Posts Tagged ‘Letters

What do you do when you need to write a letter that describes a sequence of events? A letter that describes a medical procedure, or something that happened to you, or the development of a product, or the steps in a manufacturing process? As these few examples indicate, you must figure out a way to arrange the material in your letter by order of occurrence, that is, by chronological order.

As you begin to write your letter, many ideas probably vie for your attention. Which to include? Which to exclude? One helpful approach to the selection problem is to consider your audience and your objective: to whom are you sending the letter, and what action do you want that person (or company) to take? First, define your audience and objective. Second, make a list of ideas for inclusion, based on your definition of audience and objective. Finally, select the most relevant ideas from the list.

Sort those ideas by chronological order to establish the flow of paragraphs. When the sequence of paragraphs correctly presents your story, from start to finish, then write the text. Begin each paragraph with a subject sentence, which states the main idea. Subsequent sentences within the paragraph must support the main idea presented in the subject sentence.

Use chronological linking words and phrases to transition from one idea (or paragraph) to the next. The purpose of these words is to connect your ideas in a logical way and coherently move your story forward to its conclusion. This allows your audience to interpret the sequence of events in the proper order and place your statements in a timeframe. Without a clear chronology, your statements would be a confusing jumble.

Some example chronological words are: final, seconds, minutes, before, while, then, in turn, intermittently, later, next, previously, immediately, initially, first, second, after, occasionally, soon, meanwhile, last, afterward, and subsequently. What other words can you think of to indicate chronological order?

As you can see from these examples, chronological words help create a coherent pattern for your audience to follow. They also work as transition points, which explicitly show how the ideas in your letter relate to one another.

Blessed be the ties that bind. To “tell time” in a letter, use the glue that connects one idea to the next within a given timeframe: chronological order.  Elizabeth Lexleigh  The Write Ideas  lexpower


Somewhere along the way in nearly every person’s life, there comes a time when it is necessary to write a letter of complaint to someone. A time when you feel you have exhausted all other reasonable avenues, yet still cannot get the offending party — merchant? neighbor? government agency? family member? colleague? — to cooperate and work toward a satisfactory resolution.

Now, assuming you truly wish to find a workable solution to your dilemma, let me share with you the most important secret you need to know and absolutely must use in writing your letter: Avoid emotionalism.

Emotional words are loaded words. They can be loaded with accusations, expressions of anger or hatred, insinuation, libel, spite, self-righteousness, sarcasm, condescension, sneering, blaming, and name-calling. They can be loaded with assumptions and indignation. They can be loaded with fact-free imaginings and derogatory statements.

Think such an emotional approach will help you win your argument? Surmount the problem? Resolve the issue? Enlighten the other person and help them see the error of their ways? Make them realize you are not someone to trifle with? No. Rudeness will only decrease the other party’s sympathy for you and reduce your chances of success. The road to disaster is often paved with emotionalism.

So before you pen the REAL letter, sit down and write the I-Accuse-You-Horrible-Person-Rant-Cant-Whack-‘Em-Smack-‘Em-You’ll-Never-Forget-This-Letter missive. Take out your verbal flame-thrower and scorch the earth. Discharge all your roiling emotions, so that your mind will be free to deal with the facts of the case in a cool, calm and equable manner.

Now, place another sheet of paper before you, and write the real letter, the one in which you methodically and logically state your case in a polite and businesslike way:

  • Explain the problem clearly.
  • Get to the point.
  • Be as brief as possible (save the over-wrought narrative, and do not go into excessive detail).
  • Use objective, neutral words to present the facts as you see them.
  • Stick to the issues.
  • Be honest in your descriptions.
  • Be clear in your objective. What action do you want your reader to take?

Keep the letter overnight, and review it the next day. Delete any shred of emotionalism. Remember, you want to win, and loaded words will not help you achieve your goal.  Elizabeth Lexleigh  The Write Ideas   lexpower

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