The good old letter will remain with us for the time being. Reason enough to briefly spell out what the modern standards for business correspondence are.
The letter has lost popularity due to the speed, the casual manner and some technical advantages of e-mails.
But there are occasions when a Letter still more efficient is. If you send out information material, invoices or flyers, the addressee will receive the document ready to go and will not need to print it out first. And when it comes to legal matters, documents are only legally binding with an original signature.
Letters also evolve
Because e-mails now dominate everyday business life, many people are no longer familiar with the modern forms for printed letters. You still write the way it was common 30 years ago. Here you can read the most important tips for making your letters look contemporary.
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The address – correct and without superfluous flourishes
The correct address – Without typos – with first and last name is the most important thing. Especially with difficult names it is worth checking.
In large companies, there is often a need for a department as well. The words "company" or "Mr./Mrs.", on the other hand, can be dispensed with today. Titles should be mentioned if known. "C/o" or "care of" and "z. Hd." or even "to your attention" are outdated and are omitted without replacement.
Letterhead: left or right?
The fact that we read from left to right also affects the presentation in letters. Place the address of the recipient as well as all text blocks in a modern way on the left side.
Everything is written flush left.
Date: flexible and with day of the week
It is customary today to refrain from mentioning the place (Zurich, 3.10.2016) to do without. The letterhead or signature will hopefully tell you where the writer is writing from. The Day of the week makes the date more descriptive: Monday, 3. October 2016.
The date may be written where it fits best graphically: at the top, at the bottom, on the left or on the right.
The title of a letter should meaningful be and encourage further reading. Then it fits optimally.
A good info line bears resemblance to the headlines in a newspaper. They clearly state what it’s about and make you curious to find out exactly what’s behind it: "How journalist Susanne Craig got hold of Trump’s tax papers" (Tages-Anzeiger, 3. October 2016) or "This is why Colombians don’t want peace" (Blick, 3. October 2016).
"Gruezi Frau Schneider" or "Guten Tag Herr Kuster" are correct (in Switzerland) today. The salutation is followed by neither period nor comma. Then start on the next but one line with a capital letter.
Our northern neighbors end the salutation with a comma and then continue with lowercase letters. If you are sending a letter to a German recipient, you better adapt yourself. Otherwise he thinks you don’t really know.
When a woman and a man are addressed, the woman’s name is called first. Without knowing the name, one writes "Guten Tag" or "Gruezi mitenand".
The "Dear Ms. Bauer" should be avoided. It sounds outdated and cliche. It is better to write something that you really mean. How can you "honor" Mrs. Bauer when you don’t even know her?
"Dear Mrs. Muller" should be used very sparingly. Love has lost nothing in everyday business. For someone you are on familiar terms, however, it fits well.
The main thing is correct
In a business letter, factual information is communicated. In the past, great importance was attached to the form of the letter. Today, one principle in particular is important: every letter is written grammatically correctly. Read everything through again and run the spell checker.
The most important things in fast forward
- Correct address with first and last name, department; company, Mr./Mrs., z.H.Leave out
- Write everything flush left, including the address block
- Date with day of week: Monday, 3. October 2016
- Meaningful and stimulating info line (like headline)
- Form of address: "Gruezi …" and "Guten Tag" rather than "Sehr geehrte …"; no period or comma, start next line with capital letters
- Finally, check spelling and grammar
If you like, I can send you the article as a formatted PDF "How to write today." to print. Just click and enter your email.
Here is the list of all articles about good writing style
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How to write exciting science texts and engage your audience [Science texts don’t have to be boring. If they make us wonder, they are so exciting that we can’t put them aside anymore.]
How to write irresistible (Product) Texts writing [People who write product copy like to put on rose-colored glasses and revel in positivity. But: Such texts sell badly. Good product texts need a dash of Tabasco.]
The Passive: misunderstood, mistreated, scorned [The passive has an image problem. But it has innocently fallen into disrepute. Why it is better than its reputation, read here.]
Raymond Chandler’s cat: The text lives from the detail [3 smart tips for better texts from the letters of Raymond Chandler – with the help of his cat "Tiki".]
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"The hill we climb" in German – translated from DeepL, Google and Microsoft [Can online translation services also translate poetry? Yes, they can. Not perfect, but useful. Mainly DeepL.]
Understandable technical texts writing: How your readers like it [Especially for engineers, microbiologists, doctors, software developers, financial planners, tax consultants and sociologists: How to put your knowledge down on paper in an understandable way.]
In praise of verbs: 16 good reasons to use Verbs to love ][The vividness of your writing dwells in the land of verbs, as they describe the cleaver crashing on the logs, a kitten licking its paws, or the heart catching fire for an idea.]
What you need to know from Mark Twain about Adjectives can learn [Few people know this: Adjectives are text aggravators. Most of them should be deleted without replacement; then the remaining ones are a gain.]
Specifically and writing pictorially – this is how it’s done [How to turn alphabet soup into great mental cinema: If you take your readers along on your journey instead of just reporting on it.]
Applications, who inspire: How to get into the job interview [Young high-flyers are in demand everywhere. But character heads with life experience are often weeded out early on. We won’t let you do that.]
The red threadRecipes [Where the red thread is missing, reading is a drudgery. Those who know a lot often have the most trouble. We guide you through difficult terrain.]
The apt wordRepair instructions for lame texts [Good texts need racy words with radiance and aroma. How to find them (and distinguish them from the lackadaisical loser words) this article explains.]
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That’s how exciting: 8 tips from author Peter Honer [Thriller author Peter Honer explains the 8 methods for creating suspense and keeping it blazing until the climax.]
Letters for the trash can: Do it better [What distinguishes a successful advertising letter from helpless advertising?? We explain it with a real example.]
That’s how you write today: the important little things for your Correspondence [Contemporary letter style runs differently than 20 years ago. We explain the modern standard.]
Vividly Writing – 8 tips for head turning and compelling stories [Asta Nielsen was the most famous diva of silent movies. She had no words. The power of images had to be enough. From it you can learn surprisingly much for exciting texts.]
The Christmas misery – baking instructions for worth reading Christmas cards [If you ever want to write a Christmas card (or birthday or greeting card) that really gets to your heart, read these tips.]
What to do against Writer’s block? [When the writing stops, you have to stop the moping. Then someday it will work again. And in the meantime (to revitalize your creative wells) do Barbara Lukesch’s checkered writing exercise.]
Also: If you’re looking for spelling and grammar mistakes, we have the same overview on the topic here "Correct Texts". And here is our overview with all articles about Online Marketing.