Characteristics of Effective Letters 1

letter, reader, paragraph, read, readers, expression, jewelers and business

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6. What is said: the big factor.—It is what we say in a letter rather than how we say it that is responsible for the letter's interest or lack of interest. It is prac tically impossible to interest a reader thru attractive expression alone. On the other hand, it is true that the reader's interest in certain facts which ought to be naturally interesting under the existing conditions might be killed by means of poor expression. But of these two factors—content, or what is said, and style, or how it is said—the first is the more important. It is relatively easy to give adequate expression to facts when, in themselves, they are of live interest to the reader; but the task of forcing interest by means of clever expression is as difficult as it is dangerous.

7. Beginning of the letter.—Correspondents are not all so considerate of the reader as the one who be gan his letter like this: This letter is of interest only to the man who is having carburetor trouble. I don't want to take up your time for nothing. But if you do have trouble of this kind, listen.

The letter was sent to a long list of automobile own ers. It was read with interest by those whom it was meant to reach, and for any others there could be no disappointment. It was successful because the ele ments of fairness, honesty and consideration, from the reader's point of view, as displayed in this first paragraph, characterized the entire letter. This para graph, because it caught the interest of the man it was meant for, and at the same time won his respect, con fidence and sympathy, is largely responsible for the success of this letter. It aroused sufficient interest to cause the reader to want to read on intently. This is known to be the case, because the same letter had failed when the first paragraph read as follows: Carburetor trouble—that nightmare of joy-riding! How ever, the dawn of the day of that pleasant dream is here— that dream of troubleless days with carburetors.

This beginning was clever but that was all. Mere cleverness in itself seldom arouses much interest; it is so seldom spontaneous and natural.

8. Close logical connection sustains less what is said in the opening paragraph to arouse the reader's interest and cause him to want to read on, is logically related to what follows, the letter will probably not be read with interest. A letter often fails when the writer "manufactures" his opening paragraph. The following is a good illustration of a wrong beginning: Dear Sirs: • Preparedness is the slogan of the twentieth century. We

are in favor of preparation for war—for war on exorbitant prices.

Aitho the writer of the letter from which this is taken makes it a rule to make his first statement one with which the reader 'will agree, he sometimes fails to establish a logical connection between his first state ment and what follows. In many cases it would be better to reverse this man's rule and say something in the first paragraph with which the reader would not agree.

The following letter, which was sent to retail jewel ers by a wholesale jewelry concern, shows one way in which the interest of the reader may be aroused at once.

Dear Sir: We do not agree with the following statement made by the President of the Retail Jewelers' Association in his unusual address: "Stick to the manufacturers who give jewelers the exclu sive sale of first-class merchandise. If you do this it will encourage others, and in a short time you will have the() much coveted exclusive merchandise that cannot be sold by department stores and catalog houses." We have been selling first-class merchandise to jewelers exclusively ever since we have been in business. But that is not a sound business reason why you should stick to us —not as sound as this: At this point the business reasons why jewelers should give this company their business are enumer ated. The letter arouses interest at the beginning by slightly antagonizing the reader; and "its point of contact" is closely connected with the rest of the letter.

9. Credibility, the mark of a good ibility is close to interest in importance. But, of course, the relative importance of a characteristic de pends on the individual case. Under certain circum stances, gaining the reader's confidence might be more important and more difficult than gaining his interest. For example, a selling letter written in response to an inquiry concerning a certain class of bonds would seek chiefly to gain the reader's confidence in what is said, as interest in such a case may be assumed.

Credibility is a necessary quality in every letter. If the reader feels that what he reads is probably not true, if he is inclined at all to doubt what is said, he will be inclined to resist the writer's effort to interest him as well as to influence his action, for credibility is a factor in gaining interest.

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