Write Right, Please!
So, before this I was writing about the type of emails and letters that I received from other people, BOTH fresh graduates and experienced personnel. Although I’m not an expert, but I’d love to share some of the things that I’ve learned.
I should remind you, this confession is NOT the complete guide to writing a formal email/letter. It’s just the rule of thumb that I’ve been practising for quite some time.
|Put some thoughts into it! A last minute writing can lead to a lot of oversights
Before You Pen It Down
Let’s be frank here, why do you write your email/letter? Are you selling something or asking for something?
Even when you think you’re only writing to inform the recipient something, it is still considered selling because you’re selling an idea, concept or a belief. For example, when you’re writing to inform people about an event. Don’t you mean to sell your event so that people will attend? BINGO!
Selling an idea might be a little easier than asking for something, mind you. Asking for something, for example, a job or sponsorship requires a much stronger power of persuasion. Always remember, what makes you think you’re the only person writing to the same recipient?
So, give it some time before penning it down.
|Writing letters or emails, well, both require a carefully planned structure
Yes, yes, yes! We were all taught to write this for the salutation. When it’s understandable for the recipients that we are not familiar with, just try as much as possible NOT to make it a habit.
Seriously, in this modern day where everyone is becoming more and more tech-savvy, what’s your excuse not to find out who your recipient is? What’s wrong with calling the recipient to find out? This usually happens when you’re sending a generic email or letter.
Or, simply ask Mr. Google! Oh, come on! You’re telling me that you can find the driver of CDM25 and you can’ find the name of your recipient? What about your ex who dumped you big and was suddenly rumoured to be getting married soon? If you can find these people and every one else who is related to them, you can work miracles to find out the identity of your recipient.
|Admit it! At least at one point in life, you cyber stalked someone!
Finding out names and titles is extremely important. Might I remind you fellow Malaysians that our country is known for people with the longest names? Hahaha, never mind those names derived from the romantic novels, think of all the Datuk’s, Datuk Seri’s, Tan Sri’s, Tengku’s, Professors, Dr.’s, etc that you might offend by calling them Encik or Puan.
One of the best examples which happened to an old friend…
“Excuse me, I did not graduate with a Ph.D. to be called a Mister!“
Yup, some people are actually that vain!
|Seriously??? Unless you’re a doctor with a long queue of patients,
let’s acknowledge who we are writing to.
If not, they might not be concerned of your message too.
Hello, Is It Me You’re Looking For?
When I was attending this amaaaazing business writing class conducted by Mr. John Hagedorn (feel free to Google him up!), he taught my colleague and I many, many great things about formal writing. You’d be surprised with the eye-opening revelations of formal writing.
One of the things that he pointed out was the exaggerated usage of ‘Dear‘. Coming to think about it, it’s true isn’t it? Why are you calling strangers ‘Dear‘? Hahahah! Are they so ‘Dear‘ to you? Or are you secretly wanting to be a ‘Dear‘ and beloved of that person? Haha! Besides, is it like a ‘Dear Diary‘ kind of thing? Or a ‘Dear Abby‘ column?
|When someone wrote ‘Dear Paris’ nowadays, I just giggle
During the class, when John Hagedorn asked us, what might be suitable to substitute ‘Dear’, everybody including yours truly Dear Miss Paris Diaries came up with clichés such as ‘Good morning‘, ‘Good day‘ and everything good, except a good answer. Such salutations with specific time may not be suitable by the time the recipient reads your email and letter. It’s like, okay I’ve just had a long day and by chance I read your email which says ‘Good morning‘. Yes, I know you wrote that this morning, but I read it when it was already a good (or not so) evening.
There we were, trying to figure out which ‘Good…’ should we use and John simply asked us if ‘Hello‘ would suffice. You see, being trained in an old school education system, I actually thought ‘Hello‘ may not sound formal enough and I was shameless enough to ask him back. Why should I be ashamed to ask? My HR Department did not spend thousands on a business writing class so that I come back with zero knowledge and improvement!
So, John made it very clear, it was just like making a telephone call. You use ‘Hello‘ whether you know the person or not, so why shouldn’t ‘Hello‘ be considered formal as well?
That was the time when my simply was simply “Aaaaaah…“. It does make sense, doesn’t it?
