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5 Top Tips for written communication

fountain pen and letter
This is a fountain pen, folks

In these days of instant communication via social media and texts, written communication, formal letters and “snail mail” seems a bit quaint… You know, a bit 20th Century… And as for the price of stamps these days – jeez! However, sometimes it’s still necessary to write or type out an old skool missive and if you’re new to letter writing or out of practice it’s easy to get the conventions wrong.

Heather from my good friends We Are Word Nerds has kindly done this guest blog post on how to craft the perfect letter. Thank you, Heather. You can follow Heather on Twitter @wordnerds_lomax

Have you ever needed to send an email or letter to a colleague? A potential client? Or perhaps another business? If so, written communication is needed in your workplace. This blog post will introduce you to the basics of formal letter writing (this includes both printed and electronic). Unfortunately, this blog will not be able to help you with those little post-it notes around the office, requesting that people don’t use your milk when making tea or eat your cake. You’ll have to tackle that problem without me. Different kind of business communication. Sorry.

Does anybody write letters anymore
Does anybody write (proper) letters any more?

Below, you’ll find my top 5 tips for writing formal letters and written communication in general. At the bottom, there’s also a basic letter template to give you a hand and get you started in the right way.

1) Written communication format:

How do you want your reader to respond? This is an easier task with email when the reader can simply click ‘Reply’, but even then you may still want them to respond using another method. It’s useless writing to someone if they’re unable to reply. I received a letter when I was around 14 years old from a girl in France. As much as I wanted to send her a letter in return, I couldn’t. Why? She hadn’t included her home address. No email. No telephone number. Nothing. Obvious to say, Giselle did not become my penpal. Be sure to use the correct format for formal letters when providing your contact information.

Want them to pick up the phone? Include a telephone number. Want them to reply via snail mail? Give your address. Your address should be at the top left of the page, underneath your full name (with the correct title, e.g. Mr, Miss, Mrs). Follow this by the date, leaving one line blank.

Where do you want the letter to go? Leave another blank line after your address and date, and write your reader’s full name and address on the right.

2) Greetings:

Start off the letter itself with ‘Dear’ or ‘To.’ ‘Dear’ is typically used in formal communication but ‘To’ works as well. If you’re writing an email and you know that your reader is currently online, you could start your message with ‘Good morning/afternoon’ instead. Follow this by who the reader is, using their full name if you know it. If not, ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ works OK but this is pretty impersonal. The more specific the greeting is, the better. Maybe do a bit of research and find out the job title of whoever the message is addressed to. Whenever possible, avoid using ‘To whom it may concern.’ If you don’t know anything about your reader, why should they want to read what you have to say? In fact, do this and your message may just be considered spam and end up in the reader’s literal/cyber waste-paper basket.

Also, no offence intended here… but who exactly are you? If the reader doesn’t know who you are, give a brief introduction.

3) Making your point clear:

Why are you contacting them? What do you want them to do? Fail to answer these questions in your correspondence, and you may as well join Giselle and never receive a reply. Explain the reason of your communication and what you hope to happen next. Clear calls to action (CTAs) are good.

4) What to be:

Writing a complaint letter? Be polite but firm. Asking someone to do something? Be polite and respectful. Trying to persuade them to buy what you have to offer? Be polite but don’t overdo the hard selling techniques. This is a good lesson for life in general, really.

Consistency is important too. You may have been taught old skool grammar at school, such as it’s the done thing to separate paragraphs by indenting them or leaving a blank line. Generally speaking, if you’re typing your message, leave a blank line. If you’re writing your message by hand, you may want to indent each paragraph. Whatever you do, be consistent throughout.

Attention to detail is key as well. I’m pretty sure we’ve all done it, but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t say ‘Please find documents attached…’ and forget to attach these in the email. It’s infuriating for you when you realise, and it also looks unprofessional on your part.

Note: If it’s an email, you attach documents. If it’s a letter, you enclose them, [and put ‘Enc.’ underneath your signature and printed name at the bottom, GM].

5) Signing off at the end:

Did you use their name in their address and the greeting? If so, use ‘Yours sincerely.’ If not (e.g. ‘Dear Manager’ or ‘Dear Finance Department’), end the letter with ‘Yours faithfully.’ Think you might get those mixed up? No problem; ‘Kind regards’ will work instead whatever the case. Leave one line blank and then give your name. You may want to include room for your signature if this is snail mail. Brief contact details would be handy here too.

Follow this advice, and your letter/written communication should look something like this (disregard the addresses and date if it’s an email):

Miss Heather Lomax

Giles Metcalfe Digital

62 Baddeley Green Lane

Baddeley Green

Stoke

Stoke-on-Trent

ST2 7HB

31st August 2015

 

Mr Joe Bloggs

Business Name

Street

Town

County

Postcode

 

Dear Joe Bloggs,

My name is Heather Lomax and I am contacting you on behalf of Giles Metcalfe Digital.

