Here’s the eighth of 12 ads from the 1982 “Power of the Printed Word” ad campaign by International Paper Company. I’m offering the series as an inspiration to your staff, co-workers – and you – to communicate more effectively and understand the benefits of doing so – not just at work but in life.
Eighth in the series: “How to write a business letter” by Malcolm Forbes
First, let’s expand Malcolm’s advice to cover emails, proposals, cover letters – really anything written that involves trying to make an impression, inform or persuade. In his view, most people are bad at it. He put the more than 10,000 business letters he received a year into three categories: “stultifying, if not stupid,” “mundane” (most of them), and “first-rate” (rare).
Forbes’ advice closely follows the “tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and then tell ‘em what you told ‘em” model. He makes the important point to be sure you know what you want from the reader before you start writing. He also points out that presentation matters: Use nice paper (if that’s in play), make your layout consistent, and demonstrate the matter at hand is important enough to you to make the effort to present it professionally. Of course, this extends to typos and grammar.
It’s perhaps tangential in this current context, but he offers this thought to close: “And for heaven’s sake, sign legibly. The biggest ego trip I know is a completely illegible signature.”
Pull quote: “Reward your reader for the time she gives you.”