As a new starter, it’s quite likely that you will not have practiced letter writing since school, or perhaps even at all. Letter writing is becoming an increasingly uncommon form of communication but nonetheless, for certain jobs and certain industries, letter writing is still considered an essential skill. Also, given that physical letters are now fairly rare, writing one can be a great way to stand out and get yourself - or your company - noticed. It is for this reason that lots of very sophisticated companies still use letters as a way of getting in touch with senior leadership of organisations they want to do business with. Sometimes, reviving tradition can be a form of innovation!
The record for the longest letter was established in 1952, during the Korean War. Someone writing to their other half serving in Korea, used the narrow tape that is found on adding machines instead of regular writing paper. The letter was 3,200 feet long and took one month to write.

Making a plan

There are many different reasons why you might be asked to or why you might need to write a professional letter over an email at work. Common types of professional letters include: letters of complaint, letters of appeal, letters to request information, letters to apologise, letters to support an application, legal letters and letters to give advice or instructions.

When you come to writing your letter, it is important that you start off by making a plan. Begin by asking yourself the following questions to establish the purpose of your letter:

  • Who am I writing this letter to?
  • Why am I writing this letter?
  • What do I need to tell my recipient?
  • What do I want my recipient to do?

Once you are clear about why you are writing the letter in question, you should make a list of all the points you want to include in your letter. Jot down as many details as possible, such as any relevant dates, contact details for the individual you are writing to, details of previous correspondence, your reference or account number (if applicable) and so on. The aim here is to start with as much information as possible so that you can then easily select the necessary information to actually include in your letter. Remember, formal letters need to be precise, to-the-point and should not contain unnecessary or irrelevant detail.

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