A little guide to writing letters
Although writing letters is not a rocket science, it has its rules and traps where you can fall if you do not have the knowledge to write a letter. Writing letters is simple, but difficult, and the fact that there are even university courses (Business Correspondence) that teach students how to write letters, suggests that writing letters is more than just common sense and good grammar. Well, you can not do without common sense and good grammar, but it’s not enough to have them in your arsenal of writing letters. There are rules about style, arrangement, formatting, punctuation, etc. who distinguish a badly written letter from the perfect letter. Many word processors offer help in formatting and arranging the letter, but it does not hurt if you know how to do it because if the word processor suggests options, you will not be able to choose wisely.
So no matter what your writing skills are, get ready to write drafts. After writing a draft and thinking for a while, you will see that there are so many other things you can add, or that can be rewritten in a more precise, concise or understandable way. Writing letters at the last minute before the deadline, for example the introductory letter that you will present with a project, is hectic and if you do not give yourself time to think about the letter, you will certainly miss some of the important points you would have otherwise included.
Although there are differences, especially style, for different types of letters (personal letters, business letters, etc.), the basic rules are not so different. The style and arrangement of letters are autonomous subjects and are explained in separate articles. We suggest you read the basics of style and arrangement, then return to the punctuation and formatting sections below.
Punctuation, spelling and the meaning of words
Style is important to make a good impression with your letters, but if you want to make them really professional, small things like punctuation and spelling are done or not. Spelling mistakes are one of the most irritating things in a letter because they reveal not only illiteracy, but especially negligence (running a spelling checker is so easy that there is no excuse to skip this last step). Word processing software is not always useful for re-reading text, because word processors do not usually check for words that do not have the right meaning. Spell checkers only check if the words in your letter are present in their dictionary – that is, you have written ‘male’ instead of ‘mail’, or ‘mane’, or ‘mall’; but a spelling checker does not report an error because there is a word “male”; and it’s spelled exactly like that. So, if you have a sentence like, “When I came to the office, I checked the male. instead of ‘When I arrived at the office, I checked the mail’, a spelling checker will not report an error.
Well, with regard to punctuation, spelling checkers are more useful. They usually report missing capital letters at the beginning of sentences, missing commas or incorrectly inserted commas, etc., but they are not so smart to tell you the truth.
Formatting rules for writing letters
Compared to style and arrangement, the formatting rules are so small that they hardly require much attention. But still, if you do not know them, the result can be embarrassing. While it seems more than obvious that one should not do it, it is no exception to see business letters in bright, brilliant colors and whimsical fonts that are hard to read. Glossy and shiny colors and whimsical fonts are mostly personal letters, although you can sometimes use them in promotional letters, but they do not belong to serious formal letters.
One of the most irritating violations of formatting rules is when you use multiple font types and font sizes in your letter. Or even worse – you do not notice that the first five words of your letter are formatted in Arial 10pt., The next fifteen are in Verdana 12 pt., The end of the paragraph (with half of the next) is in Times New Roman 12 pt., And so on, and so on. For everyone who has ever touched a word processor, such a letter sounds ridiculous.