Characteristics of Effective Letters 1

letter, business, omitted, flattery, definite and ness

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17. characteristic of effec tive letters is definiteness. It is often a means of gaining credibility and it is closely related to clear ness. This quality is equally important in all kinds of letters. Often a lack of definiteness arises from the omission of necessary facts. Writers are inclined to feel that readers know more than they do concerning the facts in the case, or that they have available the information that is omitted.

But even if certain information omitted is readily available, it is always advisable, as a matter of cour tesy, for the writer to present his message to the reader in such a form that the latter can easily and quickly appreciate it. For example, two subscribers to a weekly magazine sent in notice of change of ad dress for the summer. One failed to give his former address, altho he was an advertising man and should have remembered that probably the publisher's mail ing list was classified by states and towns and not by names. He missed one copy of the magazine and wasted the time and expense necessary to write an other postal card—and, worse, he wasted another's time. The other man, also an advertising man, not only gave all necessary facts, but also stated when he wanted the magazine again sent to his permanent ad dress; and he jotted down a memorandum in his diary one week before that date.

It is significant in this case that the man who was definite gets more than three times the salary that the other man gets. The habit of being definite is valu able. If the cost of all the little cases of indefinite ness in any business were accurately calculated, the re sult would command serious consideration.

18. prominent executive has said that "tact is nine out of ten parts made up of true ,courtesy." He rightly believes the truest tact to be the spirit of genuine courtesy : a truly sympathetic in terest in safeguarding the feelings of others. What some fancy to be tact but which is not thus inspired, is likely to fall flat. Conscious attempts to flatter usually fail. Few salesmen and fewer letter-writers

really succeed thru flattery. Sometimes they will tell a customer honestly that they respect his judgment, or something of that kind, but that is not flattery. Even in such a case most people are inclined to suspect flat tery. On the whole, the purpose of written salesman ship is better served if statements that flatter or seem to flatter are omitted.

Yet numerous sales letters begin with a touch of flattery; for example, the letter from a paper house to printers, which begins, "You know quality about as well as we do, so we will talk price." Omit the word "about" from this statement and it might not be quite as effective, for it would not be so obviously a true statement. The reader would be less inclined to think that the writer really believes what he says.

19. "Down, to are coming more and more to realize that a business letter must get "down to business" right at the beginning. This means that the writer must state facts clearly and concisely. The day of the "ginger" letter has passed ; that is, the letter that employs high sounding phrases designed to arouse the reader's emotions to high pitch of excitement.

But the necessity of being businesslike does not re quire that the style of expression be excessively for mal. The conversational type of letter—the letter that sounds natural and sincere—is, in fact, the most businesslike kind of letter. On the other hand, the old idea that there must be dynamite in every word of a successful sales letter and that it must begin with a bang and a crash, or a screeching admonition that you ought to stop throwing money away, and then continue with a reel of exclamation points and dashes —a theory which had a prominent place when the art of writing sales letters was in swaddling clothes—has given way to appeals which have a more definite busi ness basis. Consumers and business men are antag onized by the letter that yells and sputters at them ; as a matter of fact they seldom read it.

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