What is the state of traditional letter writing in today’s Internet age?. Is knowing the traditional way of writing letters unimportant today? Has the digital ability of sending mail taken away the need for handwritten letters? Is there any difference in the writing style between paper letters and emails? The answer to all these questions is NO!
Although the Internet has increased the speed at which people can communicate and made it much easier to deliver messages, it has not completely or significantly changed the English language. In fact, people write more now using email than they ever have. The Internet has likely increased the preference for people of sending written communication versus using cell phones. This means that there is more need for good writing skills now than ever before. Studies have shown that having good written communication skills is one of the most important and respected traits of professionals.
Today’s business professionals type more than those of the past. Only ten years or so ago, many business leaders wrote messages by hand or had them written by secretaries. Professionals, at least the leaders, would never be seen with a keyboard on his or her desk. Computer literacy today, this includes working knowledge of both Word and Excel, is a basic skill for managers. English literacy is another basic requisite. Having the ability to express his or herself in direct language is required of business professionals today.
There have been three basic yet important changes over the past few years with regards to written communication and how it affects the art of writing letters:
Because of time constraints and information overload, people are forced to work even harder today to capture and keep the attention of their readers. Online marketers can tell you that simply changing a subject line can more than double their responses to email marketing messages. Think about how many emails you delete everyday without even looking at them. How many letters do you open and read, yet fail to respond to because you are too busy with other tasks. Another change is writing that is also related to information overload and time constraints is the shrinking of letter sizes. Now, this does not mean the shrinking of paper sizes, but the actual size of the message. Today’s motto is “the shorter the better”. If you were to take a look at historical letters, say those written by President Lincoln, or books that have information and/or correspondence from the nineteenth century, you would likely be amazed at the elegance and detail of these long letters. Today’s reader however, simply does not have the patience nor the time to read long letters.
Conciseness is a virtue that should be acquired in writing. Blaise Pascal, mathematician and philosopher, has been quoted as saying “Forgive me for the long letter; I did not have time to write a short one.” However, in today’s world, conciseness has gone from being a virtue to being an absolute necessity. If you do not have the skills to get directly to your point, you will lose your reader.
Another change in writing letters is that they have become far less formal and more conversational over the years. Conversation, much like conciseness, is also a virtue needed in writing. The use of emails has increased the global acceptance of using the conversational style of writing and has seemingly banished the more corporate tone traditionally used in business letters. We no longer receive messages telling us to “think outside the box” or “shift our paradigms”. When we send emails today, we go directly to the point at hand. “Marketing plans are due no later than 3:00 p.m. today, please add your suggestions for new product development.” The sample letters that are contained in this site, and the guidelines that will help you to adapt them for your own use, reflect a more modern way of writing letters. They go straight to the point, are concise and conversational. Many of these letters can be copied verbatim, but the samples are available to be used as models from which you should base your own letters.
The actual specifics of your own situation may require significant changes to these samples. The tone, style, pace and overall organization of these sample letters however, should guide you to direct your message in the way it should go. Why fix something if it isn’t broken? If the tires have already been perfected, there is simply no use in reinventing the wheel, right, More letters:
Jeffrey Potter XD