Have you ever spent way too long writing a business letter, only to be vaguely dissatisfied with the result?
Have you said “I’m just not good at this?”
Then you’re going to love Chuck’s three-step Fifteen Minute Business Letter technique.
Step One (5-6 minutes):
Get it on paper (or, better yet, in your word processor). Don’t worry about form, just let the story flow until you’ve said everything you wanted to include.
Getting started is the hardest part. Just plunge in and start writing. Frankly, how you start won’t matter, because, in the next step you’re going to. . .
Step Two (1 minute):
Throw away your opening paragraph. It’s likely crap.
If you write like most of us, the first paragraph was rambling and never went anywhere.
But, if you write like most of us, your final paragraph probably summarizes everything you’ve already said. A good letter opens with a summary of what’s to follow.
So take your last paragraph and move it to the top, to replace the one you just tossed.
Step Three (7-8 minutes):
Blow out all of the stodgy, passive, and academically formal phrases and replace them with the things you’d say face-to-face.
Don’t say, for instance, “We trust this arrangement will meet with your approval, but should it prove unsatisfactory please do not hesitate to contact us.” Get rid of the royal “we” and say instead “I think you’ll like this solution. Call me if I’m wrong.“
Likewise, passive verbs are the kiss of death to effective communication. Passive verbs are impersonal, longwinded, and ambiguous.
Worse yet, they’re dull.
Your readers might forgive the occasional grammatical lapse. They won’t forgive being bored.
Replace “a report was entered into the minutes of the meeting by the committee chair” with “the committee chair reported.”
And cut your sentence length wherever possible. Two short sentences are easier to understand than one longer one.
You’ll note that more than half of the time I’ve allocated for this exercise is in the editing stage. As you get more practice editing yourself, you’ll start changing the way you write. That will, in turn, speed up future editing.
Can this truly be done in fifteen minutes?
Dunno why not.
That’s how long it took to write these instructions.