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|Letters and memoranda|
There are advantages and disadvantages to writing memos and letters as opposed to the use of e-mail messages. The advantages are:
The disadvantages are:
A letter needs the same thought that is given to a technical report. It may need researched information or it may not, but it should be planned, drafted and edited with care. Although letters may need to be approved by a manager or supervisor, they should not require extensive correction or re-writing. Some managers and supervisors re-write the letters of their subordinates as a matter of course, and for a variety of reasons, but letters should be written without expectation of being changed. Letter writers should get their facts in order before letters are submitted for approval.
NAMES AND FORMS OF ADDRESS
Spell the name correctly. If you're not sure how to spell someone's name, find out. People are proprietoral about their names and there's no surer way of getting off on the wrong foot than by misspelling the recipient's name.
If the person to whom you write has a title, use it in the address. If the recipient has letters after his or her name - P. Eng., ER.CS, B.5c. - use them. They have worked for those qualifications and are due respect.
Use Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms. when you know the recipient's preference. People like a little formality; they do not resent it. If you are unsure whether you are addressing a man or a woman it is better to dispense with the formality.
THE POSTAL ADDRESS
We are stuck with 'Dear ... ' and there seems no likelihood that anything on the horizon will replace this antiquated form. Some correspondents have tried 'Hi!' 'Hello' and 'Greetings ... ' but salutations such as these give the impression of false bonhomie.
'Dear ... ' perhaps, but Dear Who? Use titles: 'Dear Dr. Smith', 'Dear Professor Podkolinski'. Avoid the use of first names unless you know the person well; use of a first name by someone they do not know well is still considered by many to be an unwarranted familiarity.
If you are uncertain of the recipient's sex, it is better to use the salutation 'Dear P. E. Barrett' or 'Dear Pat Barrett'. Pat can be a man's or a woman's name. 'Dear Pat Barrett' is less formal, and safer, than 'Dear Ms. Barrett', especially if you are unsure. Some women prefer Mrs. or Miss to Ms. 'Dear John' or 'Dear Margaret' is a pleasant way of offering the salutation if you know someone who may not remember you well.
A title identifies for the reader at a glance what the correspondence is about, and is useful for locating a letter or memorandum in a thick file of information.
OPENING STATEMENTYou may or may not like to use headers such as advocated in the previous item. They may seem too abrupt for your letter writing tastes. In this the case your first sentence has to serve the same function. You need to tell your correspondent immediately what your letter is about.
Beating about the bush wastes time in any kind of writing. Get to the point. Don't take your reader wonder what you are writing about.
If the recipient of the last opening statement is the buyer for a large organization, you need to remind her what parts order you are writing about. If you have given the order number in the title line there is no need to repeat the reference in your opening statement.
BODY OF THE LETTER
Winston Churchill was a master of letter writing. He issued an instruction during World War II (1939 to 1945) requiring that letters addressed to him be limited to one page. Military field commanders are equally brief in their letters.
Discussing the reorganization of an army division following his appointment as corps commander, General Montgomery wrote:
Do not suppose that lessons from the military do not apply to business and commerce. Most corporate directors come to the point with the same sharp decisiveness as military field commanders. Be like Montgomery and cut from your letters all the dead wood.
ENDING THE LETTER
Letter writers who take a long time to wind up take just as long to wind down. Asking your correspondent to 'give careful consideration to the matter in hand' is as unnecessary as the closing 'Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions.' When you have said what you have to say, stop.
If you want action taken, say so.
A memorandum is usually written within an organization or to someone outside the organization with whom there exists a close working relationship. The memorandum is, therefore, in a different category from a letter. The increasing use of memoranda, fax messages and electronic mail to replace letters is quickly changing, even dispensing with, many of the old letter-writing conventions: the recipient's address, formal salutation, and the stylized closing, all of which makes for speedier communications. Memoranda are easily handwritten because they are quicker to produce in that way than through a word processor. Electronic mail is an even quicker means of communication.
The use of pre-printed form memos that have a title block are common. Having one or more carbon copies, this type of memo can be easily written by hand, with the following points being considered.
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