Let’s say it with me, “Aaaaaahhhh….“
|Feel free to use this…. only with me! Haha! (Souce: Internet)|
Another thing that you might want to consider. Don’t simply assume whether the recipient is male or female by just looking at the name. This is when ‘Hello, Miss Sandy Smith‘ might actually be ‘Hello, Mr. Sandy Smith‘. Or ‘Hello, Mr. Lee James‘ is actually, ‘Hello, Miss Lee James‘. This usually happens when dealing with foreign or unfamiliar recipients.
*Note: Heck, I had a male Chinese colleague whose name is Bee Leng and a female colleague whose name is Hayatulnizam! So, ‘Hello, Sandy Smith’ or ‘Hello, Lee James’ would suffice!
Don’t Be A Tone Deaf!
And no, we’re not going to turn you into a musician or anything. However in every letter and email, you must determine the tone of your contents. So, how can we do this?
Well, one of the ways is to watch your format of writing. Remember when to use capital letters and small letters. Of course, this one is easy for all, yet some people still think it is a fun thing to practice. Mind you, all-caps do emphasize your subject or idea depending on your usage. When words such as FREE and AMAZING can give positive connotation, others such as WHAT and the name of your recipient (for example, PARIS!) may give a negative tone to your message.
|Yup, strike the right tone in your writing before you strike out!
Other than that, don’t be narcissistic! Your message shouldn’t just be about you, you, you. It should be about your recipient as well. Try to have more second person point of view than first person point of view. Your contents should be about your recipient, not you. Even when you’re promoting your event or yourself to apply for a job; always remember, it must benefit your recipient.
Here are some examples:
“We want to introduce our newly improved website…”
And compare it to:
“You’ll be excited to know of the newly improved website...”
How about when applying for a job?
“I am a resilient, hard working and resources person. On top of that, I have years of experience…“
“For your kind information, I have worked with several years of experience in marketing which will be beneficial for your company’s activities”.
|This is what you must avoid (Source: Internet)|
Truth is, the more ‘I’s’ you have, the more ‘you’s’ you might bore. Don’t forget, the world does not revolve around you. It also revolves around your recipient. Besides, you write it, he or she receives it. Put yourself in their shoes too! Again, you are not the only person trying to make contact with your recipient.
A good tone makes a good impression. A good impression makes a good contact. And with contact, the world is an oyster! If you’re lucky, this oyster comes with a big, white pearl in it too!
|See? Yes, it makes me want to go to a sushi bar, but you get my meaning
KISS – Keep It Short and Simple!
I know you have a lot to tell, much to share, but why don’t we spare the agony and keep our messages short but straight to the point; write them in a simple manner but with an impact.
More often that not, most of us just want to impress our recipient with bombastic jargons and extensive thesaurus, thinking that such would make us appear smarter. I’m not saying your recipient is stupid or they don’t read a book, but is there a need to be a little boastful?
|KISS! And not ‘Keep it (mouth) shut, stupid!’, haha! (Source: Internet)|
Being humble yet impressive in a message can be as easy as writing with common courtesy. Nobody is going to judge you for using simple and understandable terms. It makes their lives easier too. Particularly when you’re writing to someone high up there whose emails usually go through their assistants who might not be at all impressed with your attempt to be the next Professor Henry Higgins.
And finally, remember to say ‘Thank you’! Nothing seals common courtesy better than a sign of gratitude.
Although I’m not really an expert on writing letters and emails, I do however learn more and more from people around me. And finally, have fun when writing. Why should you lose hair over an email? Just take a deep breath and be sincere about what you’re going to write. People are very smart these days, if you mean well, they know it too.
|Have fun and keep your head up! Writing should come from the heart
Even if you’ve made some mistakes in your past, don’t fret! Look back, learn and move forward. There is always room for improvement. Besides, once you get the hang of writing, you will be the first person your colleagues turn to for reference. Remember, sharing your knowledge with others also earns you some pahala to last you even when you’re no longer around, Insya-Allah.
If you have more tips on writing or anything, feel free to share with me! I’m always keen to learn new things from others as well.
And yes, THANK YOU for supporting The Miss Paris Diaries!
|Thank you! You really love me! (Source: Internet)|
See you in the next confession!
All my love, XOXO,