usually know that they cause a greater effort and thus express a higher esteem for the addressee. So if you want to impress someone in terms of career, letters are unbeatable.

What makes good letters

First, a few general remarks that apply almost without exception to all types of letters: The word letter comes from the Latin breve / brevis, and that means “short”. Therefore, keep in mind that business correspondence should always provide precise and factual information - do without extensive explanations and get straight to the point.

But do not say too close, because otherwise your letter sounds too much like a telegram or it could possibly be lost essential content or misunderstood.

Use the “golden letter rule” as a guide: a letter should not be longer than one page. If you still have to accommodate more content, the best thing to do is to outsource it to plants. However, you should not add more than three attachments to your letter.

Step 1: What type of letter?

Clarify which type of wallet you are dealing with and which destination you want to reach. Consider it:

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  • Do you want to inform with your letter and end the communication (for example with information about “Pishing”)
  • or do you want to advertise something (for example for the “world champion bond”)
  • or do you want to enable further communication, for example, that the customer comes to the store?

Step 2: Answer the principle questions

Before you start, answer the following questions in the next step:

  • Is a letter the most appropriate format? Would a call or a personal conversation be more appropriate?
  • How can I give my reader a benefit?
  • What do readers want to know? What interests them?
  • Who is / are the recipient (s)?
  • Who should sign the letter?

Step 3: Write the address field

  • Never leave mister / wife away.
  • The word “On” in the first line is out of date and should not be used.
  • The abbreviations “c / o”, “i. H." and Z. Hd. ” are no longer common.
  • Always write the recipient's first name.
  • If you want only the addressee and no one else to open your letter, first state the name of the recipient and in the line below the name of the company. You can also add “Personal / Confidential” in the note zone.
  • Write the date either numerically (“2010-03-28”) or alphanumerically (“March 28, 2010”).
  • The indication of the place is no longer up-to-date.
  • Observe the specifications of the DIN 5008: 2005.

Step 4: Write a concise subject line

Formulate active (with verb). Where appropriate, you can use questions. Your subject line should not be longer than one line.

Use short words. “Subject” as the key word is no longer common. A subject line has no end point and should not be underlined.

Step 5: Formulate a suitable salutation

The salutation (and the greeting) shape the relationship with the letter partner. If you are unsure, choose conservative variants. After the salutation, there is a comma, afterwards it is written in small letters. Do not use abbreviations for titles, but the long form (ie: “Professor”Or“ director ”. Exception: “Dr.”); “Mr. / Mrs.” can be omitted and the name can also be omitted.

If there are several academic degrees, only the highest is mentioned. If an official or professional title is used, the name is omitted (ie: “Dear Mayor”). If you write to several recipients, please note the following: The hierarchy is above gender - so name the manager first, then the employee.

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The use of the term “married couple” in the address and form of address is out of date, as is “Jürgen Engelhardt and Frau”. It is correct: “Dear Engelhardt, Dear Engelhardt.”

Step 6: Formulate a gripping entry

The entry - like the subject line - fulfills various functions. On the one hand, it is intended to arouse the interest of the reader and, on the other hand, call the topic and establish the key. Typically, you speak to the reader right away with the first sentence and refer to it. So put high value on the first sentence and do not write from the I or we perspective, but turn directly to the reader.

The first sentence should always be short. Use short, known words. First, call the acquaintance, then the new. Anyone who communicates something known makes it easier for the reader to understand the following statements; the general and the familiar provide the framework in which the particular and the new can be classified.

First call the simple, then the serious or complicated; first the concrete, then the abstract. Explain the problem first, then the solution.

Step 7: Formulate a convincing middle section

State your arguments in the communication. Pay attention to a “dramaturgical structure” - that means:

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Start with the weakest argument and then increase. Never make an argument without subsequently proving it and giving examples.

Step 8: Formulate a goal-oriented conclusion

The final sentence is also read with particular care. Therefore, think carefully about what you write here. Refrain from phrases (“We are always available by phone if you have any questions”) and lengthy swansongs. Instead, use questions that prompt the recipient to take action, for example:

  • "Could we help you with this information?"
  • "Do you agree with this suggestion?"
  • "What questions do you have now?"
  • "Do we want to make a phone call next week?"
  • "When do you want to get started?"
  • "Have we met your expectations?"
  • "What else can I do for you?"
  • "Are you satisfied with this suggestion?"

Step 9: Formulate an adequate greeting formula and an appropriate PS line

The greeting, like the salutation, shapes the relationship with the letter partner. If you are unsure, choose the conservative option here too. Incidentally, DIN 5008 recommends “Kind regards”. "Sincerely," is considered slightly out of date.

There are also some formalities that you should take into consideration in the greeting formula:

  • According to the greeting formula, there is neither a comma nor a point, nor an exclamation mark.
  • If more than one person signs, the higher ranking places his signature on the left.
  • You should write any attachment or distribution notes, separated by a blank line, under the name of the signers or to the right of the greeting part.
  • The attachments should already be mentioned in the letter text and can be (again) listed exactly.

The PS line is read very carefully.

Nevertheless, many letter writers do not use the PS line! Do it better: use the PS line for important additional information. However, do not write more than two lines. “PS” as an intent is out of date.

Formulations such as “By the way:…”, “Something else:…”, “Please note:…”, “Last but not least:…” or “Remember:…” are better and more modern.

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Step 10: Correct the letter

In the last step, read your completed letter carefully - not only on the PC screen, but also printed out. In this way, you are likely to discover errors that you would otherwise have missed.

It is best to read the letter (half) aloud. Leave (important) letters at least one day to get clearance, and let it be read by uninvolved third parties.

The following checklist helps you eliminate errors:

  • Is the address correct?
  • Do the address and the name match the salutation?
  • Is the text correct in content?
  • Is the text formally correct?
  • Is the text orthographically correct?
  • Have the superiors released the text?
  • Are affected employees in the house informed?
  • Are all attachments included?

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  1. Eyrie

    I also like to write letters, even if many people find that totally old-fashioned!

  2. Barbara

    To be able to write well is unfortunately almost worthless in our society. So I am all the more enthusiastic about your contribution.

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