Too Long; Didn't Read
Not long ago the head of one of the biggest mail order firms in this country said: "Business needs the boys and the girls. Do not let them think they can be but cogs in the great system of wheels. More to-day than at any previous time the world needs men and women who can speak and write themselves into English. Four hundred million dollars is wasted every year in unprofitable advertising alone, and as much more in bad handling of good prospects and loss of customers through inefficient letters. We look to the future generation to conserve a part of this enormous loss. If a single page advertisement in a single issue costs $7500, what you say on that page is important. Look into any current magazine, and you will be tremendously impressed with the importance of English in this branch alone, not to mention its importance in letter writing."
There is no greater power in business to-day than the ability to use convincing English in correspondence and in advertising. Any one who can write good letters, letters that the reader feels he must answer, has success ahead of him, because the market of a good letter is practically unrestricted. Wherever a letter can penetrate, it may create desire for an article and make sales.
But what is a good letter? Nothing more than a bit of good English. Can you write clear, direct, crisp, yet fluent English? Then you can write good letters—but not till then.
In modern business the letter has become the advertiser, the salesman, the collector, and the adjuster of claims. An advertisement must be attractive; it must arouse the interest of the one who sees it. A salesman must understand human nature; he must forestall objections by showing the customer how he will gain by buying. The collector and the adjuster of claims must be courteous and at the same time shrewd. If a letter is to meet all of these requirements it cannot be dashed off at a moment's notice. It must be thought out in detail and written carefully to include all that should be expressed. This means, especially in a sales letter:
An unusually worded opening that puts the writer's affairs in the background and the reader's gain in the foreground. Begin with you, not we. The reader is interested in himself, his own progress, his own troubles, and not in the possessions of the writer, except as the writer can show that those possessions affect him.
A clear, simply worded explanation of the purpose of the letter.
Proof of advantages to the reader.
Persuasion or inducement to act now.
Conclusion, making this action easy.
Above all, if a letter is to be good, it must not be too short. In the pursuit of brevity too many pupils in business English make the mistake of writing altogether too little to get the reader's attention; and if his attention is not aroused, the letter fails. The letter should be long enough to suggest interest in the welfare of the reader and enthusiasm for the subject under discussion.
Enthusiasm in business involves knowledge both of your project and of your customer. You cannot attempt to write a letter of any kind unless you know the facts that require it. Perhaps it is a complaint that you must try to settle. Without a knowledge of the facts, of the truth or the untruth of the claim, how can you write the letter? Sometimes it requires both time and study to gather the necessary details, but they must be gathered.