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Establishing a Friendly Tone

  • Include a buffer statement in the opening paragraph, especially for bad-news letters: "Thank you for your interest/concern/time/effort . . . . "
  • Avoid too many "I" messages; instead, keep the message focused on the receiver.
  • Consider the audienceís knowledge of the subject; avoid being technical or using jargon, but, at the same time, avoid condescending.
  • Avoid sounding impersonal:
=>  Donít write like a robot.  Sounding professional does NOT mean sounding unnatural; if you cannot imagine yourself saying it, donít write it. Examples of phrases people use in letters but would never say aloud include "Enclosed please find," "As per your letter of July 3, 1999,"  "Pursuant to your letter of June 4, 1999," or "the above-referenced project."
=>  Avoid the passive voice.  Instead of saying "Two categories have been deleted from the report," say "We have deleted two categories from the report."
=>  Donít be afraid of first-person pronouns (I, me, we, us, our[s], my, mine). Instead of saying "This letter is in response to your recent telephone request for a written statement from our agency. . . ," why not say "I am happy to honor your request for a written statement from our agency . . . ."
  • Whenever possible, provide clear and logical explanations for your response, especially when you are delivering unpleasant news.  Help the reader see your side of the problem while remaining sympathetic to his or her plight.
  • Whenever possible, replace negative statements with positive ones.  Instead of saying "Our agency is not in a position to provide surveys to property owners from whom we acquire right of way," try saying "We will be happy to provide copies of our plans to a surveyor, who can plot for you the area of land we acquired."
  • If you cannot fulfill a request, offer other alternatives; provide specific names and phone numbers, e-mail addresses, or ground-mail addresses.
  • Close with a friendly "If-I-can-be-of-further-assistance" paragraph (sentence).

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