Information goes here. Information goes here. Information goes here. Information goes here. Information goes here. Information goes here. Information goes here. Information goes here. Information goes here. Information goes here. Information goes here. Isn’t copy and paste an amazing function? Information goes here. Information goes here.

More information might go here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here. Is anyone actually reading this part? More information goes here too. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And don’t forget here. Copy and paste really is fantastic. More information goes here! How exciting!

I hope to hear from you soon. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions for requests for further information.

Yours sincerely,

Signature (if traditional letter)

Heather Lomax

Enc. (if traditional letter and a document is enclosed)

Giles Metcalfe Digital

07577771964

Has this blog post been helpful? Please give your feedback and share any letter writing stories via Twitter – @wordnerds_lomax & @GilesMDigital – or Facebook – Giles Metcalfe Digital & We Are Word Nerds.

Heather.

Categories
Blog Guest Blog

7 Steps to building a brilliant brand

branding
Branding

In the first of what I hope will be a regular series of posts from different Guest Bloggers, please welcome Charlotte from F&R Designs. Charlotte lives in North Dorset, and is studying for BA (Hons) in Graphic Design as well as running her design business. Connect with her on her WebsiteFacebook page or Tweet her! Here are her 7 steps for building a brilliant brand.

Step One

Tag Line – A memorable, meaningful and concise statement that captures the essence of your brand. I believe this is a good place to start. You can brainstorm from here, and you already have your company name but you will need something that will run alongside your logo. A world famous brand like Coca-Cola has had a few over the years, but probably the most well known one is ‘The Original’ (Coke think that there are lots of imitation colas). Ask yourself – how do you want prospective clients to remember you?

Step Two

Colour pallet – When thinking about colour you may have a definite pallet in mind but really you need to research it as different colours mean different things to different people and in different cultures. Have a read through colour theory as we tend to associate colours with feelings. Color Matters has some great information on this. Once you have chosen your colour scheme you can apply it to a logo when you have one, which leads nicely on to step three.

Step Three

Logo – You’ve got your company name, but do you have any ideas for an appropriate and clever logo? Work with a designer as this could be the make or break of how you are seen and remembered. There are lots of graphics applications online that you can use to build a logo, but I think this is one area where you can’t afford to cut corners! I wrote a detailed blog post on logos – check it out.

Step four

Voice – Is your brand friendly? Be conversational. Is it ritzy? Be more formal. How do you want your customers to ‘hear’ you? This needs to be taken into account when presenting yourself, be it in person or online. Pictures also need to be taken into consideration as well, just remember to use the same tone throughout. Consistency is key.

Step five

Social media – You know your own product best, but who will it attract? Who’s your audience? Where do they hang out? If you can’t answer these questions, you could speak to Giles regarding social media marketing and advertising. He will identify your social media “tribe” on all of the different social media channels and promote your services or products to them. It’s not all sell, sell, sell though. It is vitally important to have conversations with people – it is called social media after all. Remember the 4-1-1 rule for Twitter – “For every one self-serving tweet, you should re-tweet one relevant tweet and most importantly share four pieces of relevant content written by others.”

Step six

Integrity – Now you’ve got everything in place and your product is out there, you need to be true to what you’ve promised in your tag line. Integrity is how all the great brands became great! It’s a truism that word of mouth is the best form of advertising, and it’s a real compliment when I’m recommended by someone else. These people are not just satisfied clients, they’re Brand Ambassadors, and your biggest reputational assest. Testimonials from real people help build integrity and trust. Consider using online reviews for transparency and building trust, if it’s appropriate to your business.

Step seven

Don’t stress – Now this is a big one. Everyone talks about numbers and followers on social media like it’s the be-all and end-all, but raw numbers mean nothing. It’s really all about quality not quantity. Why have followers who are’nt your target audience, unless they actually enhance your business in some other way (a business guru who is a major influencer, for instance)? Chances are they won’t actually interact with you, and it’s far better to have less followers that do actually comment and react to your product or services for real, rather than have 1000s of followers who never mention you. Don’t be tempted to buy followers, ever. It harms your brand perception, destroys integrity, and exposes your business to some very dodgy people whom you really don’t want to give your credit card details to! Plus, don’t sweat the metrics. Your domain authority (DA) or your Klout score really isn’t all that important to your bottom line – just get the fundamentals right and enjoy it!

I hope that these 7 steps to building a brilliant brand have been a help when considering your brand initially, or with re-branding. Please visit me for your graphic design needs in the South West.

signiture

 

www.fandrdesigns.co.uk

@fresh_rosy

charlotte@fandrdesigns.co.uk